Maine Maritime Museum celebrates 50th year
Maine Maritime Museum, the state’s premier institution dedicated to preserving and educating residents and visitors about the many facets of Maine’s maritime heritage and culture, is celebrating its 50th year with a variety of special events, activities and experiences.
The Bath-based museum will host visits by four tall ships, offer a special open-house weekend, mount two new exhibits in the museum and two other exhibits off site (one in Portland, one in Rockland), conduct a special event when DDG 112 Michael Murphy departs Bath to join the Navy fleet, recognize its founders and supporters with a special luncheon, and crown it all with a promotion of maritime experiences throughout the state called, “Experience Maritime Maine!” Those activities will be in addition to its normal full summer schedule of tours, rivers cruises, summer day camps, lectures, workshops, classes and other events and activities.
“Yes, it’s going to be a busy, hectic and demanding time for our staff and volunteers,” says Amy Lent, executive director of the museum, “but an institution only turns 50 once, so everyone’s ready to pitch in to make it the biggest and best celebration possible.”
The slate of events begins on Memorial Day weekend when the museum’s latest exhibit about the War of 1812 opens on Saturday, May 26. Artifacts and original archival documents from four Maine museums and numerous private collections have been brought together to present the story of how this often overlooked war impacted Maine.
“We focused our efforts on gathering original artifacts and documents for the exhibit so that visitors would get a feel for how the people of Maine viewed the war at that time, not how some later generation envisioned it might have been,” says Chris Hall, curator of exhibits. “Our goal is that people will come away with a very good idea of what it must have been like to have lived in Maine during that period.”
Two off-site exhibits curated by the Museum also are part of the anniversary celebration.
The Sea Within Us: Iconically Maritime in Fashion and Design will open on July 20 at the Portland Public Library on Congress Street, Portland. The exhibit explores the connections between historical maritime culture and imagery and modern objects and every-day aspects of our present-day culture. The exhibit will remain on view through June 14, 2013.
Another off-site exhibit is already in place. In April, Maine Maritime Museum opened an exhibit in Rockland at The Apprenticeshop, a school for traditional boatbuilding and seamanship. Honing the Edge, The Apprenticeshop at 40, tells the story of the organization’s 1972 genesis on the grounds of the Maine Maritime Museum in Bath. The exhibit will remain on view in Rockland throughout the year.
Opportunities to learn more about the life of a sailor during the War of 1812 and the era of sail abound as the Museum hosts four tall ship visits in 2012.
Two of the four tall ships that will call during the summer arrive in June. Fame, a full-scale replica of the famous 1812 privateer, will be open to visitors on Saturday and Sunday, June 23 and 24. The Arctic schooner Bowdoin, the historic vessel of the famed Arctic explorer Donald R. MacMillan, arrives the following weekend and will be open Friday and Saturday, June 29 and 30. Visiting both of these vessels is included with paid Museum admission.
On Saturday and Sunday, July 14 and 15, the 177-foot barkentine Gazela Primeiro will be dockside and open to visitors. Built in Portugal and launched in 1901, the three-masted vessel crossed the Atlantic each summer until 1969 with the Portuguese White Fleet to fish in the Grand Banks. The boarding fee for Gazela Primeiro will be $5 per person.
The Grand Banks fishing schooner Sherman Zwicker, which docks at the Museum during the summer months, will also arrive in late June and be a part of the Museum’s ongoing exhibits until late October.
Pride of Baltimore II, a reproduction of an 1812-era topsail schooner often called a Baltimore Clipper, will be docked at the Museum and open to the public on Saturday and Sunday, August 11 and 12 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Boarding passes will be $5 per person. For an extra special experience, Pride will be hosting two-hour river sails for a limited number of passengers. The cost to join the sail is $55 for adults and $30 for children.
But Maine Maritime Museum isn’t just about the past and it is not an insular organization.
Thanks to a grant from the Maine Office of Tourism, the Museum has organized and conducted a promotion that highlights the many maritime-related activities, events and experiences throughout Maine in the summer of 2012. “Experience Maritime Maine!” encourages visitor from throughout New England to visit Maine and join in the celebration of the state’s maritime heritage.
On the afternoon of Wednesday, September 5, the Museum will host a Sail-Away celebration as DDG 112 Michael Murphy departs her berth at Bath Iron Works for the last time and heads down the Kennebec River on her way to join the Navy’s Pacific Fleet. The celebration will include a musical salute, remarks by several individuals associated with the ship’s construction and a final cannon salute as she passes the Museum. The event is free and open to the public.
The weekend of September 15 and 16, Maine Maritime Museum will conduct its “anniversary party” with an open house weekend for all. Admission will be free both days, there will be special events and demonstrations, reduced fee river cruises, musical performances and special activities.
At an October luncheon, the Museum will honor and recognize its founders and key persons who contributed significantly to its success over the years.
The Museum traces its roots back to 1962 when seven local residents came together to publish a history of the shipbuilding industry in the Bath area. That single-purpose beginning quickly evolved to a much greater mission as dozens, then hundreds, of local citizens and residents throughout the state interested in preserving Maine’s maritime heritage stepped forward, contributing their family heirlooms, financial support and/or their time and talents.
The culminating activity in the Museum’s year of celebration will be a new exhibit featuring the most important, most iconic and perhaps the most meaningful artifacts that have been added to its collections over the past 50 years. Full Ahead at Fifty: 50 Years of Collecting at Maine Maritime Museum will open on November 10, 2012, precisely 50 years from the date of its founding.