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.