Second Wave Progress Report

Second Wave Construction is Officially Underway

We are thrilled to share that construction for the Second Wave expansion of the National Museum of the Great Lakes has officially begun. Partnering with The Lathrop Company as our contractors, we are currently wrapping up the demolition phase.

Construction Status Update

  • Site Demolition: The crew started by tearing up the sidewalks and pavers along the side and back of the museum’s exhibit building. This includes the access drive next to the John Sherwin propeller, which will serve as the permanent access for the fire department and the new structure.
  • Preparing the Surface: The crew has established the building pad, creating a nice surface to work from and using stone to hold trucks.
  • Cast-in-Place Concrete Foundation: Once the demolition is complete, their team will begin drilling for the foundation since we’re so close to the water. This involves a 2-foot-wide, cast-in-place concrete foundation. Following this, the shallow foundation will be laid on top, and then the structure will start to rise.
Propeller with access driveway

Location of new permanent access drive (which will be paved before site opening).

construction crews on site

Crews during demolition process, breaking up pavement and walkways on the sides and back of the exhibit building.

Demolition before foundation is laid

Completed demolition on the back of the building, awaiting first layer of cast concrete foundation.

Welcoming Our Second Wave

We’re thrilled to open a new 5,000-square-foot addition to the museum, anchored by the storied pilothouse of the St. Mary’s Challenger. This expansion will not only enhance accessibility but also bring about:

  • Dedicated areas for temporary and traveling exhibits
  • Brand new permanent exhibit spaces
  • A warm and inviting community education center

Our mission is to preserve and make known the rich history of the Great Lakes, with a vision to become the gathering place for all Great Lakes conversations. Our expansion is a pivotal step in that direction.

Ellen Kennedy, Director of Museum Operations, expressed her excitement: “We are thrilled that construction is underway and we’re one step closer to opening the doors to our expanded space.”

Please note that we are fully open during construction. We kindly ask for your patience and understanding regarding any dust and noise during this time.

There’s still time to get involved with our Second Wave. You can make a donation right here and join us as we create a space where curation meets conversation, and help us bring this vision to life.

Stay tuned for more updates as we continue this exciting journey!


Thank you for your continued support of the National Museum of the Great Lakes. We look forward to welcoming you to our enhanced and expanded museum soon!

Second Wave Expansion

Celebrating Our Second Wave: A New Chapter for the National Museum of the Great Lakes

We recently celebrated a significant milestone with the groundbreaking of our Second Wave Expansion. This event, which took place on Monday, April 22, 2024, marks a new chapter in the museum’s mission to preserve and make known the history of the Great Lakes.

Large crowd watching a speech at the National Museum of the Great Lakes

Embarking on a Pivotal Development

The Second Wave Expansion is an exciting step into the future, made possible by the unwavering support of our community, including the State of Ohio, forward-thinking businesses, generous donors, loyal museum members, and visitors. The new 5,000-square-foot space will allow us to enhance our exhibit spaces and community education opportunities. It’s important to note that we will remain open during construction and ask that you pardon our dust during the construction process.

Exciting Plans for the Expansion

The ceremony provided attendees with a glimpse into the exciting plans for the expansion, which include dedicated areas for temporary and traveling exhibits, innovative permanent exhibit spaces, and a new Great Lakes community education center. This center allows us to become a gathering space for all conversations surrounding the Great Lakes — from the environmental impact to recreational use.

Multi Purpose Room

Rendering of Great Lakes community education center.

Community Support and Key Speakers

The ceremonial ground breaking was attended by community leaders, board members, and friends of the museum. Speakers included our Executive Director, Kate Fineske, Paul LaMerre III, NMGL Board Member and Director of the Port of Monroe, and Dr. Bill Davis, NMGL’s Local Public Campaign Board Lead and Chair of the Department of Dentistry and Associate Dean of Continuing Medical Education at the University of Toledo.

A special thank you to our partners at Lathrop and The Collaborative for all of your support!

Looking Ahead

The Second Wave Expansion represents a significant step toward creating an enhanced experience for Great Lakes history and conversation. If you want to be part of the next wave of growth, you can make a contribution.

Donate now

Stay tuned for updates on the construction progress and upcoming events related to the Second Wave Expansion. We forward to welcoming you to this new and exciting phase of its journey!

Museum Receives Significant Grant Funds and Begins Last Step to Fully Relocate Organization to Toledo

Tuesday, March 21, 2023 (Toledo, Ohio) – The National Museum of the Great Lakes will begin the process of moving their vast collection from Vermilion, Ohio, and other various locations to Toledo, Ohio. This was made possible thanks to an $18,000 competitive grant awarded to them through the Ohio History Fund—The Ohio History Connection’s matching grant program for history.

“Although the Great Lakes Historical Society and its National Museum of the Great Lakes relocated from Vermilion to Toledo in 2014, it lacked the means to move its entire collection of 2,000+ artifacts and to conclusively determine the full scope of its collection,” shares the organization’s Executive Director Chris Gillcrist. “This grant and the resulting project will remedy this and enable us to finally establish firm ‘intellectual control’ over its holdings and be better stewards of the regional history entrusted to it.”

Since the opening of the National Museum of the Great Lakes, the Great Lakes Historical Society has been actively managing their collection across multiple storage sites. This extraordinary grant makes it possible for the organization to take the last step of fully relocating to Toledo by bringing their collection all under one roof and within their museum’s hometown. The organization has secured a lease for local storage space and has spent a considerable amount of time and effort over the past few years preparing for this move. Both human and technological resources have enabled the continued cataloging and organizing efforts of their collection covering both the U.S. and Canadian history of all five Great Lakes. Representatives from the museum were informed in mid February of the award and recently finalized their new storage space lease. The Ohio History Connection publicly announced all grant recipients at an annual Statehood Day advocacy event on Thursday, March 2, at the Statehouse in Columbus, Ohio.

The Ohio History Connection awarded $185,624 in grants this year and, since the Ohio History Fund program started in 2012, have made a total of 122 grants to history and cultural organizations across the state, totaling $ $1.2 million. The Fund is made possible by Ohio taxpayers who select “Ohio History Fund” as a donation fund on their state tax returns. For additional information on the Ohio History Fund Grant and other 2023 recipients visit ohiohistory.org.

WTT – Algoma

Museum Offering Labor Day Free Admission to Union Members

September 1, 2020 (Toledo, Ohio) – Despite financial hardships due to COVID-19, the National Museum of the Great Lakes will continue their annual tradition to open doors FREE on Labor Day (Monday, September 7) to all union members and union retirees. The museum will be open normal hours from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.

“The museum recognizes the importance of honoring the American labor movement and the works and contributions of laborers to the development and achievements of the United States,” says the museum’s Executive Director Chris Gillcrist.

Tickets can be reserved ahead of time online at nmgl.org by selecting the “Member” ticket option, however reservations are not required. Proof of union membership will be requested upon arrival.

A Statement from the National Museum of the Great Lakes

Events of the past few weeks have once again raised issues related to race and justice in the United States. We are committed to ongoing efforts to ensure all Great Lakes stories are told—especially the undertold history of minority and underserved populations. History is a great teacher and it is because of that, our institution must work towards improving our present and future through careful and thoughtful examination of our past. We stand in solidarity with our fellow Black Americans. We also recognize that we have work to do as an institution and are committed to preserving and exploring the history, environment, and culture of the Great Lakes region, and making resources available to all.

Closed Easter Sunday, April 21, 2019

We are closed to the public this Sunday, April 21, 2019. We will re-open on Tuesday, April 23 at 10am.

Closed Thursday, January 31

We are closed on Thursday, January 31, due to extremely cold temperatures.

Closed January 30 Due to Extreme Cold Temperature

We are closed on Wednesday, January 30, due to extremely cold temperatures.

Closed Saturday, January 19, 2019 for Winter Storm

The National Museum of the Great Lakes is closed on Saturday, January 19, 2019 for Winter Storm Harper. Weather permitting, we will open on Sunday, January 20. Stay safe out there!