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Lighthouses of Cape Cod

These silent sentinels are perhaps the most iconic images of Cape Cod. They’re on our license plates, potato chip bags, and on the sign welcoming visitors to the Cape even before they get over the bridge. Gift shops are loaded with lighthouse themed trinkets, and artists have used them as inspiration for paintings, sculptures, and photo series. But for many, the history of these lighthouses, the bureaucracy that managed them, and the brave men and women who worked round the clock to maintain these vital aids to navigation remains a mystery.

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The Whaling Port of Provincetown, 1800-1925 

Provincetown was once the third most important whaling port in the country, after New Bedford and Nantucket. This exhibit illustrates how Provincetown whaling was different from whaling in those two other Massachusetts towns, and how the industry helped to contribute to Provincetown becoming a proud Portuguese-American enclave.


Hyannis Port Railroad Wharf: 1854-1937

Prior to the Railroad Wharf in Hyannis Port, the nearest port for ships travelling to and from Nantucket was New Bedford, 80 nautical miles away. With the arrival of the Old Colony Railroad in the village of Hyannis, it made sense to extend the tracks a mile or so south and build a large wharf to shorten the trip to just 25 miles. 

After construction, the wharf became a major port of call for passengers and freight between Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard, connected to Boston and other cities by train.


“Where Are We?” History of Navigation from 1200 BC

From ancient Polynesian stick charts and Icelandic spars to vintage nautical charts to modern electronic equipment from RDF to AIS, our newest exhibit covers navigation from 1200 BC to the present.


The sextant in our museum was used by donor Peter T. Damon on board the 110′ brigantine Romance, pictured above, in a round-the-world trip. Romance was also featured in the film version of James Michener’s epic novel Hawaii.


Cook Boat Shop

Our working wood boat shop hosts a variety of wood boat workshops throughout the year.

Visitors can see small boats being built and restored as well as learn about the various wood working and boat building techniques.  


Quest for Cod: Two Hundred Years of Fishing in Provincetown

Using models, photos, diagrams, nautical charts, and personal stories, this exhibit follows two hundred years of commercial fishing in Provincetown from the early years of the nineteenth century through today. Visitors will learn how methods of catching and preserving fish have changed, and the technological advances commercial fishing has made over the decades. The exhibit also aims to help illuminate the many reasons, natural and man-made, why the once voluminous Provincetown fishing fleet has now dwindled to just a handful of commercial boats.


The 19th Century’s Perfect Storm: The Portland Gale of 1898 

The Portland Gale was a massive storm that struck the coast of New England in late November of 1898. With enormous storm surges and hurricane-force winds, the Portland Gale destroyed shorefront homes and infrastructure, killed more than 400 people and sank 150 vessels, most notably the coastal passenger steamship SS Portland, for which the storm was ultimately named. In Provincetown, the storm demolished nine wharves, while the beaches of the Outer Cape were littered with wreckage from ships and damaged structures. Our exhibit includes a scale model of the Portland, and artifacts and underwater video of the wreck, which lies within the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary. 


Shellfishing Cape Cod: Past, Present, Future

Shellfish, water dwelling invertebrate animals, live on the seafloor or burrow just under the seabed surface. The fresh and saltwaters of Cape Cod are an essential habitat for many species of shellfish, finfish, animal, and plant life. 

In this exhibit, learn about what shellfish inhabit the Cape, what aquaculture farming consists of on the Cape, and what the equipment and history of shellfishing on the Cape has looked like over the years.


Elizabeth and William Graham Scrimshaw Collection

This scrimshaw exhibit is the largest private collection of scrimshaw displayed on Cape Cod. Collected by Elizabeth and William Graham over ten years of marriage, this extensive collection includes carved ivory, whale teeth, bone, baleen, and other material used by sailors as a way to pass the long months at sea.


Historic Watercraft of Cape Cod

Have you visited our Historic Boat Barn? We have every Cape Cod wood boat represented — some boats over 100 years old.
A must-see if you love Cape Cod and maritime history!

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