News at the Museum

To receive press releases or for more information, contact Sabrina Kettell, or 207-548-2529 ext. 216.

Upcoming Release of 5000 More Fishing Photos From the National Fisherman Archive

Photo credit: Milton Moore

Photo credit: Milton Moore

Maine’s own National Fisherman magazine has always been a hardcore trade publication, which means that its readership falls inside a particular sphere of interest and activity. At the same time, its cultural importance shouldn’t be underestimated. Its photographic archive, entrusted to PMM in 2012 for long-term preservation, tells a critical story—the rise of industrial fishing and its consequences for fish and fishermen. This was never the intent of the publishers; after all, NF is a periodical, always intended to keep fish harvesters, and the interested public, up to date about emerging practices and technologies, changes in regulation, and to relate the experiences of men and women who make their living at sea and in the fisheries. That being the case, the magazine was on the ground—more accurately, at sea—during these crucial decades when technology changed fishing, as it did so many other arenas of human activity, beyond recognition.

National Fisherman is also a story of entrepreneurial vision—it’s a consolidation a handful of earlier, regional fishing papers, notably Atlantic Fisherman, whose photographs also reside here at Penobscot Marine Museum.

Most viewers wouldn’t fail to be intrigued by witnessing the many scenes of rugged characters maneuvering heavy trawl nets to haul in a catch or men balancing on scows heaped with oysters, to see snapshots of crews being rescued from foundering vessels, or to stumble across those instances of split-second chance and artistic confidence that make a good portrait. There are countless vignettes of people at work—repairing hulls, building traps of wire or wood (depending on the era), cleaning congealed oil off of beaches after tanker wrecks, pilots navigating narrow channels. So while there’s much within this body of work that is, admittedly, of very specific interest, there’s much else that captures the imagination and opens windows onto worlds seldom glimpsed by most.

Photo credit: Bryan Hitchcock

Photo credit: Bryan Hitchcock

On December 21st, after many more months of carefully digitizing and cataloging these legacy photographs, we’ll be rolling out the second group of 5000 on our online database. Our website features a browsing tool designed to help visitors explore the collection. To peruse these new images, check us out at

This project has been financed (in part) with Federal funds from the National Maritime Heritage program (administered by the National Park Service) and from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

Photo credit: Jack Stark

Photo credit: Jack Stark

Maine on Glass: The Early Twentieth Century in Glass Plate Photography Book Release

Left: Maine on Glass: The Early Twentieth Century in Glass Plate Photography, Right: Kevin Johnson

Left: Maine on Glass: The Early Twentieth Century in Glass Plate Photography, Right: Kevin Johnson

Maine on Glass: The Early Twentieth Century in Glass Plate Photography is the joint effort of Kevin Johnson, Penobscot Marine Museum’s Photo Archivist; W.H. Bunting, Maine’s foremost interpreter of historic images; Earl G. Shettleworth Jr., Maine State Historian. This book uses images from the Eastern Illustrating & Publishing Company to focus on early twentieth century Maine life, from people at work to people at play.

The Eastern Illustrating & Publishing Company was a Belfast, Maine based “real photo postcard” company operated by R. Herman Cassens from 1909 to 1947. He dreamed of “Photographing the Transcontinental Trail–Maine to California,” focusing on small rural towns and villages. Although his dream was never fully realized, the company did manage to produce more than 40,000 glass plate negatives.

The EIP collection is now housed at Penobscot Marine Museum, where PMM Photo Archivist, Kevin Johnson oversees the preservation and digitization of that collection, along with several other photographic collections.

Johnson, puts his experience and knowledge of the Eastern Illustrating & Publishing Company collection into this book, along with 200 photographs from PMM’s extensive collection of negatives from EIP.

Book talks and signings will be held all over the state, including one with all three authors at PMM on Thursday, September 22 at 7:00 p.m.

For more information or to order a copy of the book, click here or please call 207-548-0334.

Maine On Glass: The Early Twentieth Century in Glass Plate Photography


Maine On Glass: The Early Twentieth Century in Glass Plate Photography ​(Signed by author, Kevin Johnson)​
by W H. Bunting, Kevin Johnson, Earle G. Shettleworth Jr​.​
$37.00 (includes tax and shipping)

Description: ​Nineteenth-century Maine―famed for its lumbering, shipbuilding, and seafaring―has attracted copious attention from historians, but early twentieth-century Maine has not. Maine on Glass redresses this imbalance with 190 postcard photos and three of Maine’s foremost historians.

The images in this book were selected from 22,000 glass plate negatives created by the Eastern company between 1909 and World War II. As an archive of early twentieth-century Maine architectural photography, the Eastern collection (now housed at the Penobscot Marine Museum) has no equal, and it gives us many unexpected glimpses of Maine life.

Five Thousand U.S. Fishing Industry Photographs Now Online


In 2012, the international media company Diversified Communications donated over 15,000 photographs to Penobscot Marine Museum from its National Fisherman magazine archives. This collection, the largest of its kind, documents the U. S. fishing industry from the 1950’s to the 1990’s, providing a unique detailed visual survey of commercial fishing in this country during a time when the increasing industrialization of fishing had enormous and often devastating consequences for individual fishermen and for fishing stock. John K. Bullard, the Regional Administrator for National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), calls the National Fisherman collection of “…great national historical significance because it documents a critical period in the history of U.S. fishing.” In 2014 the museum received grant funding to digitize the collection. The first 5000 photographs are now available to the public online at All 15,000 images will be online by 2017.

Native Fisherman Operating Motorized Boat, PMM National Fisherman Collection

Native Fisherman Operating Motorized Boat, PMM National Fisherman Collection

The National Fisherman collection includes photographs of all aspects of the fishing industry. There are photographs of Greenpeace activists protesting foreign whaling, of fishing strikes in the Alaskan salmon fisheries, of tired East Coast draggers, foreign and domestic factory ships, and Alaskan halibut trawlers. There are photographs of the people of the industry; fishermen hauling their catch, fish processors in factories, and angry fishermen in meetings with industry regulators. National Fisherman photographed fishing vessels being built at sea, people working at fish piers, fish markets, and fishing industry trade shows. Now for the first time an international audience of scholars, historians, film makers, educators, curators, ecologists, policy makers and the general public will all have access to this wealth of visual documentation.

National Fisherman is the only national commercial fishing publication in the U.S. Over the course of their history, which can be traced back to a 1921 fish report in Belfast, Maine’s newspaper Republican Journal, they amassed what became the largest collection of 20th century photographs documenting the fishing industry. The decision to donate their vast photography archive to Penobscot Marine Museum was made by parent company Diversified Communications when National Fisherman’s photo submissions switched to digital.

Penobscot Marine Museum is extremely grateful to the following for their support: this project is made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and by The Windhover Foundation. This project has also been financed (in part) with Federal funds from the National Maritime Heritage program, administered by the National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior. However, the contents and opinions contained herein do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Department of the Interior, nor does the mention of trade names or commercial products constitute endorsement or recommendation by the Department of the Interior.

Transporting an Elephant, PMM National Fisherman Collection

Transporting an Elephant, PMM National Fisherman Collection

Seabird Guano Bottle From Penobscot Marine Museum At Smithsonian

Penobscot Marine Museum’s Guano Bottle c. 1880.

Penobscot Marine Museum’s Guano Bottle c. 1880.

A bottle filled with colored seabird guano (droppings) from Penobscot Marine Museum’s collection is currently on display in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. The bottle is part of the exhibit The Norie Marine Atlas & Guano Trade which runs now through January 2017.

“This is a very rare object, I know of only one other like it,” reports PMM’s Collections Manager Cipperly Good. “When I heard that the Smithsonian was looking for guano objects for their exhibit, we were pleased to be able to loan them our bottle.” The bottle may have been made by Chinese guano miners to commemorate a voyage by the Searsport-owned ship HENRIETTA to Peru around 1880. Many Maine ships sailed to Peru for the guano trade which began in the early 19th century. Guano was thought to be the best fertilizer in the world, and Americans, British, and Germans flocked to the Chincha Islands off the coast of Peru to mine it. Dropping deposits from the seabirds on these islands reached up to 200 feet, however by the end of the 19th century, the guano was effectively depleted. Several Penobscot Marine Museum staff are travelling to Washington, D.C. for a special tour of the exhibit with National Museum of American History’s curator Paul Johnston.

Penobscot Marine Museum Celebrates Maine’s Sense Of Place


On view at PMM from May 28 through October 16, 2016

Inspired by the 100th anniversary of “Maine Postcard Day”, Penobscot Marine Museum presents Wish You Were Here: Communicating Maine, a hundred years of images which have been used to communicate the unique qualities of Maine to the outside world. With photographic postcards, photography, and contemporary art, this exhibit explores the changes which have taken place in the images which have been used to communicate “Maine”.


Community Project: Celebrating the 100th Anniversary of Maine Post Card Day with Maine Libraries

Postcards were the Facebook and Twitter of their age. An estimated 200 to 300 billion postcards were produced and mailed world-wide from the 1890’s to the 1920’s and one of Penobscot Marine Museum’s major photography collections was produced by Eastern Illustrating and Publishing Company, an early Maine postcard company. In 1916 Maine Governor Oakley C. Curtis proclaimed April 19th “Post Card Day” and issued a proclamation asking all Maine citizens to send a postcard of Maine to friends and family outside the state with the message “Come to Maine.” A petition has been sent to Governor Le Page’s office requesting that April 19, 2016 be proclaimed “Postcard Day” in celebration of the 100th anniversary of Maine’s Post Card Day. Penobscot Marine Museum is collaborating with the Maine State Library system to distribute postcards with historic images of Maine from the museum’s photography collection to libraries across the state for patrons to mail during Library Week, April 10th through 16th.


Exhibit: Historic Maine, a Postcard View

This exhibit presents a history of the postcard, and takes a closer look at postcards produced by three Maine photographic postcard companies. The postcard craze in America, roughly 1905 to 1915, prompted the founding of many postcard companies across the country and in Maine. The vast majority of these American companies had their postcards mass-produced in Europe, but Eastern Illustrating and Publishing Company in Belfast, made “real photo” postcards with crisper images using a labor-intensive darkroom process.

Eastern Illustrating and Publishing Company photographers travelled across New England in Model Ts shooting scenes of small towns and rural life often overlooked by larger postcard companies. Postcards produced by Evie Barbour, who photographed the Blue Hill area with a box camera, and the Cunningham Brothers who photographed the area around Washington, Maine combine with images from the Eastern Illustrating and Publishing Company to create a highly personal and intimate portrait of Maine.

The exhibit includes oral histories of Mainers talking about the treasured places seen in these postcards, a trailer for a documentary on Eastern Illustrating and Publishing Company by Maine filmmaker Sumner McKane, a Model T outfitted with contemporaneous photography equipment, and the museums’ gigantic walk-in camera obscura which demonstrates the inside workings of a nineteenth-century camera.


Exhibit: Acadia National Park, a Postcard View

Acadia National Park was founded 100 years ago to preserve its extraordinary sense of place. It has long been the most famous and most visited place in Maine and has been the subject of tens of thousands of postcards. Penobscot Marine Museum joins the Acadia Centennial celebration with an exhibit of fifty years of Acadia National Park in postcards. The images are all from the Belfast-based Eastern Illustrating & Publishing Company, the largest manufacturer of “real-photo postcards” in the United States. The exhibit shows how popular taste changes over time even as the actual landscape does not.

Exhibit: Maine: A Continuum of Place

“For all of us have our loved places; all of us have laid claim to part of the earth;
and all of us, whether we know it or not, are in some measure the products of our sense of place.”
—Alan Gussow, A Sense of Place: The Artist and the American Land, 1971

Maine’s landscape has inspired a remarkable sense of place over the past 150 years. Artists such as Frederic Church, Winslow Homer, Marguerite Zorach, Eric Hopkins, and Andrew Wyeth have responded to its special qualities, including its coastline and islands. That vibrant tradition continues today. To highlight how artists’ sense of place has changed over time yet represents a continuum, guest curator Carl Little, author of Paintings of Maine and Art of the Maine Islands, chose photographs and postcards of coastal Maine from the Penobscot Marine Museum’s collection and paired them with images of those places by contemporary artists. The historic photographs and the contemporary artworks will be displayed side by side.


Community Project: Photoplay! Postcards by M.J. Bronstein

Artist M.J. Bronstein has created postcards using historic images from Penobscot Marine Museum’s photography collection. These postcards are designed for the museum visitor to be able to draw on them, adding to the historic photo. Each postcard becomes a unique creation for museum visitors to send to their friends.


Behind the Scene: Why Postcards?

Penobscot Marine Museum’s photography collection was started with a group of Eastern Illustrating and Publishing Company postcard glass-plate negatives which were rescued from a flood and brought to Penobscot Marine Museum for preservation. Penobscot Marine Museum now has 50,000 of the company’s negatives, the largest Eastern Illustrating and Publishing Company collection under one roof, as well as several hundred additional postcard negatives, and around 4,000 postcards.

Collecting postcards, deltiology, is the third largest “collectible” hobby in the world. Sending postcards is enjoying resurgence. In 2005 a man in Portugal founded an organization called Postcrossing which allows people to exchange postcards worldwide. This website,, now has over 570,000 participating members across 215 countries and in ten years, over 31 million postcards have been sent around the world.

Postcards are studied by sociologists and art historians. The Smithsonian Institution currently has an online postcards exhibit “Greetings From the Smithsonian”. In 2009 the Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibited a collection of postcards in “Walker Evans and the Picture Postcard,” and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts followed suit with “The Postcard Age: Selections From the Leonard A. Lauder Collection” in 2012.

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