The Nantucket Shipwreck & Lifesaving Museum, an affiliate of Egan Maritime Institute, is dedicated to honoring Nantucket's history of shipwrecks, lifesaving, and rescuers. The museum sits at the edge of Folger’s Marsh, and the grounds are open year-round. The public is welcome to visit one of the most scenic sites on the Island for the view, enjoy a picnic, or watch the wide variety of birds interacting on the marsh.
The 2023 featured exhibition, Rum Runners and Rum Chasers: Nantucket, Prohibition & the U.S. Coast Guard, continues our series honoring the organizations that came together in 1915 to form the U.S. Coast Guard. The exhibit presents how the demands of war, technology, and law enforcement changed America’s oldest maritime military force. With the enactment of Prohibition, the government tasked the Coast Guard and its unique law enforcement powers to go after smugglers, bootleggers, criminal gangs, and Rum Runners. Nantucketers cooperated and sometimes did not. Partying remained a mainstay of life on the island.
The Shipwreck & Lifesaving Museum opens for the 2023 season on May 26, 2023.
158 Polpis Road
Nantucket, MA 02554
We are open for the 2023 season: May 26th - October 9th
- Monday - Saturday: 10:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Schedule change: The Museum will be closed on Saturday, September 16th.
Adults (18+): $12
Seniors (65+): $9
Youth (6-17) and College Students: $7
Children (5 & Under): Free
Active & Retired Military: Free
Need a free ride to the Museum?
Catch the Shipwreck Shuttle from Visitors Services, 25 Federal Street, on the half-hour, starting at 9:30 AM - 3:30 PM, returning from the Museum on the hour (last ride at 5:00 PM), Monday through Saturday, from May 29th through October 9th.
2023 - Daily Programs & Activities!
Museum Tours and Tales
Admission to the Nantucket Shipwreck and Lifesaving Museum includes a guided tour with one of our trained interpreters; however, we also present our exhibits to accommodate those who prefer to proceed at their pace. Visitors can engage with stories and artifacts telling the danger, excitement, and bravery of Nantucket's volunteer and professional lifesavers. With a history of over 800 shipwrecks around our island, there are plenty of tales to tell.
During several scheduled times each day, we offer unique experiences such as a look at a rarely-seen Collection artifact, telling a seldom-heard sea story, or a glimpse into solving museum mysteries.
Daily Family Activities
July 5 - August 31st | 10:00 am - 3:30 pm
Are you planning a trip to the Museum and looking for free, fun family activities? Come Monday-Friday from 10 am-3:30 pm (July 5th-August 31st) for unique outdoor activities featuring nautical crafts, marine science, rescue demonstrations, and much more! These outdoor events on the Museum grounds are free. On a nice day, bring a picnic lunch.
Tentative Schedule of Activities:
- Monday: Rope-Making
- Tuesday: Build your Own Boat
- Thursday: Knot-tying and Bracelet Making
- Friday: Deep-Sea Sensory Bin featuring the Wreck of the Andrea Doria
We are usually able to accommodate special requests for tours or social events throughout the year, so please feel free to contact us at (508) 228 1885 or email@example.com
In the 19th Century, hundreds of ships passed by Nantucket Island each day, all navigating without the benefit of modern nautical technology. As a result, unpredictable storms, dense fog, and strong currents often caught even the most experienced sailors off guard. In addition, treacherous shoals and inclement weather led to over 750 shipwrecks in the island's waters. As a result, the area was often called "a graveyard of the Atlantic."
Founded in 1968 as the first museum in America devoted to honoring volunteer and professional lifesavers, The Shipwreck & Lifesaving Museum preserves the memory of Islanders. They risked their lives to save mariners from the perils of the sea. Their inspiring stories come from men and women of the Massachusetts Humane Society, US Life-Saving Service, and the United States Coast Guard.
Although the collection greatly expanded over the years, founder Robert Caldwell, a US Coast Guard veteran of World War II, donated land and his private accumulation of lifesaving equipment to establish the museum.
"This museum could not be better" —TripAdvisor Review
The Nantucket Shipwreck & Lifesaving Museum's permanent collection is due largely to the vision of Robert Caldwell, who returned home to Nantucket after serving aboard the United States Coast Guard Cutter Spencer during World War II. Deeply affected by his personal experience and intrigued by stories of the Coast Guard and its roots, Caldwell began collecting objects related to Nantucket's history of shipwrecks, lifesaving, and rescuers. In 1967 he donated his collection and a piece of his property for what was to become the Nantucket Shipwreck & Lifesaving Museum.
"A rare gem of a museum." —TripAdvisor Review
Remarkable events begin with unforgettable venues.
Remarkable events begin with unforgettable venues.
Call (508) 228-1885 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to inquire about hosting your memorable moment at Nantucket’s hidden gem.
Each year, we produce a featured exhibit to enhance or expand the story of lifesaving on Nantucket.
- 2022 - Gallant Guardians: The Nantucket Lightships
- 2021 - Duty & Diligence: Station Life the U.S. Life-Saving Service
- 2019 - When All Hope Had Died: the Wreck of the "British Queen"
- 2018 - Courage & Calamity, Fifty Ships Against the Sea
- 2017 - Wrecks & Relics, Discoveries From the Sea
- 2016 - Out of the Fog, Remembering the Andrea Doria; Tragedy & Rescue at Sea
- 2015 - Heroes of the Sea, Celebrating the 225th Anniversary of the United States Coast Guard
- 2014 - Throw Out the Lifeline: Lifesaving Practices, Procedures & Pastimes
- 2013 - Red, Right, Returning: Present Day USCG Lifesaving Procedures and Boat Safety
- 2012 - Guiding Lights: Nantucket's Lighthouses, Keepers, & Their Families
- 2011 - Storm Stories 1991: An Island Remembers
- 2010 - Sea Dogs, Great Tails from Ship to Shore
- 2009 - Thoroughly Madaket Millie
Nantucket’s history is filled with stories of heroic lifesaving efforts by everyday citizens and those who went above and beyond the call of duty. Honoring that tradition, Egan Maritime Institute and the Nantucket Cottage Hospital recognize modern-day lifesavers annually on September 11, during the Lifesavers Recognition Day ceremony at the Nantucket Shipwreck & Lifesaving Museum.
- Captain Brian Borgeson
- First Mate Scott Riddle
- BM3 John McNally
- Nate Woodason
- Town of Nantucket Lifeguards, represented by Sheila Lucey, Harbor Master
- Jerome S. Reinert
- Jim Sjolund
- Joe Tormay
- BM3 Keisha Ormsbee
- BM3 Matthew Pugh
- FN John Feniello
- MK2 Sam Freedman
- Austin Bentley
- Alex Hauer
- Claire Moisan
- Martha Lake-Greenfield
- Collin Perry
- Jessica Norris
- Marissa Affeldt
- John Allen
- Beau Barber
- Sheila Lucey, Harbormaster
- Ken Lappin, Assistant Harbormaster
- Captain Jason Mleczko
- Captain Thomas Mleczko
- Gaven Norton
- Curren Huyser
- SN Daniel Kerr
- USCG Brant Point
- Captain Raymond Oliver
- Pilot Bernardino Ramos
- Nantucket Cottage Hospital
- Fire and Emergency Services
- Michael Eagan
- Tris Gauvin
- John Howard
- Tim Reinemo
- Kimberley Layman
- Jim Sjolund
- Town of Nantucket Lifeguards
- Sergeant David Aguiar (Ret.)
- Melinda Burns
- Dave Fronzuto, Harbormaster
- Sheila Lucey, Assistant Harbormaster
- Johnny Backus
- Robert McKee
- Dwayne Dougan
- Benjamin Firth
- Katelyn Fitzpatrick
- Trevor Hooper
- Wayne Kampfhenkel
- Andrew Quinn
- Justin Dunham