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Port of Portland: A Ship-Shaped History

Dec. 2, 2011 — May 13, 2012

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Port of Portland: A Ship-Shaped History

On view Portland Public Library - Dec. 2, 2011 to Jan. 3, 2012 (Free)

On view MMM, Bath - Dec. 17, 2011 to May 13, 2012

Port of Portland presents a vision of the city's history as portrayed by the ships that have transited Portland Head to clear Spring Point Ledge, a series of vessels as diverse as the different eras they represent, that have brought hope, grief, sustenance, outrage, prosperity, disappointment, amusement, and a good day's work to the people of this Port.

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The geography was defined without witness, a fortunate shifting and eroding, an advantageous deforming of a coast newly relieved of mile-deep ice: a deepened river basin at the foot of a vast bay, entwined in an archipelago on the edge of a gulf, lapped by an ocean.

There would come a first ship to break the silence, ghosting around the last point with dark anchor flukes poised at the waterline, to round up below the ridge of the neck; her crew, gathered along the rail, would pause, assessing, and find it fitting.   The plunging descent of the tripped anchor-cable would wind the clockwork of the history of this harbor, at first an appreciated mariner's refuge, a seasonal fishermen's way-station, a tentative fur-traders’ rendezvous. Ship would follow after ship into this favored basin, until the haven grew to become a port capable of harboring navies, building fleets, and trans-shipping the food and fuel of nations. From the 18th century sloop Portland Packet to the 19th century steamer Portland (New England’s Titanic) to the 20th century AfraMax tanker Overseas Portland, an interplay of floating tonnage has defined this place. From the 1775 bombardment of HMS Canceaux (that burned then-Falmouth to the ground) to the fireworks welcoming the world’s largest passenger liner RMS Queen Mary 2, Portland has launched, courted and sheltered legions of ships, both the famous and the work-a-day - clippers, schooners, destroyers, Liberty ships, seiners, tugs, box-boats, and bulkers.

Feel the maritime pulse that has underlain the same 2000+ acres of deep-water anchorage for over 350 years, and consider the ever-changing parade of ships upon it that has brought this waterfront into being: Port of Portland: A Ship-Shaped History.

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Maine Maritime Museum

243 Washington Street
Bath, Maine 04530