Great Balancing Act at Great Lakes Museum in Toledo.

Looking for a "well-balanced" exhibit about ships? Try thinking about ballast--the maritime technology that you only become aware of when disaster strikes! Since ancient times, sailors have known that keeping a sEastland Disaster 1915hip upright requires a heavy bottom and not too much unbalanced weight above water. Modern principles of ballast systems developed with the advent of steel hulls, steam power, powerful pumps, and water ballast in the nineteenth century, but engineers now have to design new ballast management systems to prevent the transport of invasive organisms. The newest addition to the Maritime Technology exhibits at the National Museum of the Great Lakes in Toledo, OH ( is a temporary exhibit on "BALLAST TECHNOLOGY: Saving Ships, Lives, and the Environment," which started in February for a six-month run.

The exhibit traces the history of ballast technologies from stone ballasts of antiquity, through the Eastland disaster that caused the loss of over 800 lives, to the newest "salties," ocean going ships with ballast treatment systems that have entered the Great Lakes by way of the St. Lawrence Seaway. The temporary exhibit officially opened on February 24, 2017 and runs until August 31, 2017 at the National Museum of the Great Lakes located at 1701 Front Street, Toledo, OH 43605.

Dr. Jeffrey Ram, a professor at Wayne State University, led the design team and content providers that created the exhibit. "We wanted the public to experience this topic through many media," said Ram, "so we also created a video 'trailer' to introduce the exhibit and a second video to give some answers." The first video asks the question "WHY BALLAST?" and can be found at After viewing the exhibit, the creators invite you to look at some of the answers in another video "Ballast Invaders: What's the Solution?" found at Additional images and photographs of the exhibit can be found at Ram's design and content team included Great Lakes ship technology historian Matthew Daley from the History Department of Grand Valley State University, designer Esther Rhee, a graduate of Wayne State University mentored by an Industrial Design faculty member, Siobhan Gregory, and videographer Joe Aloisio, also a graduate of Wayne State University.

Special events associated with the exhibit have included an official opening on February 24, 2017 and a talk at the Museum on March 8, 2017, when Daley and Ram gave a talk at the Museum, entitled "Keeping it in Trim: Ballast and Great Lakes Shipping" in the museum's Spring Lecture Series( Daley and Ram published "Keeping it in Trim" in the Museum's well known Great Lakes history journal, Inland Seas. Another special event that will highlight the exhibit will be a conference of ballast technology experts who will meet at the Museum at a Ballast Management Compliance Summit on May 19, 2017.

Federal Caribou photo by Joanne Crack

Illustration from the exhibit: Among the newest ocean going vessels that have visited the Great Lakes, the Federal Caribou by Fednav was built in 2016 with a BallastAce JFE Engineering ballast treatment system to prevent live organisms from being discharged into the Great Lakes. This photo is part of the Ballast Technology exhibit at the National Museum of the Great Lakes, opening February 24, 2017.

← Back to listing