To create my presentation about Ebenezer Poulson’s painting of a slaver ship, I used Penobscot Marine Museum’s online collections database. There are over 500 depictions of ships, 100,000 photographs, and partial information on the extensive maritime history archives in the museum library.
The current level of tagging is not robust and that makes the search function awkward, but persistence helps. I used the description field the most often for entering a keyword on the topic I am looking for. I found it does not help to enter two words, because the search engine does not narrow the search to artifacts where both words are in the description, but instead lists everything with one word or the other. I recommend narrowing the search by unchecking every category but one: either archives, or photos, or objects. Objects include paintings of vessels, portraits of sea captains, ship models, and other maritime artifacts. Photos include images of vessels, shipyards, and towns, as well as people. However there aren’t many photographs from before 1890.
Each artifact entry has a description, and many are very short, however some include more information and history connected to the object, and these proved useful for my purposes. I also relied on books and documents, especially Maine’s Visible Black History H.H. Price and Gerald Talbot (2006) and A Sufficient Number K. E. McMahon (2013)
Museum Educator, Penobscot Marine Museum