In the late 1960s, a group of passionate New Yorkers lobbied the city to set aside a collection of city blocks in the South Street Seaport as an area worthy of care, attention, and preservation. This group of people became the first volunteers of the South Street Seaport Museum, and laid the foundation for the work the Museum does today in sharing the incredible story of the rise of the port of New York.
Volunteers support every aspect of the Seaport Museum, but are most often seen working on the waterfront at Pier 16. This crew works to restore and maintain the fleet of historic vessels using traditional maritime skills while enjoying the unique atmosphere of a busy waterfront that makes the South Street Seaport Historic District so special.
The Seaport Museum offers year-round opportunities for volunteers on the waterfront and seasonal work aboard our sailing vessels. Both volunteer programs are one-of-a-kind, offering one of the only ways to interact with ships from a bygone era.
All volunteers must be at least 16 years old to participate.
Ship Restoration Program
This year-round program invites volunteers to help maintain and restore the Museum’s stationary and operational vessels. We welcome all levels of experience and offer the chance for new volunteers to learn and preserve these precious skills.
Entry level: No special skills are required, just a willingness to learn and be part of a team. During every month of the year, Museum volunteers and staff work together to care for the fleet. Work includes: cleaning and organizing, repairs, painting, polishing, varnishing, and general maintenance. In the Fall, the sailing vessels are down-rigged for the Winter. In the Spring, the operational vessels are fitted out and re-rigged for the coming sailing season. Most labor is unskilled and training is provided.
Specialized skills: The Museum welcomes any volunteer that has more specialized skills—all ships need carpenters, electricians, engineers, riggers, and metalworkers from time to time. There are also opportunities to learn aspects of these trades during work days and special workshops.
Requirements: Projects require physical stamina, skills as described above, and an ability to work cooperatively in a team setting. Work is often dirty and requires wearing PPE. Volunteers must be willing to work in this kind of environment.
For more information about getting involved please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Archives Digitization and Transcription Program
This is a year-round indoor opportunity to help the Museum with digitizing and transcribing records and photographs related to its Archives. Projects include scanning photographic materials and cataloging records, organizing and describing image files, and transcribing handwritten documents into digital formats.
Entry level: No prior experience is needed, just an interest in museums, archives, or data entry. We will provide training for each project as well as offer ongoing support as we work with you.
Specialized skills: Any experience with archiving is welcome. Data entry and spreadsheet experience is also a plus.
Sail Training Program
Not Currently Recruiting. Check back in Winter/Spring 2024.
From April to October, the historic 1885 schooner Pioneer sails with volunteer crew members during weekdays, weeknights, and weekends.
Recruitment for this program typically runs from January to April. Check back here in early 2024 for more information on getting involved.
Requirements: Participants must take a preliminary drug screening and enroll in a United States Coast Guard-mandated random drug testing program.
Learn About the Fleet
South Street Seaport Museum is home to a fleet of historic ships including the 1885 tall ship Wavertree, the 1885 schooner Pioneer, the 1908 lightship Ambrose, and the 1930 tugboat W.O. Decker. Each vessel is cared for by Museum volunteers and staff. Learn more about each ship, their fascinating histories, and how you can have a first-hand experience on board!
See Volunteers at Work