Newport’s New Sailing Museum Explores Where Wind and Water Meet

A long-awaited museum creates space for nautical history and interactive exhibits

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After 17 years of on-and-off planning, Newport’s newest attraction, The Sailing Museum, is finally open to the public – and it was worth the wait. Located in the historic Armory Building on Thames Street, the museum is set to become a go-to destination for experienced mariners and landlubbers alike. 

“The museum is Newport’s newest cultural institution and tourist attraction and is directly tied to the heritage and identity of the Ocean State,” says executive director Heather Ruhsam. “Opening the museum fulfills a longstanding vision of the organization’s founders. The Sailing Museum is not only intended to preserve the history of the sport, but to educate and inspire future sailors and innovators.”

Rhode Island Lieutenant Governor Sabina Matos led dignitaries in a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the new site on May 6. Designed as an educational and cultural nonprofit organization, the museum is also the home of the National Sailing Hall of Fame and the America’s Cup Hall of Fame, the latter of which was originally founded by Herreshoff Marine Museum in 1992. 

The Sailing Museum also features a mix of high- and low-tech interactive exhibits that share the principles of sailing, provides seasoned sailors with opportunities to test their skills and knowledge, and connects newbies with resources to get started on their maritime journey. These experiences are dispersed among six thematic areas: Wind and Water; two sections of The Making of a Sailor – Mental and Physical; Teamwork; Competition; and Legends of Sailing, which includes both halls of fame. 

“Our new home is a feast for the senses, harnessing technology to bring the excitement of sailing to life and honoring our sport’s heroes in exciting and innovative ways,” says Gus Carlson, president of the National Sailing Hall of Fame.

Just in time for their summer season, the museum is now open daily, 10am-5pm. In keeping with their goal to increase access to the sport and create an inclusive environment to learn, The Sailing Museum is a member of the Museums for All program, which provides reduced admission to low-income visitors at over 800 museums in the country, as well as discounts for seniors, students, veterans, and children. 

“Sailing is an activity without limits,” says Betsy Alison, Hall of Famer and United States Paralympic Sailing Team coach. “The Sailing Museum stresses the inclusivity of the sport and is a venue that celebrates the passion that drives people to take to the water. I am confident that the exhibits here will educate and entertain visitors of all abilities or interests.”

Carlson agrees. “Our goal is to create a special place that engages everyone,” he says, “from our sport’s faithful and casual sailors to newcomers who are curious about what happens when wind and water meet.” TheSailingMuseum.org

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