Waterfront Barge Showboat & Museum

online exhibits

Art, Artifacts & Archives

Learn more about the art, artifacts, and archival materials on display at the Waterfront Museum, including our most popular work, an AUDIO-KINETIC SCULPTURE by George Rhoads.

How we engage with history

The Waterfront Museum’s collection focuses on two major subjects: the history of lighterage in New York Harbor and showboats. Many of the items in our collections are the remnants of maritime businesses in Red Hook. There are also bells and sign boards from tugs, industrial craft, ferry boats, and showboats.

In addition to collecting and preserving artifacts and archival materials relating to lighterage and showboats, the Waterfront Museum has launched projects to collect oral histories from longshoremen who worked break bulk during the end of the transition to containerization. We’re also building a network of people whose relatives lived and worked on barges, especially those in the Port of New York.

We’re actively seeking to engage new participants in these projects. Contact us to find out how or fill out a form at the links below.

harbor history

Barge Families

Barges like the Lehigh Valley Number 79 had captains who lived aboard with their families, typically in a cabin on the roof. We have artifacts and oral histories from these barge families and continue to seek barge family descendants. Contact us about our barge family network.

Watch our first Barge Families Reunion oral history collecting event.

Contact us about sharing your barge family story

Seamans certificate 1921
Longshoremans hook and artifact


The freight carried on the Lehigh Valley Number 79 barge was moved on and off the barge by waterfront workers including longshoremen and casual laborers sometimes referred to as Chenangoes.

Our collection includes tools used by longshoremen including hooks and chain pullers. We are also collecting oral histories from the remaining longshoremen who handled freight before containerization.

Contact us about our longshoremen oral history project.

Watch our Break Bulk Longshoremen Oral Histories

The TideShift Project, oral histories with pre-containerization waterfront workers:


Our collection of railroad equipment focuses on small items from the waterfront yards, including a passenger train platform step, an iron wheeled cart, rail brackets, spikes etc.

Old cleat
Old photo of the pier from The Brooklyn Daily Eagle

red hook history

The Lehigh Valley Railroad Barge number 79 was based in New Jersey, but the Waterfront Museum has called Red Hook, Brooklyn home for more than 25 years and contributed to its recent history. Read more about Red Hook’s history from the pre-colonial Lenape through Superstorm Sandy here

New York Harbor Heritage Fleet

The Waterfront Museum’s barge is just one of a fleet of historic vessels around New York Harbor including huge ships and small craft operating as history museums, community centers, entertainment venues, and more. See a list of vessels that have been part of our heritage fleet in recent years.

Looking through the window on the bagre as a tug approaches

showboat history

Showboats have entertained Americans at our shorelines since 1815 and in New York City as early as 1845. They were often based on barges rather than self-propelled vessels and brought urban culture to isolated communities from the Mississippi watershed to Pelham Bay in the Bronx. The Waterfront Museum barge continues this tradition of floating performance spaces and collects items relating to that history with a focus on showboats in the maritime network of the Port of New York.

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