Museum Exhibits

Featured exhibit

Treasures from the Museum Collection
Belfast families have been generous with their donations to the museum artifact and archives collections since the museum opened in 1975. This year’s exhibit will highlight some of the important or unique items, including the first item to be accessioned, a letter from Thomas W. Lothrop written to his wife back in Belfast from the gold fields of California in early 1850.

Click on images for a slide show of the Museum exhibits.

Belfast Maritime History
Belfast’s shipyard mid–19th century.

Maritime History

Belfast area shipyards built more than six hundred sailing vessels during the mid–19th century. Nearly one–third of all men were employed in the ship building or maritime trades. Belfast–built vessels were known for their fine lines, speed and beauty. Come and see our collection of paintings, photos and the ships model of the Charlotte W. White and imagine the life of a seafarer.

Artist Percy Sanborn
Oil painting by Percy Sanborn a 19th century Belfast artist.

Percy Sanborn Painting

Percy Sanborn is best known for his marine paintings of Belfast–built vessels. During the late 19th century he produced many watercolor and oil paintings of scenes around Belfast, as well as portraits of pets, horses and floral still–lifes.

19th Century Apothecary
Poor’s 19th century pharmacist’s bench.

Poor’s Apothecary

Dr. William Poor opened his apothecary in 1814. Prior to its closing in the mid–1980s, it was the oldest business operating in Belfast and the oldest drug store in Maine. On display is the pharmacist’s bench and various popular “cures” from the 19th century. A fascinating look back into the evolution of early American medicine.

Old Model Ships
The Charlotte W. White, a full–rigged model ship Belfast built in 1858.

Model Ships

On display is a model of the Charlotte W. White, a full–rigged ship which was built in Belfast in 1858. The model is of exceptional quality, so finely detailed that even the tiny compass seems to work. The return of the Charlotte W. White to her home port of Belfast is in itself an intriguing story. In February of 2006, while conserving and cataloging a collection of papers at the Museum, the archivist came across a letter of inquiry dated April, 1971 from a public library in Elmira, New York. The library had in its possession the ship model which had been brought to Elmira by the White family sometime around 1876, and they were asking for information about the family. The archivist answered the thirty five year old letter with the information and, after further communication, the model was generously donated to the Belfast Museum. It pays to answer old letters!

BHSM Barn Exhibit
The two–cell jail was built in the 1890’s and is housed in the renovated barn.

Museum Barn exhibit

Visitors to the recently renovated barn will enjoy seeing the 19th century horse drawn hearse and the two–cell jail. The jail was built in the 1890’s by the E. T. Barnum Iron Works in Detroit and was housed for many years in the lower level of City Hall. We encourage our visitors to experience the lock–up!

Capt Albert W. Stevens
Captain Albert W. Stevens, Belfast native son, was an aeronautical pioneer and innovator.

“Daredevil of the Skies”

Captain Albert W. Stevens, Belfast native son, was an aeronautical pioneer and innovator who made significant contributions to aerial photography in the early years of the 20th century. In 1935, Stevens commanded the flight of “Explorer II”, a helium balloon that soared to an altitude of fourteen miles, a record that stood until 1956. During the flight Stevens took the first ever photograph of the curvature of the earth.

Early Baseball
The “Belfast Pastimes” Belfast’s Baseball team.

Great American Pastime

Any fan of baseball will recognize the expression, “At bat, on deck and in the hold (hole).” But, did you know the phrase was first coined by a Belfast scorekeeper during a game played on August 7, 1872 between the Belfast Pastimes and the Boston Red Stockings?

Museum in the Streets
The Museum in the Streets® is designed as a bilingual history walking tour.

Museum In The Streets®

The Belfast Historical Society is proud to sponsor the Museum In The Streets® and invites you to experience Belfast’s distinguished heritage by following The Museum In The Streets® self–guided bilingual walking tour. Thirty attractive panels with vintage photographs and descriptive text will lead you through the downtown, residential and waterfront areas. Architecturally significant buildings and houses, notable people, historic events, and our maritime history are highlighted.

Radio Corporation of America

On the evening of March 14, 1925, radio history was made in Belfast. The first long-wave radio broadcast from 2LO London, England was received by the experimental RCA station in Belfast and then relayed to station WJZ in New York. The Belfast station closed in 1929 and the site was abandoned. In 2003 a methodical search and mapping project uncovered artifacts and other historical information about the station. A recording of that first transmission is part of the museum exhibit. Self–guided walking tour info available at the Museum.

Made In Belfast

Belfast is known for several innovations and inventions which are recognized throughout the world. Did you know the spiral screwdriver, more commonly known as The Yankee Screwdriver, was invented in Belfast? The first patent for this handy tool was awarded to Isaac Allard, local machinist and watchmaker, in August, 1868. The first screwdrivers were also made in Belfast at the Howard Manufacturing Company.