Mobile, AL – On September 26, 2015, the world’s only maritime museum dedicated to the historical, cultural and economic significance of the Gulf of Mexico will open to the public. Located on the Mobile River, this hands-on museum will become only the second interactive maritime museum in the United States.
With 90 exhibits, a museum store, a museum café and event space, GulfQuest is a 90,000 square foot museum designed to look as if it were a ship headed into Mobile Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. Six years after the building’s groundbreaking in April 2009, GulfQuest will become a major educational attraction for Mobile, the Gulf Coast and the state of Alabama. Early projections indicate GulfQuest will draw more than 300,000 visitors per year.
“Beyond its focus on the Gulf of Mexico, GulfQuest will be unique among maritime museums in that it features interactive exhibits, simulators and theaters, complemented by artifacts and memorabilia,” Tony Zodrow, GulfQuest executive director said. “We have taken extra measures, every step of the way, to design an immersive experience for our visitors. The exhibits are both entertaining and educational, and will truly encourage visitors to explore every maritime aspect of the Gulf of Mexico.”
GulfQuest is a public/private partnership between the City of Mobile and the non-profit organization overseen by the National Maritime Museum of the Gulf of Mexico Board of Trustees. The city, through bond issues and federal grants, constructed the building, while the non-profit, through private and corporate donations and federal grants, is underwriting the exhibits, infrastructure and operating expenses. The total project cost is $62.3 million.
“We believe GulfQuest will become the hub of activity for Mobile Landing, the City of Mobile’s downtown waterfront development,” E.B. Peebles, chairman of the Board of Trustees said. “Mobile Landing is already home to the Convention Center and Cooper Riverside Park and Amphitheater. For Mobile residents and visitors, having this sort of access to our riverfront, in a museum that chronicles all of the maritime activity, offers Mobile something new and exciting and boosts Mobile’s profile in regional tourism. Every member of our Board is incredibly proud and is looking forward to sharing the museum with hundreds of thousands of people.”
Within the building, GulfQuest’s exhibits are housed inside the stern of a full-sized container ship, displayed as if dockside. Water, kept at the same level as the Mobile River outside, surrounds the hull of the container vessel.
“We spared no effort in the details,” Zodrow said. “From the rampways on either side of the ship, to the sounds of the ship’s engines humming, to the lighting effects, visitors will feel very much like they are inside a life-size vessel, exploring every aspect of the maritime world.”
In the building’s north side lobby, an exhibit appropriately titled “America’s Sea” contains four interactive stations—Exploration, Commerce, Conflict and Nature—that provide ports of entry for visitors to explore the Gulf. Visitors will trace exploration routes, see where pirates ruled the waves, spot early settlements and forts, locate sunken Spanish galleons and a German U-boat, relive important naval battles, and locate lighthouses in the Gulf.
From the north side lobby to the ship’s bridge on the south side, exhibits will introduce visitors to an array of maritime topics including marine archeology, weather and hurricanes (in a hurricane simulator), deep-sea exploration, ports and maritime commerce, offshore oil/gas drilling, and more.
In addition, GulfQuest will offer a wide range of traveling exhibitions for visitors, educational programs for school groups, programs on weekends, holidays and summers for families, and special offerings for educators.
The “Take the Helm” theater may prove to be the most popular attraction for all ages and groups. This state-of-the-art simulator allows visitors to pilot a variety of ships through Mobile Bay into the Port of Mobile and on the Mobile and Tombigbee rivers.
“If I had to use one word to describe the experience of a GulfQuest visit, I would have to say ‘immersive,” Zodrow said. “Like any fine museum, GulfQuest will be very educational. But it will also provide hours and hours of immersive activities. We think people from all over the country will understand just why the Gulf of Mexico is truly ‘America’s Sea’.”