The National Maritime Historical Society (NMHS) is being honored with the Maine Maritime Museum’s 2013 Mariner’s Award at a gala reception on Wednesday, August 21, in Bath, Maine. This top honor recognizes 50 years of maritime education, advocacy, and preservation that have been the mission of NMHS since it was founded.
By receiving this award, the connection between NMHS and the Maine Maritime Museum comes full circle. It goes back to 1963 when a small group of ship preservationists set out to save the 1899 merchant bark Kaiulani. She was the last square rigger built in America–in fact, she was constructed in the shipyard in Bath, Maine. The push was on to raise public awareness and funding. While in the midst of their efforts, Kaiulani sank in the Philippines.
The group may not have saved that ship but they were determined to save others. They learned from their initial fundraising efforts that they needed a national organization that would gather public support for maritime history and preservation. That organization became the National Maritime Historical Society.
One of the co-founders of NMHS was Peter Stanford, who was elected president of the organization in 1970. He had already proven his ability to raise awareness and money for historic ships as a founder and first president of South Street Seaport Museum. He approached his role in NMHS with that same high-level energy. The maritime society began publishing a quarterly magazine, Sea History, that contained articles about old ships, maritime history, interviews with noted mariners, and a section for school children that usually had a puzzle or two about articles written in age-appropriate text. That magazine is still in circulation today.
The Marine Research Society was founded in 1962, but the name was changed to the Maine Maritime Museum in 1975. The museum is on 20 acres of riverfront and includes the only remaining intact shipyard in the United States that built the large wooden ships. In 1909, the Percy & Small Shipyard constructed the largest wooden schooner of all time, the six-masted Wyoming.
Current museum exhibits depict Civil War sea battles off the coast of Maine against the Confederacy, a historic look at the U.S. Coast Guard service along the coast of Maine, and a retrospective of the revival of wooden boats. A steel sculpture of Wyoming, the largest sculpture in New England, is located where the original schooner was built.
To learn more about events and exhibits of the National Maritime Historical Society and the Maine Maritime Museum, please visit the websites listed below.
Written by: Cynthia Collins, Senior Museum Correspondent