NEWPORT, R.I. (WPRI) — Visitors to the city of Newport now have a chance to not only learn about Rhode Island’s rich sailing history, but also try their hand at the helm.
The historic Rhode Island Militia Armory on Thames Street is now home to The Sailing Museum.
“Sailing is part of the identity and the heritage of the Ocean State, and particularly Newport. It’s one of the world’s sailing capitals, so to have a sailing museum here just feels right,” executive director Heather Ruhsam said.
The museum moved to Newport from Annapolis, Maryland, back in 2019, but due to the pandemic, construction wasn’t completed until this year. It opened to tourists in May.
One step aboard and you’re already learning the ropes of a centuries-old tradition – in a modern way.
“They get to select one of these seven boats to essentially become their avatar museum,” Ruhsam explained. “They get to name it, it becomes their identifier, as they travel through the museum and complete the different activities.”
Ruhsam was our captain, guiding us through the different exhibits, many of which are fully interactive.
“Sailing is a participatory activity. You get to do things,” she said. “That’s what we wanted to bring into the museum, so we’re not on the water, but that doesn’t mean you can’t try sailing in different ways.”
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The museum also features the National Sailing Hall of Fame and America’s Cup Hall of Fame, which connect you with sailing’s past as a mode of navigation, as well as a sport.
“The tricorn here that belonged to Rear Admiral Stephen B. Luce. He founded the Naval War College right here in Newport,” Ruhsam told 12 News. “Right up to present day, a lot of our hall of famers are still very active racing, designing boats, making sails.”
“All of these items, we reached out to our hall of famers and their family members to ask for things that were significant to them to be able to share with the public,” she added.
While the museum isn’t actually on board a boat, real champion sailboats are on full display as a large window overlooks the harbor.
The museum is open seven days a week and often hosts school groups and camps to educate the future generation of America’s Cup sailors.