Cape Cod Maritime Museum

The Cape Cod Maritime Museum in Hyannis chronicles the rich maritime history of the Cape Cod peninsula with a number of interactive exhibits. Located on the banks of Hyannis Harbor, just a block away from the ferry terminal, the museum features a collection of carefully restored marine vessels, information about significant events in the Cape’s nautical history, local art and a boat building workshop. Learn more about the maritime history so linked to the soul of Cape Cod; this small, but informative and charming museum is well worth a stop.

cape cod maritime museum_museums in cape codFor more than two centuries, Cape Cod boasted many of the world’s most important commercial ports. The Cape Cod Maritime Museum pays homage to this illustrious period of Cape Cod history and the treacherous waters around the Cape with an exhibit on the history of lightships.  The museum also chronicles the innovative techniques and advances in marine navigation that have occurred, from Marshall Islands stick charts to computerized AIS systems.  

Artists have long been inspired by the Cape’s rugged coast and romantic maritime history. The Fine Arts Gallery & Scrimshaw Exhibit features the work of local artists and others who’ve been inspired by the maritime culture of Cape Cod. The museum boasts the largest private collection of scrimshaw (engravings on whale bones or cartilage) on the Cape, and information about the area’s whaling history.

In 2021 the gallery features intricate model boats, their tiny lines rigged expertly above perfect shiplap hulls, a testament to their creators’ skill. In addition to stunning local photographs the galley features Barry Beder’s fascinating Hullscapes: magical photographs of the water lines on ships that have a painting-like quality. 

This Cape Cod museum also features a replica of the boat shop of a local boatbuilder, Pete Culler, a local legend known for his simple and function wooden boat designs. Pete Culler’s Boat Shop includes many of the original hand tools and power tools that Culler used to build boats. With the wood shavings on the workbench and worn coat on the chair back, it looks as if Culler has just stepped out of the shop and will be back at work on his latest vessel shortly! 

The Cape Cod Maritime Museum is an excellent place to find out more about the nautical history synonymous with Cape Cod. In the Anatomy of a Boat exhibit, visitors can learn to identify the different parts of a small boat, learning more about their construction. Their shellfish exhibit introduces visitors to the types of bi-valves harvested in the Cape’s shallow waters, and municipal efforts to grow shellfish to improve water quality.

Downstairs in the Cook Boat Shop, visitors can take boat building workshops or watch a skilled craftsman build or restore small boats. Outside in the boatshed, visitors can examine the museum’s collection of marine vessels that played a part, big or small, in the maritime history of the Cape. 

In 2021 the museum features exhibits commemorating the 400th anniversary of the Pilgrims’ landing in Provincetown. The exhibits chronicle their search for religious freedom in Europe, the voyage across the Atlantic, and the Pilgrims’ time on Cape Cod (before they headed to that other Massachusetts town beginning with a “P”). The exhibit explores the Wampanoag perspective on the whole affair, fraught with corn-stealing, pandemic, graverobbing, and more leading to a tentative and unlikely alliance. 

Boat on museum grounds for kids to explore
Hyannis Harbor with museum in background
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