Museum to Host Exclusive Small Group Tours in Honor of S.S. EDMUND FITZGERALD Tragic Anniversary

October 20, 2020 (Toledo, Ohio) –  In recognition of the 45th Anniversary of the loss of the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald, the National Museum of the Great Lakes (NMGL) is offering a weekend of special tours. The Fitzgerald Experience is a guided tour of the Col. James M. Schoonmaker Museum Ship, using our lake freighter and its similarities to the Edmund Fitzgerald to discuss the theories about the vessel’s sinking and stories about the 29 crew members who were lost.

“While traveling Lake Superior on November 10, 1975, the ‘Mighty Fitz’ and it’s entire crew sank during a storm,” recalls Chris Gillcrist, Executive Director of the National Museum of the Great Lakes. “Many from that crew were from the Toledo area. We believe this tour provides a more experiential and hands-on way to learn about a tragedy that deeply impacted the lives of so many near and far.”

Along with the tour, each group will receive a copy of the documentary A Good Ship and Crew Well Seasoned: The Fitzgerald and Her Legacy. This hour-long DVD explores the less documented and overlooked history of the Fitzgerald and her crew while at the same time reflecting on the impact of their loss on family, friends, and colleagues in the maritime community.

Although closed for the season beginning November 1, The Col. James M. Schoonmaker Museum Ship will open one last time this season on November 7 – 8 exclusively to tour guests for this unique experience. Tickets are limited to 26 groups of 4 individuals over a 2-day period (to allow for social distancing throughout the museum ship). Pre-sale reservations were made available to museum members on Wednesday, October 21. General public access to tickets begins today, Friday, October 23. Masks will be required during the entire tour. For additional information and to reserve your tour, click here.

Museum Continues “Boo on the Boat” Halloween Tradition

October 12, 2020 (Toledo, Ohio) – The National Museum of the Great Lakes will continue their Halloween Boo on the Boat tradition by extending the event from one day to one week. Beginning Saturday, October 24 and concluding on Saturday, October 31 the museum will encourage young “goblins and ghouls” to visit the museum in costume to trick-or-treat aboard two of Toledo’s most historic haunts, the Col. James M. Schoonmaker Museum Ship and the Museum Tug Ohio.

“This year we are extending Boo on the Boat to better accommodate social distancing,” shares Ellen Kennedy, the museum’s Director of Education and Visitor Experience. “Trick-or-treat goodies will be distributed using pre-portioned, sealed bags at stations to help youth explore Great Lakes history and the museum ships in a fun age-appropriate way.”

This is the first year the museum will also include the Museum Tug Ohio in the event activities in order to expand its outside footprint. The museum has also put in place admission caps every hour to allow for proper physical distancing. Participants are strongly encouraged to pre-purchase tickets online to ensure their preferred admission time. Additionally, as part of the Teal Pumpkin Project, children with food allergies will have access to non-food treats. Click here to learn more and reserve your tickets.

Museum Event Aims to Keep Great Lakes History Afloat

August 14, 2020 (Toledo, Ohio) – 2020 has seen struggles of historic proportions, especially for museums. A recent survey conducted by the American Alliance of Museums (AAM) suggests up to one-third of U.S. museums may not survive the year. This chilling statistic is one of many driving factors behind the National Museum of the Great Lakes (NMGL) upcoming virtual gala—H2Oh!

This year, the H2Oh! fundraising gala will consist of a live-streamed production beginning at 7 p.m. on Saturday, September 26 and include an online auction during the week leading up to the event. The powerful production can be viewed over computers, smart TVs and mobile devices and will support the museum’s mission threefold by: 

  • setting into motion the Great Lakes Memory Project—a new oral history initiative;
  • giving a first look at the museum’s Port of Toledo: Then and Now temporary exhibit being installed in ProMedica headquarter’s History Walk Gallery; 
  • and announcing the winner of the 2020 Luck of the Lakes raffle—providing one lucky individual and their guests a chance to win a trip aboard an Great Lakes freighter.

“Our Great Lakes, Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie, Ontario, contain 84% of the continent’s fresh water and together are a powerful force that has forged destinies, nourished wildlife, sparked wars, taken thousands of ships, and continue to provide countless hours of recreation and drive industry and economy,” said Kate Fineske the museum’s director of development and communications. “This year’s gala will highlight Great Lakes stories and how so many individuals have been shaped by their existence.”

Beginning September 17 and ending after the live-streamed production ons September 27, the museum will also host an online auction featuring once-in-a-lifetime Great Lakes-inspired experiences and memorabilia. All proceeds will help keep Great Lakes history afloat by supporting the National Museum of the Great Lakes and their mission to preserve and make known the history of the Great Lakes.

To learn more about the event and register to participate visit:

Fish & Ships: NMGL Installs Temporary Exhibit at Toledo Zoo

July 24, 2020 (Toledo, Ohio) – The National Museum of the Great Lakes is pleased to announce, in collaboration with the Toledo Zoo, a small temporary exhibition entitled “What’s in a Name”.  This exhibit, housed in the Reflections Gallery of the Aquarium at the zoo, is part of a larger collection of Great Lakes ships nameboards and tell the stories of the ships as well as who and why they were named.

The nameboards range in size from 8’ to 13’ long and each would have been attached to the vessel’s pilothouse. 

“Boats have had proper names since ancient times, but the nameboards displayed here only came into prominence after the evolution of the pilothouse in the 1840s,” says Carrie Sowden, Archaeological Director at the National Museum of the Great Lakes and one of the exhibit curators. “One of the more interesting namboards is that of Alex D. Chisholm. Formerly known as the William P. Snyder, and the fleet mate of NMGL’s 617-foot museum ship Col. James M. Schoonmaker.”  

This temporary exhibit is an expansion of NMGL’s collaborative efforts throughout the Toledo community. “Since we first arrived in Toledo six years ago, NMGL has been working to be neighbors and friends with other cultural organizations in the community,” said Kate Fineske, Communications and Development Director for NMGL. “This is just the beginning of some of the great collaborative efforts we hope to build in the years to come.”

Originally scheduled to open in April, the Toledo Zoo and NMGL held off on installation until both entities reopened. The plans call for the exhibit to remain at the Toledo Zoo through December.  The exhibit is included with zoo admission.

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.