Tuckerton Seaport and Baymen’s Museum, an IMLS National Medal of Honor 2015 Finalist for community service, holds as one of its primary goals to provide extraordinary services to its community as a trusted source of support beyond the traditional definition of a museum. Despite damage in excess of $350,000 from Superstorm Sandy, the most of any cultural institution along the Jersey shore, the Seaport’s commitment to stay open to best serve the public was the highest priority. Less than twelve hours after the storm, the Seaport reopened as a center of support to the community.
Tuckerton Seaport is a place that is by the community, for the community, and about the community. It endures as an outstanding example of a sustainable “community museum,” a place for locals and newcomers to gather, socialize and learn about the surrounding landscape, seasonal cycles, artistic expression and way of life that was and is Barnegat Bay.
The Seaport exhibited both visionary leadership and a commitment to civic engagement in addressing environmental disruptions and human displacement caused by this storm of historic proportion through a historic lens both past and future. The Seaport’s primary objective was to offer economic, social, and emotional assistance to a community in need. By hosting an NPR public forum to formulate preparations for resilience against future storms, the Seaport documented those affected through filming and archiving their experiences. By hosting community dinners to bring people back together and visiting classrooms to offer ArtHelps healing arts outlets for children affected by Sandy, the Seaport met social and emotional needs. The combination of history and arts creates an environment where shared struggle leads to collective healing. By recording personal narratives of the storm to create a Storm Stories Oral History Exhibit in partnership with Kean University, the Seaport met historical needs to capture current events for the record.
Tuckerton Seaport’s mission of serving the community became newly urgent in the wake of Sandy. The events in the community emphasized the vital role of bringing residents together. In response to community concerns for the Seaport’s damage, Executive Director Paul Hart assessed, “Was it bad? Yes. Will it break us? Never. The Seaport was first built by volunteers and community support and will soon be rebuilt in the same spirit of the bay.” The Seaport continues to actively collect stories and associated artifacts for future generations to understand the storm’s impact and its place on the timeline of storms that have forever impacted the Jersey coast.