Marine Museum of the Great Lakes at Kingston (MMGLK)

Strategic Vision for the 2020-2025 Timeframe

“A new Museum in a new location telling the story of Kingston and the
Great Lakes in the 21st Century”

The Board of Directors of the MMGLK are committed to re-opening the Marine Museum to the public in Kingston within five years.  Our goal is to arise again in a signature building (of the calibre of the Isabel and the Tett) on Kingston’s waterfront.  It could be a repurposed heritage building or a custom-built work of modern architecture.  To meet the demands of a living collection that is already bursting at the seams, and to accommodate permanent galleries, as well as multi-purpose displays and event use, we will require a footprint of some 2,800 m2
(30,000 ft2), with up to 90 m (200 to 300 ft.) of waterfront dockage to accommodate waterside programming and mooring for a possible new Museum ship.

While the mission of the Marine Museum will remain unchanged[1], it is our intention that the new Marine Museum will have a much-expanded role relative to its predecessor, one that will provide a far greater benefit to the Kingston community.  A prerequisite for this transformation will be the formulation of a Strategic Development Plan, and for this we will enlist the services of a leading museology consultant to help us identify, articulate and prioritize the developmental opportunities available to the Marine Museum.  Effecting the transformation will also require an acceleration of a long-planned reformulation of our Interpretive Plan to better define the exhibits we show and the stories we tell. With these preparations, we will be well positioned to reopen as a new, state-of-the-art learning Museum in a new location, featuring new galleries, each of which will provide an exciting blend of interactive and more conventional exhibits, buttressed by our unique, world-class archival collections and bibliographic materials.

The Galleries

The new Marine Museum will feature five new or re-imagined permanent galleries: a new Great Lakes gallery with an environmental, educational focus; a Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway commercial shipping gallery; a shipwreck/underwater archaeology gallery; a Kingston gallery; and a ‘New Age of Sail’ gallery.  These may be complemented by a new, historical Museum ship.

Given the Great Lakes are at the root of the Museum’s existence, the brand new Great Lakes Gallery will set the tone for the renewal of the entire Museum experience.  Our flagship gallery, ideally supplemented by a Great Lakes Discovery Centre, will encompass interactive programming designed to reconnect visitors with the Lakes at their doorsteps, to expand their understanding of just how interwoven our lives are with them, and to point towards ways to take action to better protect them.  It will be a gallery where people want to be, where they feel at ease, and thus become open to thinking about real issues – an interpretive space where children (and their parents) feel they belong, and want to come back to.

The gallery housing the re-imagined Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway commercial shipping exhibit will build upon the popular ‘Marine Superhighway’ exhibit inaugurated in July 2015 paying tribute to the longest deep-draft seaway in the world. 

A new shipwrecks and underwater archaeology gallery will bring the hundreds of shipwrecks in the Great Lakes to life for the public in a responsible way, both revealing their secrets through underwater archaeology and promoting their preservation as historic artefacts – complementing the ‘Great Lakes Shipwrecks’ virtual exhibit currently being designed by the Museum.

A new shipwrecks and underwater archaeology gallery will bring the hundreds of shipwrecks in the Great Lakes to life for the public in a responsible way, both revealing their secrets through underwater archaeology and promoting their preservation as historic artefacts – complementing the ‘Great Lakes Shipwrecks’ virtual exhibit currently being developed by the Museum.

Another new gallery will feature a documentary movie that tells the maritime history of Kingston, Canada’s first capital and an important military and trade centre and shipbuilding port at the convergence of the Great Lakes, St. Lawrence and Cataraqui Rivers. The Marine Museum will be the place where visitors come to learn about the origins of Kingston and its significant place in the history of Canada.

Finally, a Recreational Boating gallery will build on the successful New Age of Sail exhibit and be complimented by a‘Canadian Sailing Hall of Fame ’exhibit.This gallery will be further enhanced with the addition of a boat restoration shop, providing boat repair training and other marine skills, generating a vibrant hub of activity with multiple interests for all ages.

Space will also be reserved for a special exhibit gallery to accommodate special and traveling exhibits.

A Learning Institution for the 21st Century

Our new Museum will be a learning institution, one where our future course of development will not be constrained by our present collections. Nor will it be constrained by the conventions of 20th Century museology: the world is changing, and we must be prepared to change with it.Accordingly, while each exhibit will provide a learning experience, they will be designed to impart an appropriate balance between interactivity and conventional interpretation. The visitor will thus be offered an enjoyable and stimulating learning environment.We will guard, however, against becoming focused primarily on entertainment; that is, our mission will continue to have a primary focus on interpretation and preservation of the collections.

Being a premier maritime learning and research institution, the new Museum will retain its unique library of maritime publications. We will, however, take the opportunity during the transition period to systematically review all our archives, to ensure their continuing compatibility with our Strategic Developmental and Interpretive Plans.  Where archival materials fail to satisfy this test, they will be pruned from our collections.  Given the centrality of a Kingston cultural vision in the Developmental and Interpretive Plans, the Kingston Shipyard archives will be retained, as will our unique and prized collection of ships’ plans.


The Path Forward

As indicated above, the transformation to the Marine Museum we intend to become will be governed by a Strategic Developmental Plan.  To assist in formulating this plan, the Museum will retain the services of specialist museology consultants to conduct a comprehensive and detailed visioning exercise to map the best course to follow.  It is our intention to apply for funding for this purpose, possibly seeking a Trillium Grant.  Once the Strategic Developmental Plan is in place, it will be used to shape and inform a new Interpretive Plan, and the realization of both plans will require the development of a new Business Plan setting forth the model that would sustain them.

That said, neither our new strategic vision nor the Interpretive Plan it will inform should be unduly constrained by considerations of available resources: in building a new Marine Museum in a new location we have an entrepreneurial opportunity within our grasp, and must exploit it. We have the possibility of pro-actively developing innovative revenue streams in addition to the more conventional sponsorships. By planning for a great Museum business, we will find the funding to sustain it over time. And, of course, we will also undertake a detailed analysis of those institutions that can usefully serve as comparators to help guide our deliberations.

While no decision has yet been made regarding the geographic location of a future home for the Museum, co-location with other like-minded institutions in the Kingston Penitentiary (KP)/Portsmouth Olympic Harbour (POH) complex would prove ideal, building on the already excellent and cooperative relations between the Marine Museum and the POH-based CORK, the Brigantine Programme, and Sail Canada, thus generating further synergies.  There would be significant additional benefits to co-location with the possible establishment of the International Sailing Centre of Excellence, and potential synergies between the Marine Museum and the future iteration of the Penitentiary Museum. 

We foresee a new culture and tourism hub arising at KP/POH that will rival (in terms of visits) all other museums and attractions in Kingston combined. Within this hub will arise a vital contributor to its success, a new Marine Museum with a new Interpretive Plan that is bold, transformative, relevant and sustainable well into the 21st Century.

 15 February 2017


The Board of Directors of the

Marine Museum of the Great Lakes at Kingston

Portsmouth Olympic Harbour

53 Younge Street, Unit 4

Kingston, ON K7M 6G4

(613) 542-2261

E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.





[1]           Mission:  To inspire an enduring connection to the maritime heritage of Kingston and the Great Lakes.

                Vision:  To be Canada's premier museum for studying, exhibiting and preserving the maritime heritage of Kingston and thelargest body of inter-connected fresh water lakes in the world.