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SEAFARING | New York's Maritime Museums and Collections

SEAFARING | New York's Maritime Museums and Collections

Photo taken at the Antique Boat Museum in Clayton, NY

Ok, it’s not surprising that New York would have a maritime museum, right? After all, New York ranks 13th in terms of U.S. states with 2,625 miles (4,225 kilometers) of coastline. But would you expect it to have 12 members of the Council of American Maritime Museums? What about 55 museums, online resources, and other institutions in New York with maritime collections??! Even places that might seem to have nothing to do with seafaring -- Adirondack Museum (now called Adirondack Experience) with its exhibits on boats and boating -- in fact have fascinating maritime connections. Pretty much anywhere in the state you can find a place to learn about our interrelation with water, whether ocean or river or lake or canal.

New York Makers has spent an afternoon at the South Street Seaport Museum and left both more knowledgeable and inspired. We were also captivated to watch a canoe being handcrafted at the Adirondack Experience and to tour the Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum.

If your interest and time allow, check out one of these New York possibilities as listed and described on Smith’s Master Index to Maritime Museum Website (we have conducted our own research and updated the list below):


Blue Mountain Lake, NY

The Adirondack Museum, in the heart of the Adirondack Mountains on the edge of the small village of Blue Mountain Lake in Upstate New York, known now as Adirondack Experience is a regional museum of history and art whose specialties are in maritime collections -- 12,000 square-feet of exhibits on boats and boating.

Photo: Adirondack Experience


Kings Point, NY

The American Merchant Marine Museum (established in 1979) is a national repository and exhibition center for the artifacts, artwork, ship models, and nautical memorabilia depicting America's maritime past.


Clayton, NY

Formerly the Thousand Islands Museum, the collection of antique boats makes this museum one of the best places to see those old Chris Crafts and many, many more.


Bellport, NY

Founded in 1972, the Barn Museum contains early American artifacts and a gallery devoted to whaling and fishing in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.


Buffalo, NY

The Buffalo & Erie County Naval & Military Park is on a six-acre water-front site in Buffalo, New York. The museum is home for several naval vessels including the USS Little Rock, the destroyer USS The Sullivans, and on-shore PT boats.


Camillus, NY

The Camillus Erie Canal Park Museum (Sims' Museum) is a replica of the original Sims' canal store which was located on the Canal about 2 miles east of the present location. The original site was closer to Gere Lock and Belle Isle. There it took advantage of the fact that the boats had to stop there before entering the lock and/or stopping at Belle Isle. The museum is divided into many sections. The store section is a replica of the original with many artifacts of the past and includes a quaint gift shop. There is also a local history section, an Erie Canal Barge display, an 1800's room, and a section describing the building of the canal including some of the tools used. An outstanding wall-mural of a boat traveling over the Nine Mile Creek Aqueduct can be viewed on the second floor.


Online only

The Canal Society is one of the oldest canal enthusiast organizations in the country. The Society dates back to 1956 when a group gathered at the Lafayette Hotel in Buffalo to organize a society devoted to the history, preservation, advocacy, and promotion of New York’s canals. Since that modest beginning, the Society has grown to become one of the best sources for canal information, research, and networking. It is a membership organization that strives to serve the entire canal and historic community. There are many reasons that people join the Canal Society and membership in the Society is open to everyone.


Brookhaven, NY

Carmans River Maritime Center operates an educational facility for the building, restoration and repair of wooden boats and to sustain maritime skills and traditions, particularly those associated with Brookhaven Hamlet and Great South Bay. Classes include traditional and modern boat building techniques, and other related maritime skills.


Chittenango, NY

At the Chittenango Landing Canal Boat Museum in Chittenango, you will find a Historic Restoration Site Guided, self-guided walking tours, excavating three-bay dock where canal boats were built and repaired, a reconstructed miter and drop gates, original Erie Canal towpath, aqueduct, excavating canal boat remains and a new interpretive center and library. Also, hands-on activities and exhibits, archaeology programs and digs, group presentations, picnic area and parking with handicap facilities, a sawmill/woodworking/blacksmith shop complex.


City Island, NY

Much of the colorful nautical past of New York City is preserved in the City Island Nautical Museum, which is open to visitors every Sunday afternoon. A tour of the Museum’s interesting exhibits will introduce you to some of the island’s dedicated City Island’s famous yacht-builders who contributed to the successful defense of the America’s Cup. Through an on-line collection, they also offer a sampling of the images of boats and historic houses that are part of their archives.


Beacon, NY

In 1966, Pete Seeger had the idea that by learning to care for one boat and one river, the public could come to care for all our threatened waterways. The centerpiece of Clearwater's public education program is the 106-foot wooden sailing sloop Clearwater, designed after the Dutch sailing sloops of the 18th and 19th centuries.

Press play to watch "Clearwater: Float the Boat!"


Cold Spring Harbor, NY

The museum's collection and education programs provide the community with a significant link to the understanding of one of Long Island’s earliest major industries -- whaling. The collection was formed by the local community who recognized the need for a repository to preserve the region’s local maritime history and Cold Spring Harbor’s whaling past.


High Falls, NY

The canal opened in 1828 to transport coal from Honesdale, PA to Kingston, NY (on the Hudson River) some 108 miles. The museum and portions of the canal evidence the importance of this coal transport.


Dunkirk, NY

At the Dunkirk Historical Lighthouse, a cast iron spiral stairway leads to a 10-sided lantern 8 feet by 3 inches. The automated light is still exhibited through a 3rd-order fresnel lens with a 90 degree reflector. The Veterans Museum consists of 10 rooms of display. Five rooms are of each branch of service: Coast Guard, Marine Corp, Navy, Army and Air Force. The other five displays are on maritime history, the Lighthouse Keeper, and the Vietnam War. Displays on the grounds are: 40-foot Lighthouse buoy tender, 21- foot rescue boat, assorted anchors, Civil War cannon, assorted buoys, Lighthouse Keepers rescue boat, and more.


Greenport, NY

Greenport's shipbuilding industry, depicted by photographs, tools, drawings, and ship models await the maritime history buff at this museum.

Photo: East End Seaport Maritime Museum


Amagansett, NY

The Marine Museum tells the unique story of Long Island's East End community and its relationship with the sea through artifacts, photographs, models, and displays. Three floors of exhibitions are characterized by a thoughtful interpretation of historical research and the perspective of the men who work on the water every day of their lives. The museum is dedicated to documenting and preserving East Hampton Town's maritime history and to showing in what ways our marine environment has had an impact on the economic, social, and recreational life of its citizens.


Syracuse, NY

The Erie Canal Museum is dedicated to preserving and showcasing the 1850 National Register Weighlock Building, the last remaining structure of its kind, and to telling the incredible adventure story of the Erie Canal. Syracuse was the junction point where the canal from Oswego -- on Lake Ontario -- joined the east-west Erie Canal. The museum is the leading history museum specializing in the Erie Canal's history.

Click image to purchase "Wedding of the Waters: The Erie Canal and the Making of a Great Nation" by Peter L. Bernstein


Rome, NY

Erie Canal Village is an outdoor living history museum. It is a reconstructed 19th century settlement on the site where, on July 4, 1817, the first shovelful of earth was turned for the construction of the original Erie Canal. A mule drawn Packet Boat plies a section of the enlarged canal giving visitors a taste of early 19th century water travel.


Hammondsport, NY

The Finger Lakes Boating Museum exists for the education and preservation of the boating activities and boat building heritage of the Finger Lakes. The Museum Collection has grown to more than 200 boats built by many of the 40+ commercial builders identified to date as having built boats throughout the Finger Lakes Region during the last century. Finger Lakes Boating Museum found its permanent home in 2014 on the South end of Keuka Lake just outside of the village of Hammondsport. The historic Taylor campus, 14 acres and 19 buildings, allows the museum to exhibit a good selection of the collection while maintaining room to expand in the future.  


Western end of the Fire Island National Seashore

In 1982, the Fire Island Lighthouse, the first light seen by many immigrants, was scheduled for demolition by the government, but was saved by a concerned group of Long Islanders. Standing 168ft. above sea level since 1858 adjacent to its Keepers' Quarters along the eastern seaboard of America, this Lighthouse is rich in nautical history.


Hyde Park, NY

Franklin D. Roosevelt Library and Museum, founded in 1939 by a joint resolution of Congress, was the first of several presidential libraries. “Behind the Scenes” provides visitors with an extraordinary opportunity to see large numbers of museum objects that don’t appear in the permanent exhibition. This special area of the new museum features storerooms with large glass viewing areas making it possible for visitors to get a special peek into the collections of the President and First Lady. Here, visitors can see FDR’s model ship collection, among other family furniture, paintings and portraits, and art and gifts.


Oswego, NY

The H. Lee White Marine Museum is housed in the former administration building for a huge, then state-of the-art 1920's grain elevator complex on the Oswego Harbor's west side pier. The grain elevator itself was demolished in 1998, but the two-story steel frame, smooth stucco-finished administration building was retained by the Port of Oswego Authority and generously provided to the Museum and is a fully-functioning museum of maritime history, with exhibit spaces, storage rooms, offices, and online connections to the outside world. Traces of its original uses can still be seen by visitors on the main floor, where a few of the ceiling-mounted, belt-driven pulleys of the old machine shop have been left in place. The H. Lee White Marine Museum is located at the end of West First Street Pier in Oswego's "Historic Maritime District". Visitors will experience over 400 years of maritime history. The original lens from the Oswego West Pierhead Lighthouse, detailed ship models and dugout canoes, are just some of the treasures that await you. Stroll through an 18th century Captain's cabin, discover Oswego's rich fishing history, view the historic fishing vessel "Eleanor D." then board the WWII National Historic Landmark Tug "LT-5" and canal Derrick Barge No 8.

Photo: H. Lee White Marine Museum


Kingston, NY

Located on the historic Rondout waterfront, the Hudson River Maritime Museum was established in 1979 to collect, preserve, research, exhibit, and interpret a collection of historical artifacts related to the maritime heritage of the Hudson River and its tributaries. This is the only museum in New York State exclusively dedicated to this mission. The collected artifacts include historic vessels, objects, archival material and art related to Hudson River transportation, industries and recreation such as paintings, prints, photographs, ephemera, blueprints, artifacts, ship models, a 100-year old shad boat, lifeboats, lighthouse tender and ice yachts. The Hudson River Maritime Museum shares its knowledge, research, and collections through public events, lectures, education programs and activities, exhibitions, and publications.

Click image to purchase "The Sloops of the Hudson River: A Historical and Design Survey" by Paul E. Fontenoy



The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum is dedicated to the exhibition and interpretation of history, science, and service as related to its home aboard the aircraft carrier Intrepid, a National Historic Landmark. As you explore the Museum you will be able to examine original artifacts, view historic video footage, and explore interactive exhibits.

Click image to purchase "Intrepid: The Epic Story of America's Most Legendary Warship" by Bill White and Robert Gandt with a foreword by John McCain


Lockport, NY

Nestled at the base of a historic flight of five locks, the Lockport Canal Museum offers a historical view of the original Erie Canal. Completed in eight years (1817-1825), the canal is considered to be one of the greatest engineering feats in the world. Learn about the two generations of Erie Canal that operate today in Lockport, and the changes in technology from the era of the Enlarged Erie Canal Locks to the Erie Barge Canal Locks.


West Sayville, NY

The Long Island Maritime Museum displays and exhibits the history of the maritime of Long Island. A large selection of small craft and the history of the oyster industry of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.


Buffalo, NY

The Lower Lakes Marine Historical Society in the Buffalo Harbor Museum, founded in 1987, maintains and displays authentic objects, documents, and art relating to a vital period in Buffalo's maritime history. The Buffalo Harbor Museum is in a building that was once the home of long-time Buffalo ship chandler Howard H Baker and Company. (The ship chandlery business was central to the existence of dynamic ports and their waterfronts that supplied sails and ropes and other supplies for sailing ships. During contemporary times, they deal in goods typical for today's freighters). Within is a warm and inviting setting where displays and exhibits provide an overview of the evolution of the Buffalo Waterfront along with artifacts from the vessels that sailed the Great Lakes.

Photo: Lower Lakes Marine Historical Society


Fort Schuyler, NY

The Maritime Industry Museum at Fort Schuyler has many exhibits and displays depicting the development and history of the international merchant marine, related shoreside industries, and ports and the history of the Maritime College of New York.


Montauk, NY

The Montauk Point Lighthouse is the oldest lighthouse in New York State. The Lighthouse was authorized by the Second Congress, under President George Washington, in 1792. Construction began on June 7, 1796, and was completed on November 5, 1796. It still serves as an aid to navigation. The Montauk Point Lighthouse was designated a National Historic Landmark in recognition of the property’s national significance in the history of the United States on March 5, 2012, by the Secretary of the Interior.


Port Jefferson, NY

Historical Society of Greater Port Jefferson maintains a small maritime museum with general artifacts and displays, and clock museum.



The Port of New York's maritime history resides here for all to see and learn from.


Peekskill, NY

The National Maritime Historical Society is dedicated to America’s seafaring heritage. NMHS began in 1963 as a group of maritime enthusiasts working to save the bark Kaiulani and return her to the US from the Philippines.

Press play to watch "About the National Maritime Historical Society"


Southold, NY

The Horton Point Lighthouse, located north of downtown Southold, was constructed by the U. S. Lighthouse Service in 1857 and now serves as the Southold Historical Society`s Nautical Museum. The Lighthouse features exhibits on maritime history and whaling and spectacular views of the Long Island Sound.


Cuddebackville, NY

The Neversink Valley Area Museum, founded in 1967, is dedicated to preserving and interpreting the history of the Delaware and Hudson Canal, which transported coal from Honesdale, Pennsylvania to Kingston, New York (over 108 miles) from 1828-1898, and was a major influence in the Neversink Valley area during the 19th century.


Albany, NY

This museum acknowledges the contributions of Dutch colonizers in the New Netherland (Nieu Nederlandt) area -- today's states of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and Delaware -- and promotes a deeper understanding of the multiethnic and multicultural origin of our country. The chief attraction is the 1989 replica of the 1608 ship Halve Maen (Half Moon) built by the Dutch East India Company sailed by Henry Hudson on behalf of the Dutch when exploring the Hudson River for the first time.

Click image to purchase "Half Moon: Henry Hudson and the Voyage that Redrew the Map of the New World" by Douglas Hunter



The New-York Historical Society, founded in 1804, maintains a variety of records on maritime history including archives, ship logs, and other library and research information and paintings, drawings, prints, and ephemera related to maritime history. De Witt Clinton, father of the Erie Canal, was one of the founders.


Online only

The New York State Canal Corporation, a subsidiary of the New York State Thruway Authority, headquartered in Albany, is the proud steward for this great, historic 524-mile waterway, a legacy that was born more than 175 years ago. The tradition of navigation on New York's Canals continues uninterrupted, and the resurgence of development in the historic communities begins again, as it did in the mid-1800s.


Albany, NY

The New York State Archives was established in 1971 and opened its doors to the public in 1978 in the Cultural Education Center (CEC) in Albany. It is a program of the State Education Department, with its main facility located in the Cultural Education Center on Madison Avenue in Albany. There it cares for and provides access to more than 130 million documents, including information on maritime heritage, that tell the story of New York from the seventeenth century to the present.


Staten Island, NY

The John A. Noble Collection, a museum and maritime study center, includes Noble's series of 79 lithographs depicting twentieth century maritime endeavor; his "rowboat drawings," sketched from the stern of his rocking yawl.


Northport, NY

The Northport Historical Society, on Long Island, has been collecting, preserving and telling the stories of the people of Northport for 100 years. Hop on-board a journey of discovery -- a trip that begins before the time of Columbus and brings us right up to today.


Sackets Harbor, NY

Following the outbreak of the war between the United States and Great Britain in June 1812, Sackets Harbor became the center of American naval and military activity for the Upper St. Lawrence Valley and Lake Ontario. The brig "Oneida," with a company of marines, was already at the harbor to suppress smuggling between northern New York and Canada. Local woodlands provided ample timber, and a large fleet was constructed at the harbor’s extensive shipyard.


Sag Harbor, NY

The Sag Harbor Whaling Museum contains the maritime history of Sag Harbor which has always been recognized for its whaling history during the 19th century. These were the days when men of all cultures were coming together to sail around the world for years at a time in search of the mighty whale.

Click image to purchase "America's Early Whalemen: Indian Shore Whalers of Long Island, 1650-1750 (Native Peoples of the Americas)" by John A. Strong


Saugerties, NY

The first lighthouse at the mouth of the Esopus Creek at Saugerties was built in 1838 with funds appropriated from Congress. It was constructed to guide ships away from nearby shallows and into the Esopus Creek along the Hudson River when Saugerties was a major port with daily commercial and passenger transportation. The present lighthouse was built in 1869. It sits on a massive circular stonebase sixty feet in diameter. The Saugerties Lighthouse is open year around as a Bed & Breakfast. Public tours are weekends and holidays, Memorial Day through Labor Day.


Fort Hunter, NY

At Schoharie Crossing 1825, the enlarged canal (1840s), and the Barge Canal (1917), visitors can view the remains from all three phases of the Erie Canal, the most dramatic engineering achievement of its time that include the Schoharie Aqueduct.


Saratoga, NY

As a member of the Continental Congress, an influential New Yorker, and an experienced officer, General Philip Schuyler was given the rank of major general on June 19, 1775—making him third in command under George Washington and commander of the Northern Department of the Continental Army. After the Revolutionary War, Schuyler remained active in business as well as state and national politics, but his real interests took an important turn: with visionary acumen he became one of the staunchest supporters for canal construction. Although he died before his dreams of successful canals came to be, Philip Schuyler is known as a father of United States canals. The estate was originally part of the 1684 Saratoga Patent of 168,000 acres granted to seven New Yorkers (Schuylers owned 24,000 acres). Through inheritance and purchase the “farm at Saratoga” eventually came to Philip’s grandfather, Johannes Schuyler. This bustling farm, left in the care of Johannes’s oldest son, was obliterated by a raiding party of Indians and French Canadians in 1745. Almost all of the community’s enslaved and free people (over 100) were captured; Johannes’s oldest son and heir to the Schuyler fortune was killed on the spot. Philip Schuyler became the family’s new heir.


Whitehall, NY

Skenesborough Museum was created in 1959 in an unused canal terminal built in 1917. In 1960, the same year the NY State Legislature recognized Whitehall as the Birthplace of the US Navy, based on historical events, the state entered into a lease of the building and property as long as it is a museum. The John O'Brien memorial wing was added in 1976. It was renovated in 1991 creating a NYS Heritage Area Visitor Center. The focal point of the Defense area of the wing is a 16 foot diorama depicting the home and out-buildings of Philip Skene, community founder; in addition the seven ways on which the first ships were built at Skenesborough are shown. Maps, photographs, and artifacts describe involvement in the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. The Transportation theme includes Lake, Canal, and Railroad events that became the life work of many local residents. All of the more than 4,000 artifacts on display in the visitor center and museum have a direct connection to Whitehall and have been donated by interested people.


Sodus Point, NY

In 1824 Congress appropriated $4,500 to construct a lighthouse tower and keeper's residence at Sodus Bay. A year later Ishmael D. Hill, a veteran of the War of 1812, was appointed as its first keeper. By 1869 both structures had deteriorated to the extent that Congress appropriated $14,000 to build a second lighthouse to replace the original tower. This second stone Lighthouse Building, with its attached Tower and Fresnel Lens, was completed in 1871 and became the residence of Sodus Lighthouse Keepers for the next 80 years. This same Lighthouse is still preserved in excellent condition, and has been run as a Maritime Museum by the Sodus Bay Historical Society in accordance with an agreement and lease from the Town of Sodus since 1984. From the time of the first settlers in 1792, Sodus Bay was considered an ideal harbor for exporting farm products and other commodities.



The South Street Seaport Museum’s collections consist of over 26,500 works of art and artifacts, and over 55,000 historic records, documenting the rise of New York as a port city, and its role in the development of the economy and business of the United States through the social and architectural landscapes. In addition to those accessioned artifacts the Museum holds a maritime reference library and an archival collection of approximately 30,000 of ship plans, 18,000 books and vintage magazines, a reference photo archive, and historic documents and ephemera related to the architecture history and business of the district and downtown New York City, New York-based vessels and shipyards, ocean travel, and general maritime subjects.

Click image to purchase "Heroes of New York Harbor: Tales from the City's Port" by Marian Betancourt


Southampton, NY

The Southampton History Museum was organized in 1898 and incorporated in 1910. In its early days, the Museum collected and exhibited historical objects and documents relating to the history and development of Southampton, organized pageants, and gave lectures on antiques. By 1960 the Rogers Mansion property had expanded to include 12 historic structures including an 1830 one-room schoolhouse, an 1825 barn, and a 19th century paint store, among others. Today the Museum's mission is to preserve and promote the history and culture of the Town of Southampton by engaging and inspiring diverse audiences. It does this through the management of 4 separate properties with 14 historic buildings that contain changing exhibits on historic topics, a research center and educational programs for schoolchildren and adults.


Spencerport, NY

The Spencerport Depot & Canal Museum houses many historical items from the Erie Canal, Ogden Telephone Company, Village of Spencerport, and Town of Ogden. The depot is one of the selected cultural heritage sites in the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor. The museum also acts as a visitor center for those traveling along the Erie Canal.


Online only

Tug 44 is a 34' American Tug, the world's best pilothouse trawler. The Tug 44 website offers a photographic cruise log of the Travels of Tug 44 on the Erie Canal, Champlain Canal, and the Hudson River, including pictures of towns, locks, lighthouses, historical structures, and other points of interest on the New York Canal System and rivers.


Online only

The New York State Canal Corporation possesses numerous historical vessels, including a 1920s fleet of dredges and tugs, the majority of which are operational and working.  The flagship and educational ambassador of the Canal Corporation, tug Urger is one of two remaining bell boats in the United States and its future hangs in the balance.


Albany, NY

The USS Slater - DE766, is a Cannon Class Destroyer Escort. Of the 565 destroyer escorts produced in World War II, USS Slater - DE766 is the only one remaining afloat in the United States, and the only one with original battle armament and configuration. These trim but deadly warships had the duty of looking out for enemy submarines and kamikazes as they escorted ship convoys across the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. Visitors have a chance to see what life was like for the sailors who manned these vessels when they come aboard this Cannon Class destroyer escort in the Port of Albany.

Photo: USS Slater - DE766


Kings Point, NY

The United States Merchant Marine Academy is a federal institution to train our merchant mariners. In addition to its educational program, it also maintains the American Merchant Marine Museum on its campus at Kings Point, Long Island, New York. Situated in the historic Barstow house on the campus of the Academy, the Museum is a wonderful place to visit extensive collections of ship models, paintings, prints, documents, and maritime artifacts which emphasize the Museum’s theme of "Ships Made in America."


Brooklyn, NY

The Waterfront Museum, founded in 1985, is located in Red Hook, Brooklyn. It is housed aboard the 1914 Lehigh Valley Barge #79, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Museum offers free Open Boat Tours every Thursday 4-8pm and Saturday 1-5pm. In addition, it is open year-round for school and group tours by appointment and feature many performances, art exhibits, and other special events throughout the year.

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