September 1—November 12, 2023

Oceangoing: Art & Archival Collections About Lyme’s Links to the Sea

  • Museum Hours: Tuesday through Sunday, 10am to 5pm. Café Flo hours: 11:30am to 2:30pm, Tues-Sun.

This presentation of art and archival materials was inspired by the exhibition Object Lessons in American Art: Selections from the Princeton University Art Museum (through September 10). A section of that show, titled “Oceangoing,” highlighted the relationships of a diverse swath of Americans to the sea as a geographical boundary, income source, and provider of food, among others. This archival exhibition examines oceangoing through a local lens to illustrate how Old Lyme, a small town on Long Island Sound, participated in global trade, which shaped its economy, cultural tastes, and family life.

While the art and archival collections do not document the relationship of Native inhabitants to the coastline and its resources, or the role of enslaved African Americans in the maritime economy, they do illuminate the activities of Euro-American local families (including Chadwick, Waite, and Griswold) whose members engaged in oceangoing occupations. Their voyages to England, the Caribbean, and China brought the world to Old Lyme’s shores in multiple ways. The selections in this exhibition illustrate the vessels, the people who commanded them, and the things they carried in pursuit of profits from the Triangle Trade, the tea trade, and waves of immigration; as well as the hardships and loss associated with maritime life.

The Florence Griswold House, home of Captain Robert H. Griswold of the Black X Packet Ship Line that traveled between New York and London, showcases many historic objects related to maritime life. Captain Griswold’s daughter Florence Griswold opened her family home as a boardinghouse for artists at the turn of the twentieth century, with paintings and furnishings that reflect her father’s professional access to Europe via his frequent transatlantic voyages and the ties of other Griswold merchants to China.

This exhibition is on view in the Marshfield House.

Unless otherwise noted, all materials are from the collection of the Florence Griswold Museum and its Lyme Historical Society Archives.

Interested in learning more about the correspondence between Captain Robert H. Griswold and his wife Helen Powers during his time at sea?

Explore the online exhibition Dear Dear Husband