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Let’s Talk About the Great Lakes!

Welcome to the National Museum of the Great Lakes, where we’re embarking on an exciting journey to expand our horizons. We’re thrilled to announce plans for a new 5,000 square foot addition to the museum, anchored in showcasing 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 educate and inspire visitors with the rich history of the Great Lakes, and this expansion is a pivotal step in that direction. Join us as we create a space where curation meets conversation, and help us bring this vision to life.

Join the Movement: Let’s Shape Great Lakes History Together!

Introducing The Second Wave — our capital campaign that’s about more than just construction. It’s about creating a hub where all Great Lakes conversations happen. By supporting this endeavor, you’re not just contributing to bricks and mortar — you’re actively preserving Great Lakes history, fueling ongoing education, revitalizing neighborhoods, and boosting the economic vitality of our region.

We can’t do this without you. Whether it’s a one-time gift or a recurring pledge, your donation propels us toward our goal.

Ready to dive in? Keep reading to explore our vision through captivating images and discover how you can be a part of this transformative journey.

Second Wave Donation Benefits
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For larger gifts and naming opportunities, please reach out to Sara Smith at or 419-214-5000 ext. 207.

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Glimpse into the future
Mark Barker Quote
Our vision

Imagine a space where the past, present, and future converge—a dynamic hub for community education, cultural enrichment, and economic growth. With your support, we will become The Place Where All Great Lakes Conversations Happen.


Since our establishment in 1945 and making the move to Toledo in 2014, we’ve been on a journey of constant growth and change — becoming a cornerstone for culture and education. People from all over the U.S. and beyond are coming here for Great Lakes expertise. Our extended reach allows us to make a positive economic impact on our local community. Your ongoing support helps make that possible.


Your contribution, no matter the size, holds immense power. Just as drops of water unite to form a mighty wave, your gift will join a cascade — starting as a trickle, growing into a stream, then a river, ultimately feeding into a vast lake of progress. Whether it’s $25, $100, $5,000, $25,000, or $100,000, your generosity will energize and propel the success of our endeavor. In doing so, you will play a pivotal role in shaping the future of the Museum, leaving behind a lasting legacy for generations to cherish.
Our growth by the numbers

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Quote from Dr. Bill Davis

For larger gifts and naming opportunities, please reach out to Sara Smith at or 419-214-5000 ext. 207.

Progress Report

Exciting developments abound! Our fundraising efforts are in full swing, with a target of $6M and report that $4.4M has been achieved. We’ve received support from the State of Ohio, forward-thinking businesses in our community, generous donors, loyal museum members, and visitors like yourself. We extend a warm invitation to individuals throughout the Great Lakes region to join us in our mission, centering on Toledo and fostering dialogue about the remarkable experiences shared on the waters.

Expansion Impact

This expansion isn’t just about making the building bigger — it’s about making a bigger impact. We’re seeing some exciting changes here! Visits are up 45% in 2023 compared 2022, and admission revenue has gone up by 33%, a portion of which reflects business support of museum-free days. Plus, thanks to partnerships like the one with our neighbors at Glass City Metropark, our reach is continuously growing. It’s all adding up to a stronger presence for the Museum, not just locally, but regionally and nationally too.

Second Wave Blog

Laying the Groundwork: The Second Wave Expansion Progress

More progress is underway at the National Museum of the Great Lakes during our Second Wave construction project. Currently, our construction team is busy completing the foundation, marking a significant

Second wave progress report

Building the Future of Great Lakes Conversations

The foundation of our future is in progress. We’re excited to update you on our Second Wave expansion journey. This initiative marks a significant step in enhancing our storytelling, educational

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

Get on Board Today!

Be a part of history by contributing to our Second Wave Capital Campaign. Your generosity makes a significant impact, leaving a lasting impression on our museum and the communities we serve. Together, we can reach our goal and guarantee that the National Museum of the Great Lakes remains a symbol of pride and inspiration for future generations. Thank you for your invaluable support!

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