News at the Museum

To receive press releases or for more information, contact Sabrina Kettell, skettell@pmm-maine.org or 207-548-2529 ext. 216.

The Gulf of Maine Resources

May 27-October 16, 2022

The Gulf of Maine exhibit, created by the Searsport District High School Fall 2021 Marine Science Students, complements the artifacts and stories of the Gone Fishing exhibit in Old Town Hall. It identifies six current issues in the Gulf of Maine, including bycatch, sharks, green crabs, and the impact of warming waters.


Photography Collection Overview

May 27-October 16, 2022

The foyer of the Stephen Phillips Memorial Library offers an overview of the major photography collections and photographers with biographies, examples of work, and related ephemera. A large digital display features a rotating slideshow showing highlights from the archive. On weekdays, visitors are welcomed into the photo archives where there are additional displays, and they can observe and interact with staff and volunteers.


At Home, At Sea: Searsport’s Maritime Stories

New Permanent Exhibit

At Home, At Sea: Searsport’s Maritime Stories is a new permanent exhibit opening in 2022. The exhibit explores the many ways Searsport families connected with the sea—including those who maintained Searsport as their homeport, those engaged in the shipping industry, and those who took their families to sea. It shows how families at sea remained connected to loved ones back home, how the Searsport community experienced loss and misfortune as well as miraculous rescues, and how the crew aboard ship lived and worked. The exhibit uses objects, photographs, archives, and family stories from the Museum’s collection to tell these stories. At Home, At Sea has been funded in part by grants from the Morton Kelly Charitable Trust, Margaret E. Burnham Charitable Trust, and Frances R. Dewing Foundation, and through gifts from the many Searsport sea captains’ descendants committed to telling this story.


Picturing Penobscot Bay

May 27-October 16, 2022

Blue Bottom, oil on canvas by Colin Page

Picturing Penobscot Bay, guest curated by Carl Little, will feature around 40 works of art that share a strong connection to — and/or vision of — Penobscot Bay. Featured artists are Nancy Morgan Barnes, M. J. Bronstein, Molly Brown, David Dewey, Gregory Dunham, Sarah Faragher, Anina Porter Fuller, Brita Holmquist, Eric Hopkins, Jill Hoy, Scott Moore, Colin Page, Stefan Pastuhov, and Robert Pollien. Along with contemporary works, Picturing Penobscot Bay will also include a selection of historical paintings related to Penobscot Bay from the Museum’s collection. Historical artists include Waldo Peirce, Percy Sanborn, Dolly Smith, William Pierce Stubbs, Paul Stubing, and George Wasson.


Kosti Ruohomaa: The Maine Assignments

May 27-October 16, 2022

An LL Bean worker trims a hunting boot under the watchful eyes of a moose mount. 1952 LB2017.19.41330. Photo by Kosti Ruohomaa, Black Star©

Kosti Ruohomaa: The Maine Assignments explores the ways that Mainers lived, celebrated, made their livings, recreated, and communicated. While many of Ruohomaa’s most iconic images stand on their own, he approached his assignments with a photo essay in mind – telling the story through a series of photographs. This exhibit embraces that approach and presents his assignments through the eye of a magazine editor. It allows a deeper look at Ruohomaa’s work and technique and helps viewers gain more insight into the man and his photographs. Kosti Ruohomaa: The Maine Assignments has been funded in part by generous support from lead sponsor L.L. Bean, and Camden National Wealth Management and Allen Insurance and Financial.


Up River: Selections from the Captain Bill Abbott Collection

May 27-October 16, 2022

Crews of Ross tugboats BISMARCK and WALTER ROSS on Lobster Claw Wharf at Fort Point, Stockton Springs. Captain William Abbott Collection, LB2014.7.33

Capt. Abbott was an avid collector of photographs; PMM’s new exhibit, Up River: Selections from the Captain Bill Abbott Collection picks out some highlights from this archive. When Capt. Abbott passed away in 2014, he left Penobscot Marine Museum his treasured collection, where it is being digitized and preserved.

This exhibit was generously funded by lead donor Wayne Hamilton, as well as Mr. and Mrs. E. Vance Bunker, Captain Almer and Linda Dinsmore, Captain David Gelinas, Penobscot Bay & River Pilots Association, Penobscot Bay Tractor Tug Company, Captain Prentice Strong, and Captain Duke Tomlin.


Maynard Bray Collection

We’re excited to announce our first unveiling of Maynard Bray’s photographs online. As many of our audience know, Maynard is still alive and well and living in coastal Maine. He’s been working on and around boats for most of his life and has gone out of his way to meet countless others of a similar stripe.

After landing a BS in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Maine, he went to work for Electric Boat in Groton, CT in 1956, followed by a six-year stint at Bath Iron Works. By the time he finished there in 1969, he’d become their Chief Mechanical Engineer. He spent the next six years at Mystic Seaport as their shipyard supervisor. Here he was in his element: up to his elbows in wooden boats. After leaving Mystic for Maine in the mid-1970s, he stayed involved with Mystic Seaport into the early 2000s: he continued sourcing wood for the museum’s endless restorations, serving on the Ships and Yachting Committees, rescuing important collections of ships’ plans from becoming landfill, and as one of the Museum’s trustees. Shortly after returning to the Maine coast, he landed a gig as technical editor for WoodenBoat magazine, a position he still holds today. He’s also been writing the captions for Ben Mendlowitz’s Calendar of Wooden Boats since 1983.

Luckily for small boat aficionados—owners, builders, admirers—Maynard photographed his activities along the way, beginning when he was a teenager. He donated his collection of some 25,000 black and white negatives to Penobscot Marine Museum in 2013. The photos illustrate the fascination Maynard and his late wife Anne shared for traditional craftsmanship and their joy at being on the water.

This initial rollout represents Maynard’s own selection of his early medium format film work, and will be followed throughout the coming year by sets of his 35mm images.

But the best way to make this announcement is in the photographer’s own words. Maynard writes:

This first batch of 200 or so photos were mostly shot when I was in Junior High School (about 1947 and 1948) while my pal Don Merchant and I haunted the Rockland waterfront and our less geeky classmates were playing sports. Snow Marine Basin was then being created on Crocketts Point, across from where the Maine State Ferry terminal is presently located, and we hung out there, helping, immersing ourselves in boats, and taking lots of photos.

Fish processing in Rockland made for a working waterfront that fascinated us: its draggers and sardine carriers became so familiar that we knew which ones were in port just from seeing their mastheads as we peddled our bikes down Sea Street.

Don’s photos are also at PMM (collection LB2013.13), and by viewing his and my collections together you’ll get a good idea of what was going on along the Rockland waterfront in the days following the Second World War when fish were plentiful and yachts were few.

If you search for PIXIE/EAST WIND, PENOBSCOT, SEA WOLF, LELA, ALLSTON E., NABBY, CUCKOO, and BRUTAL BEAST, you’ll find what our own boats or the ones we used looked like. The steam lighter SOPHIA and the little tug HUGH were special to us even though they were on their last legs at the time. Search on Snow Marine Basin and you’ll begin to understand why both Don and I chose maritime professions.

My obsession with Herreshoff began with boats like DELIGHT, VENTURA, COCKATOO, and JOYANT, discovered after Anne and I were married and moved to Mystic, CT.

More recently, Maynard is one of the co-founders of OffCenterHarbor.com (or more commonly, OCH); OCH subscribers have access to engrossing and entertaining documentary videos the team produces. Their focus is on people who make, own, use, and repair small boats with a creative, DIY flair. PMM has often collaborated with OCH to share and mutually promote content.

Finally, we’re glad and lucky that Maynard spends a day a week during the cold months here in the PMM photo archives (as did his wife, Anne, before she died in 2018), donating his time to help us get his and other collections ready for our internet audience. We trust everyone will enjoy the fruits of this long labor. To browse his images, click here.


Marty Bartlett Photographs Now Live in the PMM Online Collections Catalog

Photos by Marty Bartlett

Marty Bartlett, now in his eighties, is done with the ocean, but he’s a character who was clearly shaped by his lifelong interaction with it. His photographs are a privileged on-deck view of tuna and sword fishing during a critical time for those fisheries. While searching for images from PMM’s National Fisherman Collection for a book he was writing (Wind Shift at Peaked Hills, a creative nonfiction account of sword fishing) , he offered to donate his work here. While the images don’t tell a Penobscot Bay story, their powerful place in the recent history of the Gulf of Maine made the choice of accepting his gift an obvious one.

Bartlett grew up fishing with his dad along the shores of Cape Cod. The pair missed a couple of years during the second World War; he recalls seeing columns of black smoke from burning tankers offshore. After the war, fish stocks rebounded somewhat; he could catch pollock with a mackerel jig off the beaches. The father-son ritual was finally abandoned after dad, in a lapse of attention, backed the Model A into the garage with the fishing rods standing like flagpoles, snapping all of them.

Bartlett enlisted in the Coast Guard for four years after high school. This intensive sea time gave him the chops to find work at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, where he spent six years crewing on research vessels; there, he worked his way up to second mate. During this stint, he was lured into the WHOI game fish tagging program by its progenitor, research associate Frank Mather. Mather had achieved some renown for his project, which involved a novel tagging mechanism for large pelagic fish; his tags used a small barb which was embedded in the thick skin of a tuna or swordfish from the end of a long pole. In contrast to loop and other tag styles, these remained in place for four years or more. Tags, of course, allow scientists to track the growth and migratory patterns of fish, which in turn can provide insight into the impacts of fishing on the vigor of populations.

He’d bought a Leica and was shooting some 35mm film showing the work he was a part of, but boat crew and research personnel don’t often have the luxury of being observers, or “tourists”. It wasn’t until a few years later, when he started getting invitations to act as a guest artist on commercial fishing vessels, that his moment came to document the dynamic realities of harvesting large predator fish. These captains were of course in pursuit of profitable landings, but research entities like WHOI were willing to pay them to tag some animals and throw them back. Bartlett captured scenes of both longlining and seining; US fishermen in the North Atlantic were late adopters of these practices, both of which had a devastating impact on swordfish and tuna stocks.

Bartlett’ career had further significant chapters; he eventually bought his own boat, the Penobscot Gulf, a burly steel-hulled workhorse which had been used to haul fuel to the islands of Penobscot Bay during WWII. He fished commercially from the Gulf with a crew for several years until swordfish, tuna, and groundfish stocks began to disappear in the 1980s.

The group of images we’ve rolled out this month can be viewed here:

Bartlett Collection

This is the only the first wave of Bartlett’s archive; keep an eye out in the coming months for another announcement as we continue to digitize these important and engrossing photographs.


Penobscot Marine Museum Launches Kosti Ruohomaa Microsite

General Store, Weston, Vermont 1946. Copyright Black Star.

Penobscot Marine Museum has recently launched a new microsite dedicated to their Kosti Ruohomaa photography collection. The site highlights the photographer and his collection, and features standout examples of the photographer’s work in a virtual exhibit. The site will also provide updates on the effort to digitize, preserve, and make this resource accessible to the public.

The archive of the Rockland, Maine photographer was donated to Penobscot Marine Museum in 2017 by Black Star of New York, Ruohomaa’s photography agency. The collection consists of thousands of medium and large format negatives, 35 mm negatives and slides, as well as contact sheets and vintage prints.

Pow Wow, Gallop, New Mexico: August. 1940. Copyright Black Star.

Ruohomaa’s work graced the cover of Life magazine numerous times, and was used frequently by other major magazines such as National Geographic and Look. While his published work is fairly well known, it represents less than 10% of his photographic collection; the rest have never been seen by the general public. This multi-year digitization and preservation project will allow these previously seen and unseen works to be accessible to the public.

Gay’s Angora Rabbit Farm, Los Angeles, California, 1943. Copyright Black Star.

The Kosti Ruohomaa project has been generously funded by Linda and Diana Bean, the Mildred H. McEvoy Foundation, and the Wyeth Foundation for American Art.

To view the Kosti Ruohomaa microsite, visit https://penobscotmarinemuseum.org/kosti-ruohomaa-collection/. For more information on this collection and any of the Penobscot Marine Museum photo collections, contact Photo Archivist Kevin Johnson at 207-548-2529 ext. 210 or kjohnson@pmm-maine.org.

Maurice Stanley Powell, Dodge Mountain, Rockland, Maine. 1950. Copyright Black Star.


Penobscot Marine Museum Receives Grant from the Maine Historical Records Advisory Board

Thanks to a grant from the Maine Historical Records Advisory Board (MHRAB), Penobscot Marine Museum has rehoused and cataloged four collections documenting quintessential nineteenth and twentieth century Maine industries. The collections document the shipping of Maine’s natural resources, the use of Maine built ships in the global trading routes, and the evolution of Maine’s lobster boats.

The Gillchrest Collection consists of over 3,000 family letters, ship documents, and business correspondence of Captain Levi Gillchrest, a Thomaston, Maine merchant mariner, spanning from 1826 to 1877, involving the shipping of Maine lime and timber around the globe. The Gillchrest Collection is a gift of Renny and Julie Stackpole.

The Richard Lunt Collection documents the lobster boat builders in Mount Desert and Jonesport/Beals, from 1880-1989, and explores the regional origins and early evolution of the Maine lobster boat that led to the design differences between the Jonesport-style, Mount Desert Island, and Casco Bay lobster boats of today. The Richard Lunt Collections is a gift of Richard Lunt.

The Whitcomb, Haynes & Whitney Business Records provide insight into the day to day business of an Ellsworth, Maine lumber and shipping business from 1873-1929. The Whitcomb, Haynes, & Whitney Business Records are a gift from Marc S. Blanchette.

The Samuel F. Manning Illustration Collection archives the illustrations of Camden, Maine illustrator Samuel F. Manning, from 1970 to 2017, on subjects ranging from ship and boat building, to coastal and deep sea shipping, to Maine town histories. The Samuel F. Manning Illustration Collection is a gift of Samuel F. Manning.

To access these collections, and the rest of the maritime history and genealogical archival records of the Penobscot Marine Museum, please contact Cipperly Good, Curator/Collections Manager at cgood@pmm-maine.org or 207-548-2529×212.

About Penobscot Marine Museum

Penobscot Marine Museum brings Maine’s maritime history to life on a campus of beautiful historic buildings in the charming seacoast village of Searsport, Maine. Exhibits include hands-on activities for children and adults, as well as a ship captain’s house, marine paintings, scrimshaw, 19th century Chinese and Japanese pottery, boat models, historic Maine boats, a fisheries exhibit, and an heirloom garden. The Museum has over 200,000 historic photographs, and a maritime history research library. Museum offices and research library are open year round. Exhibits are open seven days a week, Memorial Day weekend through the third Sunday in October. PMM’s Visitors Center is located at 40 E. Main Street, Searsport, Maine. For more information call 207-548-2529.


Is this China’s Century or was it the Nineteenth Century?

Downtown Transport, circa 1900. The water taxi sampans add to the crowded thoroughfares, whether land or water-based, of a bustling Chinese city. PMM# 127.15, Gift of Joanna Carver Colcord

Penobscot Marine Museum has teamed up with the Belfast Free Library to answer this year’s Camden Conference question: “Is This China’s Century”. The Camden Conference is an annual conference that fosters “informed discourse on world issues” and this year it runs from February 22-24, 2019. As a lead-up to the main event, the Camden Conference sponsors satellite events around the state of Maine. In December, PMM Curator Cipperly Good gave a talk to audiences at Belfast Free Library arguing that the Nineteenth Century was in fact China’s Century. Our second collaboration with the Library is an exhibit of color prints depicting Chinese daily life from the early 1900s. The exhibit is on view now until the end of February, 2019.

These prints made from color transparencies, provide a glimpse into the lives of the Chinese aboard watercraft, a means for fishing, transportation, and housing. By 1900, China had transitioned from a feudal agrarian economy that resisted foreign commerce to one that embraced the global economy of imports and exports. A society kept hidden by centralized government with strict laws against foreign visitation was now open to the overtly pointed lens of the camera.

So how did Maine and China interact in the Nineteenth Century? Penobscot Bay captains entered the China Trade in the 1840s. The First Opium War of 1844 opened up five treaty ports in China to foreign trade. The Second Opium War of 1858 cracked open more coastal treaty ports and the inland rivers. The sailing ship captains of Maine engaged in the trade until the first decade of the 1900s. The American sailing cargo ship trade failed as foreign steamships took control from the American Merchant Marine, which failed to make the transition to steam early enough to remain competitive. 

Captain Brown acquired these color transparencies of Hong Kong and Mainland China and gave them to Joanna Carver Colcord. Joanna, born at sea and raised on her father’s merchant marine ships, came from a long line of Searsport sea captains. The family made three voyages to Hong Kong, in 1890, 1892, and 1899.


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