Gallery talk kicks off Maritime Month

Mar 25, 2014
Photo by: Ed Coffin Collection/Penobscot Marine Museum Rockport’s famous icehouses are visible across the harbor as limestone is unloaded into the village’s kilns.

Camden — Camden Public Library will again host a lecture series on local maritime topics during April, which it has designated Maritime Month. The series will start with a gallery talk on the Coastwise Photography Collection of Ed Coffin by Kevin Johnson of the Penobscot Marine Museum Tuesday, April 1, at 7 p.m.

The photographs in Coffin’s collection span the coast from Boothbay to Stockton Springs and over a century of maritime activity, from 1870 to 1990. The Coffin photographs are now part of the collection of the Penobscot Marine Museum of Searsport, which is producing the exhibit.

“The Coastwise Photography of Ed Coffin” will be on display in the Picker Room at the library through the month of April. Coffin, often taken for a Rockland native, is actually a native of Nantucket (more accurately, the adjacent island of Tuckernuck), and moved to Owls Head shortly after World War II. During his almost 70 Midcoast years, and with an intense interest in maritime history as well as an extroverted personality, he absorbed a great deal by conversations with old-timers while at the same time amassing thousands of historic photographs of local boats, boatbuilding, industry and waterfront scenes.

In addition to collecting the photographs themselves, Coffin also researched the images, identifying dates, boat names and types, cities and towns and people, creating an invaluable resource. Geographically, the photographs cover Boothbay to the south and Stockton Springs to the north. The islands of the Penobscot Bay including Monhegan, Matinicus, Hurricane, Vinalhaven and Criehaven also are well documented. Subjects include schooners and other sailing ships, fishing vessels, people, granite, fishing and boatbuilding industries, as well as general coastal and town views.

The earliest photos date in the 1870s and the latest in the 1980s, but the vast majority range from the 1890s to the 1940s. Penobscot Marine Museum staff were thrilled when Coffin decided to entrust this treasure to their care, and the museum is excited to share it with the world beginning with this exhibit at Camden Public Library. Johnson’s slide talk April 1 will include photos that do not appear in the exhibit; Maynard Bray, Ben Fuller and Coffin himself also will be on hand as “color commentators.”

Other speakers in the Maritime Month series will include Eben Wilson Thursday, April 10, with an illustrated talk on historic sailmaking techniques. Wilson and his father, Nathaniel S. Wilson, are the sailmakers for such historic ships as the USS Constitution and the Charles W. Morgan, berthed at Mystic Seaport. Sailmaking techniques in the days of the square-riggers had to be tough enough to keep acres of canvas in place on the high seas, and were both elaborate and brawny.

On Tuesday, April 15, Eric Zettler of SEA in Woods Hole will give an illustrated lecture on The Plastisphere, the microbial world in the oceans that is the underpinning of the oceanic food chain, which is also being affected by the plastics being dumped into the oceans. On Thursday, April 24, Dick Baldwin, founder of Educational Passages, will talk about his program that helps students launch and then track model sailboats, tracked by GPS around the world. And on Tuesday, April 29, master ship modeler Robert Eddy of Camden will unveil his latest creation, a model of Northern Crown, and talk about his lifelong passion for ship modelmaking. The model will be on display, along with some of Eddy’s earliest carvings, to accompany his presentation on how this hobby turned into a profession.

Courier Publications’ A&E Editor Dagney C. Ernest can be reached at (207) 594-4401, ext. 115; or

An on-deck haircut is among the moments captured by the Ed Coffin Collection. (Photo by: Penobscot Marine Museum)
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