Mystic Seaport changes name, colors, logo in rebranding effort

Mystic — Mystic Seaport will launch a new branding initiative this morning that will change its name, logo, colors, website, and message. Even the coffee mugs, hats and T-shirts in the museum store and employee name tags and lanyards will change.

Those driving along Route 27 just past 9 a.m. today will see new signs in nautical orange, naval blue and arctic white and the new name — Mystic Seaport Museum —in modern typeface.

Gone is the historical red, white and blue logo of Mystic Seaport and its subtitle, “The Museum of America and the Sea.”

It is all part of the museum’s desire to freshen its look after 14 years, capitalize on the growing popularity of museums and continue its effort to lure new visitors by presenting new exhibits every few months that have both a historical and contemporary message. The new branding also piggybacks on the 2016 opening of the Thompson Exhibit Building, which allows the museum to stage major new exhibits and whose bold design is unlike anything in its recreated 19th century whaling village.

“We want people to notice we’re doing things in a bold and compelling way,” said museum President Stephen White. “It’s a manifestation of an evolution that’s been taking place here for a while. We’re not changing our core mission, just the way we present it.”

Now in its 89th year, the museum as been known by a variety of names:  The Marine Historical Association, Mystic Seaport, Mystic Seaport Museum and since 1997, Mystic Seaport: The Museum of America and the Sea.

White said the genesis for the change came through the museum’s recent strategic planning process, which focused on the world class exhibit space in the Thompson building and the adjacent quadrangle and the desire to drive people to the museum with new exhibits.

“It’s one thing to set a strategic direction and priorities, but the second component is people have to know about it,” he said. “We have to broadcast that things will be different at Mystic Seaport. It continues to evolve. No organization can afford to remain static."

White said the museum took its contemporary vision to a marketing agency, which it does every few years.

“The Thompson Building is not the same old Mystic Seaport. Taking the (whaling ship Charles W.) Morgan to sea after its restoration was not the same old Mystic Seaport. It was an old ship telling a new story,” he said. “Same mission, different story."

He said museum officials asked how they could best share this new contemporary vision.

The Carbone Smolan Agency, a New York City-based branding agency that has done work for the Louvre, the Smithsonian and the Museum of Modern Art, designed the new logo and colors.

White said the lines in the logo are meant to evoke the swells at sea while the words appear to get closer to the reader with “museum” being the largest.

He added the colors are meant to be bold to mimic the museum’s new initiatives.

White and museum spokesman Dan McFadden said research shows museums are making a comeback.

McFadden said museums are also becoming gathering places, event spaces and locations to bring together artists, lecturers and modern thought.

“We’re not just limiting ourselves to 19th century maritime history,” he said. “We’re marketing contemporary thought and maritime history.”

White added that museums are being “looked to for the truth. You can trust them.”

“We want to take advantage of this shift in public thinking. Sometime people are confused about what a seaport is. We’re a museum. We hope this shows we are a museum doing some very interesting things that you have to come and see.”

These include five new major exhibits this year. The recreation of a growing and collapsing pingo landform complete with a holographic representation of an Arctic landscape was on display until April 22; exhibits on Vikings and the controversial Vinland map are set to open May 19; an artist-in-residence who uses found objects to create sculpture through the lens of the African American experience arrives June 30; and “Death in Ice,” about the loss and recent discovery of the doomed Franklin expedition in 1845 opens in December.

“We want to use every opportunity to capture a new and diverse audience,” White said.

Changing the institution’s branding, though, is a major undertaking.

While major signs and key pages on the museum website will go up today, it will take months to complete the transition. The store will continue to sell items with the new and old logos, until stock of the latter is gone. Advertising and the museum magazine will change their looks.

White pointed out that one exception is the Morgan burgee, a nautical flag that identifies museum members and is seen on countless baseball caps, will remain.

“That’s not something we’re going to mess around with,” he said.

White declined to discuss the cost of the effort but said it is part of the museum's ongoing marketing efforts. 

White said the new logo has already been shared in meetings with staff, volunteers and board members.

‘There’s a lot of enthusiasm for it,” he said.

j.wojtas@theday.com

Editor's Note: This version has been updated to correct a spelling error in the photo cutlines and to show that the pingo exhibit is no longer on display.

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