Remembering Peter Stanford

Captain Jonathan Boulware writes:

Peter Stanford, founding president of the South Street Seaport Museum passed away on Thursday morning, 24th March 2016. We have lost our founder. We have lost a passionate advocate for our work. We have lost a friend.

I first met Peter Stanford when I joined the Seaport Museum as Waterfront Director. He was visiting to advocate for an  exhibition on the ship Wavertree. He spoke enthusiastically about a particular model in the Museum's collection, asserting that it must be a part of the project. As the visit wrapped up, he eagerly queried me on my background. He was enthusiastic that I had sailed in square-rigged ships and very generously referred to me as "a square-rigger man."

Peter was a persistent man, endlessly insisting that the apparently impossible could be achieved. And in that - and as long as he and Norma were involved - he was quite right.

Peter's life and work have been written about extensively and the tale is a good one. For us, he will forever be the founder. It was Peter's vision in the 1960s that led to the preservation of the counting houses of the Seaport, including Schermerhorn Row, one of New York City's treasures. It was Peter's work that led to the acquisition and preservation of Ambrose, Wavertree, Peking, Pioneer, and Lettie. And it was Peter's clear articulation of the import of these things that led the fledgling South Street Seaport Museum to a membership of more than 20,000 within five years.

Today we celebrate his life and his achievements. We mourn the loss, but at the same time we carry on the work. Indeed, were it not for Peter and Norma Stanford - and for the legion volunteers, staff, and supporters who signed on to the voyage - we would have nothing left to preserve. And in that spirit we endeavour to carry out our duties as the caretakers of a fleet of historic ships and a cluster of historic structures. Behind the brick, under the slate roofs, upon the decks and entwined in the rigging of these buildings and ships is the very fabric of old New York.

Peter was confident that we will succeed in carrying on what he began. On many occasions he confided that he thought we - the staff, volunteers, and board of the Seaport Museum - were the right crew to carry the place forward. Not just to keep the ships afloat and the buildings intact, but to once again place South Street in the vanguard of historical, cultural, and educational organisations in the City. To use ships, streets, and collections to engage visitors, community, and students in the original port of New York.

We have much to do to be equal to Peter's expectations. But I share the confidence that he placed in us. The legacy of the South Street Seaport Museum lies in Peter's oft-repeated assertion that "this Museum is people." There, we are faithfully carrying on and offering the very best tribute to Peter's life's work.

Fair winds, Peter. We have the watch.

Captain Jonathan Boulware and the Staff and Board of the South Street Seaport Museum

Photo Credit: Nelson M. Chin

In memory of Gote Sundberg

Göte Sundberg   : 21 August 1928 - 31 October 2013

A tribute from Hanna Hagmark-Cooper:

Captain Göte Sundberg from the Åland Islands passed away at the age of 85 years. Göte was director at the Åland Maritime Museum between 1980 and 1993 and a long-standing member of ICMM.

Göte was born and raised on the Åland Islands, and the sea was an intrinsic part of his life from early years. His father had been a seaman before turning farmer and Göte grew up with stories of the sea. With these stories came a yearning for the sea that could not be denied, but due to the war Göte had to wait until 1946 before he could sign on his first ship, Gustaf Erikson’s four-masted barque Viking. The voyage down to Australia in one of the world’s last cargo-carrying windjammers was a voyage of a lifetime, an experience that he cherished for the rest of his life. After the Viking, more ships followed and in due time he became a sea captain – the finest profession of them all. Even after retiring from the sea, he always introduced himself as Captain Sundberg.

After 20 years in active service, Göte went ashore and became headmaster for the Seamen’s Academy in Mariehamn. During his time there, and in his capacity as local councillor, he fought a hard battle to save square-rigger Pommern from being turned into a floating school. Thanks to Göte’s efforts, Pommern, another one of Gustaf Erikson’s famous ships, was preserved in her original state as a cargo carrier, which makes Pommern unique in our times.

Göte’s involvement in the preservation of Pommern continued during his directorship at the Åland Maritime Museum and until his dying day. One of the proudest days in his life was when he received the World Ship Trust’s Maritime Heritage Award in 2004. The award was presented to him by the Finnish President Tarja Halonen at a ceremony appropriately held at the Åland Maritime Museum.

Göte had a profound interest in Åland’s maritime history and was a fountain of information. He was a keen researcher and during his lifetime he wrote more than 100 books and articles on the subject. His next book was to be on Gustaf Erikson’s sailing ships, a project that kept him busy until the end. The day before he passed away he was discussing the project with his sons. He had it all figured out; he was going to record his texts and his sons would then transcribe them. He estimated it would take a year to finish the manuscript and was very eager to get started. Unfortunately, that was not to be, but the family tells me it is their intention to see the project through.

As director of the Åland Maritime Museum, Göte became a member of ICMM, a very active one. He attended all the conferences he could, a tradition that he passed down to his successors, me included. He saw the value in people from big and small maritime museums coming together to share each other’s knowledge and enthusiasm, forging friendships that would last a lifetime. And after retiring from the museum, he kept in touch with many of his international colleagues.

For me personally, Göte is closely linked to the museum. That was where our paths first crossed. When I took over the directorship in 2004, he gave me support and showed me respect, despite me being 45 years his junior, female and with no sea-going experience. He could see that although we did not have much in common on the surface, we both shared a passion for Åland’s proud maritime heritage and for telling people near and far about it.

I remember once offering him my seat in the office, which he kindly refused with a twinkle in his eye and the words: ‘Oh no, that’s the director’s seat, and I’m not the director here’.

I am happy he got to see the opening of the extended and renovated Åland Maritime Museum in April 2012, with its new exhibitions and facilities. I am also glad that I could take part in his funeral and on behalf of the Åland Maritime Museum and ICMM put down a wreath and read John Masefield’s fitting poem Sea Fever as a last goodbye from all his friends at maritime museums worldwide. I miss him.

Hanna Hagmark-Cooper  :  Director, Åland Maritime Museum


Kevin Fewster remembers:

A few years ago Gote visited me in my office at Greenwich. My secretary went down to meet him and his party and when they reached my office door she declared that ‘Mr Sundberg is here to meet you’. He corrected her; ‘Captain Sundberg.’ I was reminded of this story in the reply I received from Gote’s son, Marten, after I’d emailed Gote’s family conveying the heartfelt sympathy of everyone in ICMM following Gote’s passing.

Marten’s email also mentioned that the day before Gote died a local filmmaker was visiting the hospital and showed his new documentary about Herzogin Cecilie for a group of patients and some friends of Göte. Afterwards, said Marten, ‘Göte, lying in his bed with extra blood and pain killers, [gave] a little speech about Åland maritime history.’   Surely there could be no better demonstration of Gote’s intense pride in his own seafaring roots and also, I’m sure, in the great maritime traditions of the Ålands people generally.

Gote and I had been the inheritors of that great maritime linkage between the Ålands Islands and South Australia – Gustaf Erikson’s grain race ships – the last deepwater commercial sailing ship trade anywhere in the world.

I first met Gote when I visited Mariehamn in 1988 while director of the South Australian Maritime Museum in Port Adelaide. Being a very young museum, it felt particularly special to share this unique link with another maritime museum on truly the other side of the world. I was especially pleased when Gote showed me to my accommodation – a room above the museum with a portrait of Gustaf Erikson hanging on the wall above the bed-head.

I was able to return the hospitality when Gote came to Australia later that year to attend the ICMM meeting in Sydney. For him this trip was, I suspect, the journey of a lifetime, allowing him to re-visit the South Australian out-ports from where the grain race ships had operated.  He contacted me early this year when he was writing an article about the trip, hoping that I might be able to put names to some of the faces in the photos he wished to include in the article. I was delighted to hear from Marten that Gote had managed to see the article appear in print before his death.

Gote was a long-time member of ICMM and keen attendee at our congresses, both when he was Director of the Ålands Maritime Museum and in his retirement years. In many respects he epitomised the best in ICMM: the ability to meet colleagues from across the globe to share professional expertise which, in course, leads to strong personal friendships. He will be greatly missed.

Kevin Fewster  :  President, ICMM

Mystic's tribute to Nancie Greenman

Mystic Seaport notes with sadness the passing of Nancie Greenman, long-time volunteer in the Interpretation Department and friend of Mystic Seaport. Nancie died in September 2013.

Nancie was an associate professor at and former chair of the Boston School of Occupational Therapy at Tufts University.

A member of Mystic Seaport since 1955, she was a Pilot for six years and credits the PILOTS program with her decision to move to Mystic in 1979 after her retirement.

Using her teaching background as a base, Nancie welcomed the opportunity to pursue a second career, that of museum work. She became an active volunteer, donating thousands of hours of volunteer service as an Interpreter in the Mallory, Stillman, and Schaefer Buildings. She joined the Library Fellows in 1990 and was also a Life Member and Stillman Society member.

Nancie was a lively conversationalist – bright and perceptive, with a no-nonsense personality. She was highly respected by her friends and colleagues in the Interpretation Department and across the Museum.

Her great grandfather was Captain John Bolles, a whaleman who sailed out of New London. A large number of his logbooks have been preserved in the Manuscript Collection of the G.W. Blunt White Library. Nancie’s family background and personal interest in maritime history also led her to become involved in the International Congress of Maritime Museums.


Thanks to Claire Calabretta for compiling this information about Nancie


OBITUARY: John B Hightower, former President, Mariners' Museum


The man who expanded the Mariners' Museum in Newport News, Virginia, USA, and oversaw construction of its acclaimed Monitor Center has died.

John B Hightower, 80, died on 6th July 2013.

Hightower directed three maritime museums, transformed a sleepy state arts commission into a national powerhouse and was at one time was the youngest head of the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

He remained active in the public arts and culture world after his retirement from the Mariners' Museum, serving as director of the Downing-Gross Cultural Arts Center during the final troubled months before it opened in 2008, and also as a board

John Hightower came to Hampton Roads in 1993 to become president and CEO of the Mariners' Museum after serving as director of planning and development for the arts at the University of Virginia, where he had been for four years. Under his leadership, the museum grew to include the Defending the Seas gallery, the $1.4 million Small Craft Center and the jewel in the group, the $30 million Monitor Center, opened in 2007.

"He was wonderful to work with," said Marge Shelton, assistant to the president of the Mariners' Museum. Shelton worked for Hightower from 1998-2006. "He had a very good sense of humor. We laughed almost every day.”

Anna Holloway, the Monitor Center curator and the vice president of collections and programs at the museum, said Hightower believed in the museum's ability to expand, to care for and display artifacts from the Civil War ironclad Monitor when, in the late 1990s, the Navy and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration sped up recovery efforts.

Read more: OBITUARY: John B Hightower, former President, Mariners' Museum

A tribute to Michael Stammers – 1943-2013

Contributed by John Robinson, UK

Michael Stammers BA FSA, who died on 30 January 2013 after a period of illness, was outstanding among his generation of maritime curators for his energy and diligence; qualities tested over the several years that it required to establish the Merseyside Maritime Museum in the long-neglected Albert Dock complex at Liverpool.

Born in Norfolk UK, Mike arrived in Liverpool in 1969 as Assistant Keeper of Shipping & Transport under Edward Paget-Tomlinson. He led the team that prepared new Land Transport Galleries, opened in 1972, and attended the inaugural Congress of ICMM at Greenwich later that year. Following the rescue of Brunel’s ss Great Britain from the Falkland Islands, Mike made several visits to Port Stanley to investigate and record other historic sailing ships abandoned there, including the CanadianActaeon of 1838, the British-built Vicar of Bray (1841) and Jhelum (1849) and the American clipper Snow Squall of 1851. Having crawled all over these ships, he used his findings in a seminal paper on Iron knees in wooden vessels, published in theInternational Journal of Nautical Archaeology in 2001.

Read more: A tribute to Michael Stammers – 1943-2013