National Museum of the Great Lakes is Open – June 10, 2020

The National Museum of the Great Lakes will re-open its doors to members and visitors beginning Wednesday, June 10 after receiving Governor DeWine’s announcement late Thursday afternoon (June 4) stating museums and other entertainment facilities could re-open with certain health and safety restrictions in place. 

“We have been preparing for our re-opening for some time,” says the museum’s Executive Director Chris Gillcrist. “We take the health and well being of every visitor and staff member seriously and, since shutting our doors, have been preparing to re-open and provide the very best museum experience possible with health and safety front and center.”

When reopened, the National Museum of the Great Lakes will adhere to the recommendations of the Governor’s task force which will include actions such as:

  • Timed, entry tickets pre-purchased online to reduce crowding. Click here to purchase.
  • Opening 1 hour early (at 9 a.m.) on Wednesdays for vulnerable populations,
    starting June 17
  • Expansive use of signage to encourage social distancing among guests
  • Aggressive staff cleaning schedules prioritizing museum and boat sanitization
  • Installation of personal sanitizing stations
  • Temporary closure of a few interactive exhibits unable to meet sanitizing requirements
  • Required face coverings and daily health screening assessments for all museum staff
  • Simplified check out procedures to reduce personal interaction

By initiating an aggressive plan to ensure the safety of guests and staff, the National Museum of the Great Lakes hopes residents throughout the Toledo metropolitan area and further will continue to visit the museum with both excitement and firm confidence their safety is a priority. As new rules, regulations and suggested precautions are announced, the museum plans to remain flexible and adaptive. For individuals unable to visit, the museum will continue to offer virtual opportunities via their History From Home initiative at

For more information on our health and safety procedures visit our FAQ page at

Together We Give | May 5, 2020

Tuesday, April 28, 2020 — Now, more than ever, we are called upon to make a difference. On Tuesday, May 5, the Great Lakes Historical Society and its National Museum of the Great Lakes will be participating in #GivingTuesdayNow—a global day of giving and unity set up as an emergency response to the unprecedented need caused by COVID-19.
At a time when we are all experiencing this pandemic, generosity is what brings people together and gives us the power to drive positive change. Although our museums’ physical doors remain closed, through our History From Home initiative we have been substantially widening our “virtual doors” and collaborative efforts to provide online resources to help homebound audiences fight feelings of isolation, along with supporting mission-based, virtual education tools for all ages.
On Tuesday, May 5 we are asking for your help. In order to continue to serve our mission virtually and re-open our doors physically when it is deemed safe to do so—your support is vital. During #GivingTuesdayNow we are asking you to do what you can by:

Whatever your story, whatever your Great Lakes experience, we are dedicated to preserving it. And, it is only together with your support, that we can continue to preserve and make known the history of our Great Lakes.

Museum Reimagines Youth Learning with New Student, Teacher and Parent Resources

April 17, 2020 (Toledo, Ohio) – In an effort to help educators, parents, and students stay connected to Great Lakes History, the National Museum of the Great Lakes (NMGL) has reimagined Captain Scupper’s Kids Club to become their newest virtual initiative. 

“We all want to do what we can to help others during this incredibly difficult time. Providing free, online resources in the form of videos, interactive learning tools, and educator guides is one way we can help combat growing feelings of isolation along with providing educational support tools during this time at home,” says Kate Fineske, the museum’s Director of Communication and Development.

The new Kids Club landing page at will be updated regularly and includes online and downloadable maritime activities for kids of all ages along with teacher and parent resources to support learning standards. 

“Secondary educators and students may want to explore resources that interact with the museum’s new Port of Toledo: Then and Now online exhibit,” shares Education and Visitor Experience Director Ellen Kennedy. “Primary students can check out Captain Scupper’s Kids Book Club or learn the signal flag alphabet using an easy, at-home activity guide.”

NMGL also released information on Color the Colonel, a contest for kids to share their artistic talents and coloring skills using original art drawn by cartoonist Don Lee. Additionally, on Tuesday, April 21, “A Book Before Bedtime with the National Museum of the Great Lakes” will premiere on Facebook and YouTube featuring a story-time video of the museum’s original children’s book The Adventures of Kitty Smoke and Her Friends

Over the last several weeks, with stay-at-home orders in effect, the National Museum of the Great Lakes (NMGL) has substantially increased its virtual education initiatives including a continuously updated online exhibit, two new video series, blog posts, and virtual museum tours. All content is free and mission-focused to preserve and make known the history of the Great Lakes.

Museum Embraces Virtual Education to Lift Up Great Lakes Enthusiasts

March 30, 2020 (Toledo, Ohio) – Over the last several weeks, with stay-at-home orders in effect, the way individuals and organizations do business has dramatically changed. Online connection tools have become increasingly important. In response, the National Museum of the Great Lakes (NMGL) has substantially increased its virtual education initiatives to better support its members and Great Lakes history enthusiasts including a continuously updated online exhibit, two new video series, blog posts, and virtual museum tours.

Last week alone, the museum launched two new virtual initiatives featuring its home city of Toledo—the Toledo Trail video series and the Port of Toledo: Then & Now Online Exhibit showcasing an interactive map with historic port stories and images. Additionally, NMGL released Inland Seas Online (featuring Great Lakes stories from back issues of their award-winning Inland Seas Journal) and Museum Moments (a second video series highlighting museum artifacts).

“The impact of COVID-19 on cultural entities and the steps we must take in the face of a global pandemic such as this is unprecedented,” says Chris Gillcrist, the museum’s Executive Director for over 20 years now. “We are so fortunate to have a strong team of individuals working tirelessly to ensure we continue spreading our mission in new ways to support those looking for history-based, home-learning opportunities.”  

All content is free and mission-focused to preserve and make known the history of the Great Lakes. In the weeks to come, the museum plans to add additional material with an emphasis on expanding youth learning initiatives including interactive “spin tours”, STEAM curriculum guides for at-home schooling, and new ways to engage with our original children’s book.

New Interactive NMGL Online Exhibit

March 17, 2020 (Toledo, Ohio) – The National Museum of the Great Lakes is pleased to announce the opening of an online, interactive exhibit meant to capture the vibrancy and importance of the Maumee River and the Port of Toledo over time. The Port of Toledo: Then & Now online exhibit can be accessed for free by visiting

“We began planning the exhibit about six months ago after years of discussion around opportunities which would allow us to engage more people in our museum’s mission of preserving and making known the history of the Great Lakes,” said Carrie Sowden, who led the exhibit’s curation and is the National Museum of the Great Lakes’ Archaeological Director. “Little did we know our timing would coincide with a health pandemic, making the virtual experience even more relevant by offering increased access to a public now predominantly homebound.”

The exhibit’s landing page showcases a Port of Toledo map with icons indicating the location of various photos taken throughout history around the Maumee River. The exhibit will be updated every few weeks with new images and stories. Visitors can click to learn more about each individual image and leave comments or share their own memories.

“For parents looking for interesting learning opportunities for their children at home, this offers a great way to integrate history with the beauty and the changes of a port that’s influenced lives and shaped a community,” states Ellen Kennedy, the museum’s Education and Visitor Experience Director. “The Maumee River has played an important role for Toledoans and those living in Northwest Ohio to live by, work on and play in.”

The initial exhibit focuses on the Port of Toledo “Then”. Still to come, the museum will explore the Port of Toledo as we know it now by showcasing collected and crowd-sourced images mirroring the historic story of the “Mighty Maumee”. Finally, in September, the National Museum of the Great Lakes will open a temporary exhibit in the History Walk Gallery of Promedica’s historic Steam Plant Headquarters, bringing together the beauty of the online exhibit with images and the incredibly real experience of artifacts.

COVID-19 Update

After careful consideration and the recent urging of Governor DeWine along with the recommendations of the Lucas County Health Department, the National Museum of the Great Lakes has made the decision to close to the public until further notice effective 5 p.m., Saturday, March 14.

In the weeks to come, we look forward to exploring new engagement opportunities to help visitors connect with Great Lakes history virtually—including increased access to our museum through virtual tours and the launch of our first online exhibit The Port of Toledo: Then and Now. We will continue to connect with our National Museum of the Great Lakes / Great Lakes Historical Society members and supporters through the distribution of our quarterly Inland Seas journal and Chadburn Newsletter / Chadburn(e).

As we move through the challenges ahead, we encourage you to consider supporting us by making a donation online or shopping on our online Museum Store.

The staff and board of the National Museum of the Great Lakes will continue to monitor announcements by officials surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak and will reassess our public access as new information becomes available.

2019 NMGL Annual Holiday Card Released

November 7, 2019 (Toledo, Ohio) – The National Museum of the Great Lakes today revealed their 2019 Holiday Card for purchase. For the past fifty-one years, Director Emeritus, Alexander B. Cook has painted a watercolor that is used exclusively by the organization to create the holiday card that is then sold to the public to benefit the museum. The museum estimates that the sale of holiday cards featuring Alex Cook’s watercolor has raised over $100,000 for the organization over the past fifty years.

“At age 95, Alex Cook is like the energizer bunny of marine artists,” said Christopher Gillcrist, Executive Director of the museum. “His paint brushes are never more than a few feet away from him at all times.”

This year’s image features two Great Lakes Towing Company tugs in the foreground with an Interlake Steamship freighter in the lock. Cook said, “I have loved tugboats since my earliest days in St. Joseph, Michigan, and I thought this year I would include two Great Lakes Towing Tugs because of the company’s wonderful gift of the Tug Ohio to the museum.”

Gillcrist noted that the cards have become somewhat of a collector’s piece over the years with dozens of people ordering cards year after year. Cards can be ordered online at or by calling 419-214-5000 extension 200. The cards are shipped in packs of ten cards and envelopes for $16.95 plus shipping and handling.

“Christmas Tree Ship” to Arrive with Santa and Holiday Trees

November 14, 2019 (Toledo, Ohio) – On Saturday, December 7 the National Museum of the Great Lakes will welcome the arrival of Santa Claus and a tugboat full of Christmas Trees. Spectators can watch Santa and his boatload of trees dock behind the museum around noon, pick-up pre-ordered trees and enjoy holiday snacks with Santa.

The magical experience helps honor and tell the story of the Rouse Simmons—a Great Lakes schooner built in 1868 serving the Chicago area and remembered most notably as the “Christmas Tree Ship.”

“Every year, the original “Christmas Tree Ship,” along with her captain, Herman E. Schuenemann, would arrive carrying a cargo of holiday trees. He was known for giving trees to Chicago families who couldn’t afford to buy them,” says Ellen Kennedy, Director of Education and Visitor Experience for the National Museum of the Great Lakes.

Like the original ship, Toledo’s very own “Christmas Tree Ship” will come bearing Christmas Trees that can be purchased ahead of time or purchased to donate to families in need. Additionally, the museum will open its doors to the community between 10 a.m. -1 p..m for guests to enjoy the museum, watch the tug’s arrival, pick up their trees and meet Santa.

“This year we are working with East Toledo Family Center to provide Christmas trees for local families,” says the museum’s Director of Communications and Development, Kate Fineske. “The trees are approximately 5-7 feet tall and cost $45—plus, include the unforgettable and unique delivery by Santa via a Geo. Gradel Co. tugboat.”

Trees must be pre-ordered by 5 p.m. on Tuesday, December 3. There will be no walk-up sales. To purchase a tree for yourself or one to be donated to a family in need, visit or call 419-214-5000.

Launch of Initiative Connecting Lucas County Students to History through Free Field Trips and Outreach Programs

October 25, 2020 (Toledo, Ohio) – The National Museum of the Great Lakes (NMGL) is launching a new initiative, All Aboard for History!, meant to provide third through sixth grade Lucas County students the opportunity to forge a deeper connection to Great Lakes history. The 5-year initiative will allow up to 8,000 local students to take advantage of a complimentary visit to the museum or bring the museum’s programming to their classroom.

“The National Museum of the Great Lakes is committed to ensuring school systems throughout the Toledo metropolitan area have access to quality, curriculum-based experiences promoting social studies and history,” explains NMGL Executive Director Chris Gillcrist. “We want to make sure kids have access to first-hand experiences which build their interest, knowledge, and passion around the Great Lakes and its historical significance.”

The museum has secured two $10,000 gifts to launch the program—with the initial gift coming from Key Bank and a more recent gift from the Cleveland Cliffs Foundation. Operating on the Great Lakes since 1855, and currently building the East Toledo iron plant set to open next summer, Cleveland Cliffs representatives say they are thrilled to encourage more students to learn about Great Lakes history, as well as the social and economic impact of one of the world’s largest freshwater ecosystems.

“The Cleveland-Cliffs Foundation has a long history of supporting quality educational initiatives within the local communities in which we operate to help prepare youth for their future,” says Ania Ediger, Manager, Government Relations and Specialist, Environmental Legislative Affairs.

Teachers interested in taking advantage of this free learning experience and individuals and corporate entities seeking to donate to the program can learn more by visiting or calling 419-214-5000.

Great Lakes Shipwreck Photography Exhibit Opens at the National Museum of the Great Lakes

Great Lakes Shipwreck Photography Exhibit Opens at the National Museum of the Great Lakes

(Toledo) The National Museum of the Great Lakes announced today the opening of a new temporary exhibit — Disasters of the Deep: Underwater Photography of Great Lakes Shipwrecks which will run through September 1, 2019. The exhibit features the works of ten underwater photographers covering shipwrecks across all five of the Great Lakes. Christopher Gillcrist, Executive Director of the museum stated, “Nothing interests our visitors more than shipwrecks and what better way to explore this topic in more detail than by using the photography of those who risk life and limb to explore and to document these submerged historical relics.” The photographers chosen for this show are Andy Morrison, Jitka Hanakova, Becky Kagan Schott, Tamara Thomsen, Jeremy Bannister, Warren Lo, Terry Irvine, Cal Kothrade, Jack Papes, and Jeff Lindsay. Each has a unique perspective and approach to underwater photography. According to Gillcrist, “Not only does underwater photography help teach us history but the images themselves are also works of art.” The ten photographers reside across the Great Lakes region. Dozens of shipwrecks are represented but some of the more famous shipwrecks explored are the Daniel J. Morrell, Gunilda, Rouse Simmons, and Cedarville. The exhibit is offered digitally on large flat screen monitors. There are over a 130 images in the exhibit. Gillcrist explained that this exhibit could not be shown at the museum in a traditional format. “We do not have the space to hang 130 plus photographs.” More importantly, by showing the photographs in this way, the space could be transformed to feel more like you are actually underwater when viewing the images. The exhibit is currently open and runs through September 1, 2019. Admission to the exhibit is included in the general admission price to the museum.


What: Disasters of the Deep: Underwater Photography of Great Lakes Shipwrecks, A temporary Exhibit at the National Museum of the Great Lakes

When: Running Now until September 1, 2019.

Admission: Admission to the temporary exhibit is included in the price of regular admission to the museum. $17 per person with discounts for seniors, teens, and children under 6 are free.

Where: National Museum of the Great Lakes 1701 Front Street Toledo, Ohio 43605

For More Information call 419-214-5000 or

Museum Hours: Monday through Saturday: 10AM-5PM, Sunday 12PM-5PM

The press can contact Christopher Gillcrist at 216-956-9734