SOUTH STREET SEAPORT — At first glance, the 200 objects that went on display at the South Street Seaport Museum this week have nothing to do with the Seaport — or even with New York City.
The objects, drawn from the collection of the American Folk Art Museum, include a painted tin coffeepot from Pennsylvania, a 19th-century gold-leaf weathervane from Massachusetts and a sculpture of Noah's ark that a French prisoner carved in England during the Napoleonic Wars.
But visitors who take a closer look at the exhibit, called "Compass: Folk Art in Four Directions," will find that each of the artworks connects in some way to the South Street Seaport's history as a center of commerce, shipping and social interaction.
"The Folk Art Museum's collection does not have artwork that is related literally to the South Street Seaport," said Stacy Hollander, chief curator at the Folk Art Museum, who put together the exhibit.
"But the idea of the Seaport and the history of the Seaport [became] a springboard to look at our collection," she continued. "[We're] able to illustrate aspects of the Seaport's history through works of art that speak to larger ideas."
The exhibit is on display in four galleries in the Seaport Museum's historic Schermerhorn Row buildings, and Hollander gave each gallery a theme that ties into the area's past: Exploration, Social Networking, Shopping, and Wind, Water & Weather.
The painted tin coffeepot from Pennsylvania fits into the Social Networking gallery, recalling the coffeehouses and coffee trade that once had a major presence on Fulton Street. That gallery also includes 18th-century ledger books, because business was often conducted in coffeehouses, and historical journals, because people often came to coffee shops to write, Hollander said.
The exhibit also features the work of Henry Darger, one of the best-known self-taught artists of the 20th century. In the Wind, Water & Weather room, several of Darger's watercolors are on display, along with a digital version of the daily weather journal he kept from 1957 to 1967.
The South Street Seaport Museum, 12 Fulton St., is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission is $10 for adults, $6 for seniors and students and free for kids under 9. "Compass: Folk Art in Four Directions" runs through Oct. 7.