Our island’s history is rich with tales of drama and courage. The Nantucket Shipwreck & Lifesaving Museum is devoted to sharing these stories, as Dir. of Education Evan Schwanfelder describes them: “Stories of the high seas that rise from the depths of despair to the peak of human hope and salvation.” A visit to the Nantucket Shipwreck & Lifesaving Museum brings to life the island’s surfmen who lived by the motto “You have to go out, but you don’t have to come back.”
For the 2022 season, the museum will open to the public at 10 am on Friday, May 27. This year’s featured exhibit, Gallant Guardians: The Nantucket Lightships , is second in a series honoring and describing the organizations that came together in 1915 to form the U.S. Coast Guard. It presents the story of the U.S. Lighthouse Service, focusing on the Nantucket Lightships. Visitors will learn about the island’s lifesaving history through tales of grit and determination from when service and self-sacrifice embodied the gallantry of Nantucket lifesavers.
For 130 years, through fog, wars, storms, and navigational folly, men aboard anchored Lightships stood guard, warning and protecting mariners from the danger of the treacherous South Shoals. Their tales are dramatic: lightships and their crew were vital to shipping, but helpless at their stations. They could be blown off their moorings and set adrift or crushed by ice. One was cut in half by a passing ship, and another was dragged out to sea and vanished with her crew.
Through October 10, the public can experience this maritime history with exhibits and multi-media displays Monday-Saturday from 10 am to 5 pm and Sundays from noon to 4 pm. The museum is located at the edge of the beautiful Folger’s Marsh at 158 Polpis Road, and visitors are welcome to bring a picnic and to watch the wide variety of birds. Parking is limited, but courtesy rides to the musuem on The Shipwreck Shuttle depart from the Visitors’ Center downtown on Federal Street Monday-Saturday, starting at 9:30 am on May 30. The museum participates in the Blue Star program, offering free admission to active members of the military and their families. Details on programs are at eganmaritime.org.