Since the dawn of civilization, cultures have adorned the bows of their boats and ships. In the 19th century, those decorations took on the more formal, carved forms we know today as “Figureheads”. These carvings could range from lions and unicorns to damsels and saints. They gave each vessel its personality and reflected the values and culture of the time. During the age of steam-power, a lack of rigging and sails on steam-powered vessels meant that the bow of the ship held less prominence than it once did. Sadly, figureheads then fell out of favor, but the figureheads themselves still live on. 

Abernathy Lighting Design is proud to have played a part in bringing these prominent figures back to life in the Mystic Seaport Museum’s latest gallery opening. For over 40 years, the museum’s figurehead exhibit in the Wendell Gallery has served as a showplace for these unique artifacts. From fully renovated gallery interiors and reconceived exhibits to a new lighting system, the gallery has recently received a well-deserved facelift. Working with the museum’s in-house exhibit design team, Abernathy Lighting Design designed and executed the new exhibit lighting layouts to enhance the overall gallery aesthetic. Adding small theatrical touches, such as textural water and carefully controlled uplighting allows each of these historic pieces to shine in its own unique way. 

Photo credit: Joe Michael, © 2020 Mystic Seaport Museum

Notable Installations

Museum of the Bible

Washington, DC

Google Spruce Goose

Playa Vista, CA

Academy Museum of Motion Pictures

Los Angels, CA