Shipwreck & Lifesaving Museum

About

During the summer of 1967 there was a buzz on Nantucket: Robert “Bob” Caldwell was dreaming of a way to share his extensive collection of lifesaving memorabilia with the public. That fall Bob gathered with island pal H. H. Kynett, former trustee of the Mystic Seaport Museum, and local mariners and marine enthusiasts Robert F. Mooney, Paul C. Morris, Jr., Charles F. Sayle, and Edouard A. Stackpole to make plans for a museum.

On December 6, 1967 at the Town of Nantucket Board of Selectmen’s meeting, the Secretary of the Commonwealth asked the selectmen to clarify that the above mentioned men were all of good moral character as they had put forth an application for certificate of incorporation. Fortunately, all were approved. Soon after, Nantucket Life Saving Museum, Inc. was founded, and the two year journey to build and open the nation’s first Lifesaving Museum began.


In 2018--fifty years later, we praise the fortitude and forward thinking of Bob and his band of mariners, and we thank them. Bob’s generosity of property, possession, and passion paved the way for thousands upon thousands of islanders and island visitors to hear the story and understand the dramatic lifesaving legacy of Nantucket.

As we celebrate fifty years of incorporation, we pause to give honor. We honor Robert “Bob” Caldwell, H. H. Kynett, Robert F. Mooney, Paul C. Morris, Jr., Charles F. Sayle, and Edouard A. Stackpole for ensuring Nantucket’s lifesavers and their legacy of selflessness and service are never forgotten. We honor those who risked their lives to save others. We honor those who lost their life in pursuit of rescuing another. We honor Nantucket and her courageous characters. We honor our supporters who make our work possible. And we honor the first responders of today, who safeguard our community and help all souls in peril.

Our Museum

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In the 19th Century, hundreds of ships passed by Nantucket Island each day, all navigating without the benefit of modern nautical technology. Unpredictable storms, dense fog and strong currents often caught even the most experienced sailors off guard. Treacherous shoals and inclement weather led to over 700 shipwrecks in the surrounding waters of Nantucket, causing the area to be dubbed “a graveyard of the Atlantic.”

The Nantucket Shipwreck & Lifesaving Museum preserves the memory of those Islanders who risked their lives to save shipwrecked mariners. These men served in organizations devoted to maritime rescue, such as the Massachusetts Humane Society; United States Life-Saving Service; and the United States Coast Guard.

The Nantucket Shipwreck & Lifesaving Museum features permanent and changing exhibitions that will fascinate both children and adults. Permanent exhibits are devoted to the history of Nantucket lifesaving; famous shipwrecks and rescues; life-saving equipment; the daily routine at a life-saving station; and the workings of the United States Coast Guard in modern day.

From a collection of over 5,000 artifacts, other highlights of the museum include period surfboats; beach carts; vintage photographs; and a Fresnel lens from Brant Point Lighthouse and Great Point Lighthouse.

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For upcoming program announcements and information, island shipwreck stories, lifesaving histories, and photographs from the Museum's collection, be sure to like and follow Egan Maritime's Nantucket Shipwreck & Lifesaving Museum on Facebook by clicking here.

Every Visit Includes

Included with museum admission, every visitor enjoys:

  • Free guided tour
  • Short films with on-demand viewing
  • Folger's Marsh view and discovery
  • Scenic outdoor picnic seating
  • Virtual reality experiences
  • Access to the annual special exhibition.

Included with museum admission, young patrons enjoy:

  • Breeches buoy swing set
  • Ship's rigging rope wall
  • Knot tying boards
  • Marshall the Sea Dog
  • Weekly children's programs in July and August.

Hours and Directions


Nantucket Shipwreck & Lifesaving Museum is open annually Memorial Day through Columbus Day. If you would like to schedule a visit outside of the summer season or discuss a group tour, please call Egan Maritime's administrative office at (508) 228 - 2505.

2018 Trip Advisor Certificate Of Excellence And Hall Of Fame

Awesome Seafaring History - Must See!

"We were delighted to visit the Egan Maritime Museum, it is by far the most amazing history regarding seafaring, shipwrecks, lifesaving, and how the Coast Guard came into being. The historic displays are outstanding and it is quite remarkable what has been preserved and recreated and how visually appealing it is. We look forward to donating and to return to Nantucket to visit again with these wonderful people who know 'a boat load,' about the history. Thank you! " - Tammy D, September 2018

Read Tammy's review and others on TripAdvisor.

Shipwreck And Lifesaving Map

Location

158 Polpis Road, Nantucket, MA 02554.

The museum can be reached easily by car, The Wave Shuttle/Polpis Route or by the Polpis Bike Path; we're just 3.5 miles from Nantucket Town.

For a FREE Wave Bus pass to the Museum, go to Visitor Services at 25 Federal Street in downtown Nantucket.

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Hours

Monday through Saturday: 10:00am - 5:00pm

Sunday: Noon - 5:00pm

Blue Star Museum Square

Admission

Free to Members
Adults: $10
Seniors and Students: $7
Youth 6-17: $5.00
Children under 6: Free

Annual Special Exhibitions

Each year since reopening the doors in 2008 following the campaign to renovate and reinterpret the Museum, Egan Maritime produces a new exhibition in the Monaghan Gallery to further tell the dramatic histories of Nantucket's shipwreck and lifesaving legacy.

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Annual Exhibitions
  • 2018 - Courage & Calamity, Fifty Ships Against the Sea
  • 2017 - Wrecks & Relics, Discovers 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 From Nantucket's Maritime Past
  • 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

The Robert Caldwell Collection

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.

Lifesavers Recognition Day Award

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 Nantucket Cottage Hospital recognize modern-day lifesavers annually on September 11 during the Lifesavers Recognition Day ceremony at the Nantucket Shipwreck & Lifesaving Museum.

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2017
  • Captain Brian Borgeson
  • First Mate Scott Riddle
  • BM3 John McNally
  • Nate Woodason
  • Town of Nantucket Lifeguards
Lrd 2017
2016
  • Jerome S. Reinert
  • Jim Sjolund
  • Joe Tormay
Lrd 2016
2015
  • BM3 Keisha Ormsbee
  • BM3 Matthew Pugh
  • FN John Feniello
  • MK2 Sam Freedman
  • Austin Bentley
  • Alex Hauer
  • Claire Moisan
Lrd 2015
2014
  • Martha Lake-Greenfield
  • Collin Perry
2013
  • Jessica Norris
  • Marissa Affeldt
  • John Allen
  • Beau Barber
  • Sheila Lucey, Harbormaster
  • Ken Lappin, Assistant Harbormaster
  • Captain Jason Mleczko
  • Captain Thomas Mleczko
Lrd 2013
2012
  • Gaven Norton
  • Curren Huyser
  • SN Daniel Kerr
  • USCG Brant Point
  • Captain Raymond Oliver
  • Pilot Bernardino Ramos
  • Nantucket Cottage Hospital
  • Fire and Emergency Services
Lrd 2012
2011
  • Michael Eagan
  • Tris Gauvin
  • John Howard
  • Tim Reinemo
Lrd 2011
2010
  • Kimberley Layman
  • Jim Sjolund
  • Town of Nantucket Lifeguards
Lrd 2010
2009
  • Sergeant David Aguiar (Ret.)
  • Melinda Burns
  • Dave Fronzuto, Harbormaster
  • Sheila Lucey, Assistant Harbormaster
Lrd 2009
2008
  • Johnny Backus
  • Robert McKee
2007
  • Dwayne Dougan
  • Wayne Kampfhenkel
Lrd 2007
2006
  • Trevor Hooper
  • Katelyn Fitzpatrick
2005
  • Benjamin Firth
  • Andrew Quinn
Lrd 2006
2004
  • Justin Dunham
Lrd 2004

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