The Ship's Log

The Museum Experience

Feb 16, 2016 - On Board GulfQuest

Growing up in Mobile, Alabama in the 60s and 70s didn’t exactly lend itself to a lot of arts and cultural experiences. At least not the kind a child might have been exposed to in larger metropolitan areas.

As one of six children in a family with two working parents, we didn’t regularly visit art galleries or history museums. Our grandparents didn’t take us to symphonies and plays. Those things weren’t available in Mobile or along the Gulf Coast. We had community theaters, piano lessons, and of course, Mardi Gras, but the opportunities for children (and adults) to learn about and experience a world beyond our own through regular exposure to arts and culture was simply not there.

Fortunately, much has changed along the Gulf Coast and throughout the state of Alabama in terms of cultural offerings like museum. I believe we owe it to ourselves and to future generations to take advantage of these opportunities.

In a post from the National Endowment for the Arts’ Art Works Blog, the writer explores many reasons for visiting museums.

“They (museums) can provide memorable, immersive learning experiences, provoke imagination, introduce unknown worlds and subject matter, and offer unique environments for quality time with family.” –Rebecca Gross, June 2014

Wow! This could be the perfect mission statement for GulfQuest National Maritime Museum. 

Immersive learning experiences? Pilot your own vessel through the Mobile River. Provoke imagination? Become a crane operator. Introduce unknown worlds? Explore a dive trail deep within the Gulf of Mexico. Offer unique environments for quality time with family? Try 90 interactive exhibits, simulators, theaters and displays.

From the Art Works Blog: “Museums offer a dynamic opportunity to . . . explore new things in a rich and educational environment . . . This unique exposure provides the foundation for creativity, critical thinking, and connection to the world around them.”

Going back to my childhood, I wouldn’t trade our family beach vacations, our enjoyment of Mardi Gras or those sweet piano lessons for anything in the world. But I can’t help but wonder how our education might have been enhanced, how our curiosities might have extended beyond our little world, had there been a GulfQuest in our midst.

Fortunately, it’s not too late and we don’t have to travel far. GulfQuest and other Gulf Coast arts and cultural institutions give us new opportunities to learn, to grow, to experience things once beyond our grasp. If you’re like me, do it for yourself. If you’re a parent of young children, by all means, do it for them.


To succeed, we must learn how a job is done. Sailors must learn each rope by heart. Untying the wrong one could cause a catastrophe. This knowledge was so important that honorable-discharge papers were once marked "knows the ropes."