Maritime Museum restores a vibrant heritage

By Lisa Crawwford Watson - Monterey Herald

History may be in the making. But its intrigue lies in the telling or, even better, in the showing.

In a dramatic effort to bring history to life, Monterey History and Art Association has unveiled the first phase of an expansive, multistage renovation of the Monterey History Maritime Museum at Custom House Plaza in Monterey.

Since its inception in 1931, MHAA has endeavored to both preserve and portray the colorful, controversial and compelling heritage of Monterey.

For nearly 80 years, the organization has worked with the City of Monterey, California Department of Parks and Recreation, National Trust for Historic Preservation and other agencies to create continuity between the past and present.

Most recently, the organization presented the new lobby of the Maritime Museum, redesigned to bring the seafaring adventures of the 1700s, 1800s and early 1900s to life.

The portal to the museum now features eight large-scale models of historic tall ships, and more than 30 boat lanterns from early eras plus, on permanent loan from the U.S. Navy, the bell from the USS Monterey aircraft carrier, which launched in 1943 and played a significant role in the Pacific Theater during World War II.

Each ship replica is accompanied by information that creates the context of her maritime heritage.

"This is the beginning of a whole transformation of the Maritime Museum," said MHAA Executive Director Pam Crowe-Weisberg, who was appointed in 2009. "We have many wonderful collections here, and we really want to present them in a way that attracts a cross-generational audience. Change takes time, but it is time to do something different, to think outside the box." 

To this end, Crowe-Weisberg hired architects Jennifer Siegal, founder and principal of Office of Mobile Design, a Los Angeles-based firm dedicated to the design of "responsible, sustainable, precision-built structures," and Libby Barnes, who specializes in green residential and commercial design.




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