January News
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A What? Feeling Oar? Feeler Pole?

By Cipperly Good, Richard Saltonstall Jr. Curator of Maritime History

I have to admit I was a little skeptical when I received a call a couple of weeks ago asking if the Museum was interested in a feeling oar. A what? Used for what? Luckily the donor preserved it and we are now the proud owners of a piece of herring fishery history.

Our colleagues at Vinalhaven Historical Society verified that, in fact, herring fishermen used a feeler pole to determine the number of herring in a cove. Depth sounding with the 14-foot pole until they found bottom, the fishermen then stomped on the dory’s floorboards to startle any herring. Based on the number of herring that bumped off the pole, the fishermen determined whether the cove was full of fish and could be “closed off” with a net. Once the net was secure, the fishermen set to work scooping the schooling herring into their dories.

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Photo Archives News

Maynard Bray Collection: Schooner Views

By Matt Wheeler, Digital Collections Curator

Schooners—vessels that carry fore-and-aft sails on two or more masts, with a taller mainmast when there are just two—show up in Dutch paintings as far back as the early 17th century. They’ve been rigged with topsails, gaffs, staysails, and Bermuda sails. During the few decades when they were celebrities of seagoing commerce, they were built longer and bristled with masts. Builders have experimented, fitting smaller boats with centerboards, constructing pinky or scow hulls. Mainers and Maine vacationers are well acquainted with the Windjammer fleets of old merchant schooners that emerged to create a rustic “maritourism” trade in the midcoast area, originating in the 1930s.

This month in our Onsite with Maynard blog, we’ll cast our eyes on some striking specimens that Maynard captured during his many decades of chasing wooden boats with his camera. We’ll see castles of sail underway, vicariously enjoy the leisure and hard work of passengers and crew, and appreciate the dedication of craftsmen shaping the bones of these wooden machines.

Kosti Ruohomaa Collection: January 2024 Rollout

By Matt Wheeler, Digital Collections Curator

In 1944, Kosti Ruohomaa visited Halloran General Hospital on Staten Island, New York, which was hosting a group of unusual Red Cross volunteers: master craftspeople who tutored recently wounded soldiers in the fine arts. His quiet portraits of young men in hospital robes at looms and clay wheels are a striking counterpoint to the kinds of images coming back from combat theaters in the early 1940s; it’s not a stretch to say that this correspondent was peaceful by nature, and not suited to the grim realities of the front.

Years into his tenure with Black Star, when he was well established professionally and a seasoned correspondent, Kosti engineered a series of assignments documenting the sardine industry in the Northeast. In 1953, he travelled to Grand Manan Island in Canada’s Bay of Fundy and got himself aboard a carrier to photograph a crew at work in a weir, an enclosure of nets strung on high wooden poles sunk into the mud. Outgoing tides trapped schools of herring, and signaled the start of a demanding task: cinching the trapped fish into a purse seine, hauling them to the surface by hand, and waiting while the carrier pumped them aboard. It was vigorous, gutsy work on the ocean, the kind of setting that beckons adventuresome photographers.

To view the new content, visit the museum’s Kosti Ruohomaa site.

Adopt-a-Slide: The Eliot Elisofon Collection Campaign

By Kevin Johnson, Photo Archivist

Mission accomplished!! An anonymous donation of $3,500 came in this month which puts us over the top on our campaign to fund the processing of the collection of photos by world renown Life Magazine photographer, Eliot Elisofon. Early in 2024 we will begin the process of digitizing and cataloging the slides and negatives shot by Elisofon between 1940-1970 on or around Vinalhaven. In the meantime you can see a slideshow of Eliot's photos and a list of the donors here. It's very gratifying to have the support and encouragement from our members and supporters to do this important work! Thank you!

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Thank you to Rope Razor for showing their support of the work we do here at PMM by renewing their business membership!

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