'Small' part of big season at Penobscot Marine Museum

'Sailing Small' exhibit explores inspiration for model boat makers
May 11, 2018
"Sailing Small: Small Boats, Big Ideas" is part of the 2018 season at Penobscot Marine Museum in Searsport.

Searsport — Penobscot Marine Museum begins its 82nd season with an opening reception Friday, May 25, 5 to 7 p.m.

The reception will take place in the Main Street Gallery, 40 East Main St., part of Penobscot Marine Museum’s downtown campus. The event is free; donations are welcome. The full campus opens for regular admission Saturday, May 26.

What inspires model makers to create miniature versions of watercraft? Penobscot Marine Museum will explore this question through the 2018 exhibit "Sailing Small: Small Boats, Big Ideas." Using objects, photographs, and primary source audio, visual, and written accounts, the exhibit will spotlight Maine model makers.

Models, and the inspiration to build them, range from the practical to the whimsical. "Sailing Small: Small Boats, Big Ideas" will showcase key models from the museum’s collection. Master shipbuilders and designers create models to test design theories, test out buoyancy and load limits, and to build the full-size watercraft.

Prisoners of war with no other outlet for their creativity built models from any materials at hand, including soup bones as in the case of French prisoners-of-war during the 1810s. Nostalgia and pride for a beloved watercraft led many sea captains and ship owners to build or commission the building of a ship model long after the original craft met its end.

Models inspire great thinkers, such as Buckminster Fuller, to ponder how we humans design functional objects to harness the power of nature to our advantage.

The exhibit’s model-making shop, filled with Burt Libby’s tools and his series of canoes showing the progression of model-making steps and interviews with other model makers, provides visitors with a look into the craft of model-making.

The photographs and rowboat models of Elmer Montgomery of Rockland document the working waterfront of the 1940s that is slowly fading from view with the advent of gasoline and diesel engines.

Montgomery’s models inspired Harold “Dynamite” Payson of South Thomaston to build his own models, which eventually became a business with model-making books, plans, patterns and model components that have in turn inspired this generation of model-makers. An accompanying speaker’s series will invite current model-makers to share what inspires them to build in miniature.

Daily and special programming will allow the visitor to transition from an observer of inspiration to becoming the source of inspiration. Visitors will have the opportunity to build a model, test it out in the museum's model pond, and take it home. In addition to testing out their own models, visitors can test out remote-control boats and race the museum's fleet of sailboats.


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