Island Science

Turning an Island Museum Inside Out

The Nantucket Shipwreck and Lifesaving Museum has found an innovative way of sharing their exhibits during the global pandemic: they are turning their museum inside out! Instead of welcoming the public inside this year, they are encouraging visitors to come to the museum’s grounds at 158 Polpis Road, to enjoy the gorgeous scenery and see the outdoor exhibits express what would be found inside the museum.

Museum staff has created twelve full-color storyboards and placed them around the property, and they include details about how the museum came to be, the formation of the United States Coast Guard, and several shipwrecks from the 19th and 20th centuries, including the wrecks and rescues of the HP Kirkham, the British Queen, and the 1956 sinking of the Andrea Doria.

Also placed around the grounds are several socially-distanced tables, chairs, and benches throughout the grounds for all to enjoy. The museum is inviting islanders and visitors to pack a picnic lunch or dinner and take in the tranquil splendor of the adjacent Folger’s Marsh. Bird lovers will be fascinated by the many species seen in the area including ducks, egrets, swans, seagulls, saltmarsh sparrows, and more. Post a photo of yourself at the museum and tag Egan Maritime or the Shipwreck Museum on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter and you’ll be entered to win fun items from the museum’s gift shop.

This is not the only pandemic pivot made by staff at the Nantucket Shipwreck and Lifesaving Museum. Visitors can enjoy a virtual museum experience at And since early April, Egan Maritime Institute’s Maritime Studies Instructor Evan Schwanfelder has been hosting free podcasts that tell the dramatic stories of wrecks and rescues that the museum is famous for telling. To listen to the Time & Tide podcasts, visit

The museum is located only 4 miles outside of town and there is plenty of free parking, and it’s directly across from the Polpis bike path. The property is open only during daylight hours, and there are no bathroom facilities. Facial coverings are encouraged while walking around the property.

Founded in 1989 to preserve and celebrate our island’s seafaring heritage, Egan Maritime Institute offers many programs and educational opportunities to inspire the appreciation and preservation of Nantucket’s maritime culture and seafaring legacy. Financial support is greatly appreciated: if you’d like to donate or become a member, visit

Articles by Date from 2012