The Penobscot Marine Museum recreates a 19th century seacoast village on three acres of land just a few blocks away from the Searsport Harbor. The museum includes a ship captain's house, marine paintings, traditional small boats, a fisheries exhibit, an heirloom vegetable garden, one of the largest collections of historic photography in New England, and a maritime history research library. The museum is open seven days a week, Memorial Day weekend through the third weekend in October.
Maine’s oldest marine museum, the
Penobscot Marine Museum, first opened in 1936. It was founded by a group of
descendants of some of Searsport’s sea captains. At the time, the museum’s
collection was displayed in the Old Town Hall. It didn’t take long for the
original museum to outgrow its first home. The constantly-expanding collection
forced the museum to relocate to its current site on Church Street. Now, the collection is stored within thirteen
buildings on the property. Eight of
these structures are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The museum grounds are set up
like a small maritime village consisting of several buildings, including the
First Congregational Church, the Old Town Hall, and a couple of historic houses
and barns. The buildings date from the early nineteenth century (1810-1845).
The church was erected in 1830. It was the gathering place for many of Searsport’s
sea captains, shipbuilders, and their families. The historic building is also
beautifully decorated inside: the interior is adorned with stamped tinwork,
magnificent stained-glass windows, and hard-carved benches. An incredibly
stunning pipe organ is a masterpiece that has played for hundreds of visitors
over the years. The church is still
active and open to the public on a limited schedule.
There is an art gallery featuring
a collection of maritime paintings. Ship
models are also on display in the galleries. In addition to spectacular
artifacts, the museum features several exhibits that offer a hands-on
experience for younger visitors.
Children can climb on the “yard in the yard” which is a model of a
ship’s mast installed outside or amuse themselves in the educational peapod play
Families can also enjoy the ship
captain’s house, scrimshaw (intricately carved whalebone), and an exhibit of 19th
century Chinese and Japanese pottery, paintings and textiles. An assortment of
historic Maine boats is on display as well as a fisheries exhibit. The Stephen Phillips Memorial Library is home
to a thorough assortment of research materials, including a collection of
maritime photography and genealogical resources. The library is open by
appointment only. The museum also hosts several family-friendly events and
educational programming throughout the season.
The museum’s website holds a
considerable database of online collections of records and images. Guests
considering a visit (or just wanting to learn more) can go to the museum’s
to click through the pictures and videos telling the stories of the sea
captains of early Searsport.