Last weekend Rob and I safely ventured out in public to the National Museum of the Great Lakes. What a treat! This museum completely exceeded our expectations and we could have easily spent much more time exploring the history of the Great Lakes.
The National Museum of the Great Lakes consists of an indoor museum with over 300 photographs and artifacts that tell the story of the Great Lakes, a self guided tour of the 617-foot iron ore freighter the Colonel James M. Schoonmaker Museum Ship and the historic Museum Tug Ohio. In terms of safety during COVID, the museum requires face masks, social distancing, reservations, and the regular cleaning of surfaces. They also closed all hands-on and interactive exhibits. We were one of four parties the entire two hours we were there (two sets of couples, us, and a family of four). I felt very safe the entire time.
The museum itself tells tales spanning hundreds of years, beginning with the fur traders of the 1600s and ending with the sailors who sail the waterways today. I have never truly thought about the thousands of years of history of the Great Lakes and I was blown away by how dramatically the Great Lakes have impacted the North American continent. I loved learning more about Lake Erie, but I especially loved learning about the other Great Lakes. I realized I knew virtually nothing about Lake Ontario, Lake Huron, and Lake Superior. I also found it fascinating that because the Great Lakes are so large, they create their own weather!! So crazy!
We spent the majority of our time exploring the freighter and tug boat. The freighter was absolutely fascinating and it was my first time on a vessel this large. Walking up the gangway was incredibly terrifying for me (I am not a fan of heights), but once I was aboard the ship, I very much enjoyed the coastal views of downtown Toledo.
The first stop on the boat was the cargo hold – wow! What an enormous space! This was one of three cargo holds and this room alone can hold up to 5000 tons of bulk cargo (sand, stone, coal, iron ore, etc.). After the cargo hold we moved on to the First Engineers Cabin. I love seeing how sailors live and was fascinated by the living quarters.
Up next we ventured into the Crew Mess and Kitchen, which was quite spacious in my opinion! Off the kitchen was the Fantail, which just below this area is where the anchor chain locker is that holds a 4100 pound anchor – amazing!! After the Fantail we saw the Engine Room which is quite extraordinary – I for one could never work in this part of the ship though!
Having completed this side of the ship, we headed back down the deck and entered into the Passenger Hall, which compared to the rest of the boat was quite luxurious! With oak paneling and a grand staircase, one might they think they were on the Titanic (not really, but it was fancy!). Pretty much this entire side of the vessel is the Captain’s area – containing the Captain’s Lounge, Captain’s Offices, and Captain’s Cabin.
After we explored the Schoonmaker, we made our way to the Tug Ohio boat, which compared to the ship was quite tiny. It only took us about five minutes to explore the entire tug boat, but it was still fun to see how one operates and compare the difference in size between the two boats.
As with anything lately, I was nervous to explore this museum during COVID, but I’m very glad we did as it was truly fascinating. Plus, we enjoyed some panoramic views of downtown Toledo and the Maumee River, which even on a hazy gray day, was very beautiful.
If you are local to Northwest Ohio or are coming through the area, be sure to add this museum to your list of sites to see. It truly won’t disappoint.