H. Lee White Maritime Museum's boat on exhibit in the water.

H. Lee White Maritime Museum

Visitors can learn about the history of Lake Ontario and its connecting waterways.

When Mercedes Niess moved to Oswego in 1990, she didn’t anticipate becoming enamored with the depth of history that lies within Central New York. But as she began volunteering at the H. Lee White Maritime Museum, she discovered a newfound passion. Little did she know, she had found what would be her new ‘home’ for the next 30 years.

“Originally being from Long Island, I always loved being near the water any time of the year,” said Niess. “The Museum was right on the harbor of Lake Ontario and I immediately fell in love with the organization and the area.”

Oswego’s harbor is the oldest freshwater port in the United States. The Museum, established in 1982, tells the unique story of the region’s early settlement and development through exhibits of artifacts and vessels. Visitors can learn about the history of Lake Ontario and its connecting waterways, and tour the historic vessels at its dock.

As Niess progressively gained more responsibilities at the museum over the years, first as associate director and later as executive director, she found that the proverbial waters were getting murky as growing external financial challenges arose.

“Our vision has always been to creatively engage and inspire the community through educational, cultural and innovative experiences,” said Niess. “As a small organization, we recognized that in order to continue our vision, we’d need to make a change.”

With the encouragement of the Port of Oswego Authority, the organization decided to pool its resources and develop collaborative partnerships with the Oswego Maritime Foundation and the Oswego Maritime Alliance. With both organizations exhibiting a shared passion for preserving the maritime history of Oswego and offer on-water experiences, Niess realized there was great benefit to becoming one cohesive entity.

A Strategic Partnership grant from the Community Foundation assisted the museum with the legal and consulting expenses associated with the consolidation. The resulting partnership gave the Museum the ability to expand its offerings to further develop cultural heritage tourism, and remain a stable force in the Oswego community for generations.

“The grant continues to guide us on a new and exciting course that has engaged the community on all levels,” said Niess. “We need to continue to hone our long-range plans and develop new goals to ensure that the museum will be here for another 40 years.”

H. Lee White Maritime Museum director, Mercedes Niess, stands near the boat.
H. Lee White Maritime Museum director, Mercedes Niess, stands outside the museum.

Related Stories

Pamela Monaco sitting with her dog
Stories November 21, 2022

Giving With Energy & Heart: Pamela Kip Reisman Monaco

It was an “a-ha” moment for Pamela Kip Reisman Monaco when she read another woman’s ...

Peter A. Dunn
Publications November 21, 2022

Point of View

Giving Voice Fall 2022: Point of View

Angela Winfield & Lance Lyons standing outside
Publications November 21, 2022

Forging Pathways for the Future: Angela Winfield & Lance Lyons

Giving Voice Fall 2022: Donor Story

Group of teens sitting at a table
Publications November 21, 2022

Adding New Flavor to Grantmaking with Participatory Budgeting

Giving Voice Fall 2022: Granting Matters

Blogs October 29, 2022

Reflections: Creating a Legacy of Equity

Jan Lane, senior philanthropic advisor, explains the ways that leaving a legacy can help you ...

new hires CNYCF
News Releases October 27, 2022

Community Foundation Announces New Hires

Over the past several months, the Community Foundation has added three new members to its ...

Stories October 11, 2022

Women’s Fund Founders Built Legacy for Community’s Daughters and Granddaughters

The Women’s Fund now has more than $1.2 million in total assets and has awarded ...

Pamela Monaco sitting with her dog
Stories November 21, 2022

Giving With Energy & Heart: Pamela Kip Reisman Monaco

It was an “a-ha” moment for Pamela Kip Reisman Monaco when she read another woman’s ...

Peter A. Dunn
Publications November 21, 2022

Point of View

Giving Voice Fall 2022: Point of View

Angela Winfield & Lance Lyons standing outside
Publications November 21, 2022

Forging Pathways for the Future: Angela Winfield & Lance Lyons

Giving Voice Fall 2022: Donor Story

Group of teens sitting at a table
Publications November 21, 2022

Adding New Flavor to Grantmaking with Participatory Budgeting

Giving Voice Fall 2022: Granting Matters

Blogs October 29, 2022

Reflections: Creating a Legacy of Equity

Jan Lane, senior philanthropic advisor, explains the ways that leaving a legacy can help you ...

new hires CNYCF
News Releases October 27, 2022

Community Foundation Announces New Hires

Over the past several months, the Community Foundation has added three new members to its ...

Stories October 11, 2022

Women’s Fund Founders Built Legacy for Community’s Daughters and Granddaughters

The Women’s Fund now has more than $1.2 million in total assets and has awarded ...

View More