The downtown Penobscot Marine Museum will open Friday, May 25 for the 2012 season with two new exhibits featuring regional tourism and marine art. “Summer Folk: The Tourists of Penobscot Bay” is a campus-wide exhibit exploring the history of tourism from 1890 to 1960. And to commemorate of the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812, “The Art of the Sea Battle” will feature some of the finest marine art in the museum’s collection.

The public is invited to a free reception beginning 5 p.m. opening day in the Main Street Gallery to celebrate the start of the museum’s 75th exhibit season.

Long an economic mainstay of the Penobscot Bay region, tourism became a significant force in the 1890s and evolved through the 20th century with changes in lodging, transportation, recreation, demographics and the social milieu. “Summer Folk” explores these changes through recreated hotel and guest house environments, vintage photography, old advertising and marketing materials, steamship memorabilia, postcards, antique sporting goods, clothing, boats and other artifacts.

Several businesses and organizations are joining the museum in the Summer Folk theme by offering exhibits, events and specials throughout the Penobscot Bay region. A Summer Folk Trails map and dedicated web pages soon will be available with details on these offerings.

“The Art of the Sea Battle” celebrates the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812, when the United States first became a world-class naval power. Works by Thomas Buttersworth, Robert Salmon, Fred S. Cozzens and others depict warships from the apogee of the “Age of Fighting Sail.” Included are narrative paintings showing historical battles; ship portraits notable for their detail and accuracy; and a stirring painting depicting the pursuit of a slave ship by a British brig of war.

Both exhibits will run through Oct. 21. Museum hours will be Mondays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. The admission center is at 40 E. Main St./Route 1. Admission is $8, $3 for children age 7 through 15, and free for younger children, members, active-duty military families and Searsport residents; group rates are available. For more information, visit penobscotmarinemuseum.org or call 548-2529.

Courier Publications’ A&E Editor Dagney C. Ernest can be reached at 207-594-4401 or dernest@courierpublicationsllc.com.