Museum Exhibits

Current Exhibits

Music and the sea play in harmony. Shanties help synchronize the efforts of a ship’s crew. Patriotic marches promote commerce and the navy. Folk songs tell tales of shipwrecks and storms. This exhibit presents sheet music, instruments, and recordings that helped compose the symphony of the sea, while offering some surprising new performances—have you ever heard a modern, a cappella rendition of a sea shanty? With support from the Maine Humanities Council and the Maine Arts Commission

Wrecks and abandoned hulks of historic vessels dot the coast of Maine. Seventy-five years ago visible hulks like Wiscasset’s Hesper and Luther Little were a common sight.Twenty-five years ago they were a novelty. Now they are a rarity. This immersive exhibit explores the maritime archaeology of Maine—its sites, its preservation, and the technologies that allow undersea exploration and exploitation, past and present. The exhibit will challenge visitors to consider how and why these sites should be preserved and the complicated role museums play as both stewards and showcases for these artifacts.   Generously sponsored by:

Permanent Exhibits

Our core exhibit gives the visitor a broad overview of Maine maritime history. Our core exhibit uses more than 240 objects to give the viewer a general idea of Maine maritime history. It focuses on the major themes of earning a living on the coast, fishing, coastal trades, wooden and steel shipbuilding, war, coastal travel, and recreation. Included in this exhibition is our presentation on Bath Iron Works and our best model of a destroyer, as well as material relating to the Maine exports of lumber, lime, ice, and granite.

The Percy & Small Shipyard at Maine Maritime Museum is America’s only surviving shipyard site where large wooden sailing vessels were built. Maine Maritime Museum includes a unique historic site. Percy & Small is the only intact shipyard in the country which built large wooden sailing vessels, and the giant schooners it built include the six-master Wyoming, the largest wooden vessel built in the country.

Due to the ongoing First Impressions Project, this exhibit may temporarily only be accessed during The Bath Iron Works Story: By Land and Sea tour. New in 2018, this permanent exhibit, produced in collaboration with Bath Iron Works, provides an immersive, high-tech look at the people, processes, and ships of BIW. Visitors get an exclusive look at the yard’s cutting-edge technology and innovative approaches to design through a number of interactive elements including a touch-sensitive wall illustrating ship design and simulated CIC screens. Head to the new theatre space to see what goes on behind the gates with a behind-the-scenes video of the shipbuilding process.

Distance Lands of Palm and Spice tells the story of how the small river city of Bath, Maine, impacted national and international trade during the 19th and early 20th centuries and how that trade impacted the culture of the city.

MMM’s collection of small craft number more than 140 iconic Maine-built or Maine-related boats from a rare antique birchbark canoe to Andrew Wyeth’s Friendship sloop. The boats are housed in several buildings and included in various exhibits around the museum campus so viewing them all takes plenty of time and lots of determination, but many are easy to view.

Showing in the MMM Boat Shop, and also at the Apprenticeshop in Rockland, this retrospective provides a glimpse of one of the roots of what has become known as the ‘wooden boat revival’. The original Apprenticeshop was a vision of Lance R. Lee, who, in 1972, nudged a young maritime museum in Bath, Maine out of its comfort zone to take a chance on a then-radical idea. Collated and edited by Chris Hall, Curator of Exhibits and A-shop alum, 1974-75. Honing the Edge is dedicated to the memory of Tom Wood, trustee and friend of both Maine Maritime Museum and The Apprenticeshop.

Into the Lantern: A Lighthouse Experience, a full-scale replication of the Cape Elizabeth Two Lights lighthouse tower lantern room, allows visitors to see the original second-order Fresnel lens from the east tower at Two Lights and experience the environment of the lantern room through time-lapsed video projections featuring a panorama of the Gulf of Maine that changes with the weather and seasons. This immersive exhibit is the first of its kind anywhere.

The historic Percy & Small Shipyard site at Maine Maritime Museum is the only intact shipyard in the United States where large wooden sailing ships were built. The shipyard is complete with its original buildings, except for one – the blacksmith shop, which was torn down in 1939. That building had replaced a previous building that was destroyed by fire in 1913. The pre-fire building would have contained the blacksmith shop that was responsible for producing the metalwork that went into building Wyoming and many of her sister ships.

Maine Maritime Museum recently completed a significant redesign and renovation of one of the museum’s major exhibitions – Lobstering & the Maine Coast. The exhibit is a thematic expansion and upgrade of the existing lobstering exhibit installed in 1985 in its own 6,200-square-foot, two-story building steps from the Kennebec River.

Upcoming Exhibits

Maritime culture is as vast as the oceans that define it. Maine’s maritime history alone reaches all corners of the high seas, as Maine-built ships traveled around the globe from the South Pacific to the Arctic Ocean. The symbols of maritime culture are often grand; many objects in the Maine Maritime Museums collection astound simply through their enormous scale. This exhibition attempts to do the opposite, to present the vast maritime history through the delicate, the detailed, and the tiny. This is the story of Maine’s maritime history in miniature.

The brutal Maine winter has provided the natural resources and setting to create industries and pastimes, from ice harvesting to ice boating. Kennebec River ice was hawked as the premier grade from Queens to Cuba. The same harsh winters that created this seemingly endless supply allowed unique recreation, both then and now. But come spring, the river ice must be broken for other industries to return. This exhibit celebrates the long, harsh Maine winter by examining the commerce and pastimes it produces. Special attention is paid to the personalities and “Ice Kings” that rose in the competitive business of the ice trade.

Past Exhibits

Coming soon!

The accomplished marine painter Charles Robert Patterson painted a narrative series of four paintings of the Downeaster Henry B. Hyde. These paintings were commissioned by John Holmes Hyde—a man who had sold his family’s shipbuilding business—to decorate his Elmhurst estate. This exhibit reunites these paintings and considers their significance both to Patterson and Hyde. Letters and news accounts reveal an interesting dynamic between an artist and patron.

The Helen and Claus Hoie Charitable Foundation’s recent donation of a number of Hoie’s watercolors allows us to celebrate the vision of this notable 20th-century artist who drew so deeply upon the sea for inspiration. Hoie’s seafaring family origins inspired a long lifetime of painting sailing vessels, fish, whalers, and Moby-Dick, among other subjects. The idea of a “fantasia” (a mixture of forms and styles) fits the varied styles of Claus Hoie (1911-2007), who sometimes incorporated a variety of elements such as text from logbooks into his artworks.

“The islands” were regular trading stops in the days of sail, and Maine mariners and their families came to know the region well. Using objects of trade, accounts, personal sketches, artworks, photographs, and souvenirs, this exhibit explores this long-standing relationship of Maine seafarers with a vastly different region that is not very far away. It introduces more recent perspectives through the mid-20th century paintings of Stephen Etnier (1903-1984), a sailor himself who traveled south for decades.