The curatorial department oversees a significant collection of more than 20,000 objects and millions of rare documents and manuscripts related to Maine’s maritime heritage and its direct global impact, from prehistory to the present.
Because of its origins as a local historical society, the museum’s early collecting concentrated on vessels built in the city of Bath, the activities of local shipbuilders, and the maritime history of other towns in the Bath Customs District. The acquisition of the Percy & Small Shipyard site in 1975 strengthened the Museum’s focus on shipbuilding. These interests and subjects form the core of the collection.
Through the 1980s and 1990s, the institution broadened its scope to include the entirety of Maine’s maritime culture. Our collection aids exploration of a number of social, political, and cultural themes including—amongst others—how maritime Maine promoted globalization and shaped America’s geopolitical role; how Maine families operated their maritime businesses; how Maine’s fisheries interact with its economy and ecology; how Maine’s coast and inland waterways were promoted as a tourist destination; and how art and craftsmanship has visually defined Maine vessels, Maine people, and Maine’s coastal landscape.
Much of our collection is available for research online.