Penobscot Marine Museum opens its 2015 season on May 23 with four major exhibitions of historic photography under the umbrella title Exploring the Magic of Photography: Painting with Light. The campus will be filled with hands-on activities. Museum visitors will be able to walk into a huge camera, step inside an historic darkroom, watch a tintype being made, make a cyanotype photograph, make a pin-hole camera, take a photograph with a pin-hole camera, take photographs of themselves standing beside images of people from the 1880’s, add their own photographs to an online museum exhibit, and add their selfies to the museum’s “Wall of Selfies”. Audio clips of interviews, biographies, and commentaries by historians, curators and professional photographers will be available to visitors on their mobile devices through QR codes, and on tablets in the exhibits.
The four exhibits in Exploring the Magic of Photography are Through Her Lens: Women Photographers of Mid-Coast Maine, 1890-1920; Twenty Best; Evolution of the Photographic Snapshot: 1888-2015; and The Carters and the Lukes – Selections from the Red Boutilier Collection. On Friday, May 22nd from 5:00 pm to 7:00 pm the public is invited to the opening reception for the 2015 season, which will be held in the newly renovated Visitors Center on the Crescent, 2 Church Street, Searsport.
Through Her Lens: Women Photographers of Mid-Coast Maine, 1890-1920 explores the pioneering work of five women photographers who excelled in a field dominated by men. Ruth Montgomery and Joanna Colcord grew up sailing around the world with their sea captain fathers. While on board ship they taught themselves the craft of photography and documented life at sea and life in the countries to which they sailed. Evie Barbour’s photographer husband had a business producing photographic postcards. She helped him with the business, and when he died in 1907 she was able to take it over and support herself and her children. Ida Crie photographed her native city of Rockland, creating a loving portrait and important historic document of the way Rockland was at the turn of the century. Harriet Hitchborn grew up in Stockton Springs and developed her own successful postcard business.
Twenty Best, an exhibit of the twenty most fascinating photographs in the Penobscot Marine Museum collection, includes a photograph of the Great Bangor Fire of 1911 which destroyed much of the city, the earliest known photograph of Searsport, and an unusual ambrotype circa 1870 of a Chinese steward. Also included are photographs by the legendary Finnish-American photo-journalist Kosti Rhuohoma, who shot iconic portraits of working Americans which appeared in LIFE, National Geographic and other publications from 1940 to 1960.
Evolution of the Photographic Snapshot: 1888-2015 explores the snapshot as a self-portrait of our culture. In the 1800’s cameras were expensive and photography was the work of professionals, but when Eastman Kodak introduced the inexpensive Brownie camera in 1900 suddenly everyone had a camera in their hand. What do we photograph and why, and what do the snapshots we take tell us about ourselves? This exhibit is guest curated by retired Beloit College professor Michael Simon.
The Carters and the Lukes – Selections from the Red Boutilier Collection is an intimate portrait of two families of boat builders, one who built traditional wooden lobster boats for local fishermen and the other an innovator in the custom yacht business. These photographs, taken during the 1960’s and 1970’s, celebrate the uniquely Maine way of life of the Luke family in East Boothbay and the Carter family in Waldoboro. Photographer Red Boutilier captured an era in Maine boat building which set the standards for today’s Maine boat builders’ international reputation for excellence.
Exploring the Magic of Photography: Painting with Light is part of the Maine Photo Project, a year-long statewide celebration of photography in Maine in 2015. This collaboration of twenty-six cultural organizations offers exhibitions, a major publication, and a variety of programs exploring the state’s role as inspiration for photographers.
Two additional exhibits round out the 2015 season. Disorganized and Defeated: The Battle for Penobscot Bay 1779 displays for the first time the Museum’s newly acquired court-martial papers of Commodore Dudley Saltonstall. The exhibit examines the effects of the Revolutionary War on the citizens of Penobscot Bay. This exhibit complements the replica of the Revolutionary War period frigate L’HERMIONE’s arrival in Castine Harbor. Memoirs of War: A Soldier’s Seabag tells the story through their mementos and souvenirs of ten Maine veterans’ wartime experiences from WW II to the present. This exhibit was designed and curated by the Senior Class of Searsport District High School.
Penobscot Marine Museum is grateful to the following individuals and organizations, without whose support Exploring the Magic of Photography would not have been possible: John Bielenberg for designing and building, with Richard Mann, the camera obscura; Maine Humanities Council for their grant funding Through Her Lens; Maine Humanities Council and Maine Arts Commission for funding The Maine Frontier and Make a Cyanotype; Alice Knight and Stockton Springs Historical Society for loans of photographs for Through Her Lens; Libby Bischoff and Maizie Hough for consulting on Through Her Lens; Liz Fitzsimmons for researching and interviewing The Carters and the Lukes; Earle G. Shettleworth, Jr., Britta Konau, Brenton Hamilton, and Maynard Bray for commentary on Twenty Best; Alice Knight, Silvia Wardwell, Betty Schopmeyer, Dan Harrison and Beverly Mann for commentary on Through Her Lens; and Betty Shopmeyer for scene painting. A special thank you to Dave Johnson for the gardens and for construction and painting to Paul Jean, Jeff Dorr, John Ward, Brian Marquis and to Tom Preble for making it happen.
About Penobscot Marine Museum
Penobscot Marine Museum is located on Route One in the historic seacoast village of Searsport, Maine. The permanent exhibits include a ship captain’s house, an exquisite collection of Buttersworth marine paintings, scrimshaw, 19th century Chinese and Japanese pottery, paintings and textiles, traditional small water craft, a fisheries exhibit, and an heirloom vegetable garden. The museum has over 140,000 historic photographs, and a maritime history research library. Eight of its twelve exhibit buildings are on the National Register of Historic Places. The Museum is open seven days a week, Memorial Day weekend through the third weekend in October. Museum hours are Monday – Saturday 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, and Sunday noon – 5:00 pm. For more information go to www.penobscotmarinemuseum.org, call the Visitors Center 207-548-0334 or offices at 207-548-2529.