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)

Sarah Cole
Museum Educator, Penobscot Marine Museum

2 thoughts on “Researching in Penobscot Marine Museums’s Online Collections Database

  1. I typed in “Slaver” and got 4 or 5 hits. One was a painting of a slaver being chased by an English Man-o-War. Another was about a sea Captain, Benjamin Franklin Carver, who captained a ship that was later converted to a slave ship and “The Brig. was later sold to a Brazilian firm and was converted
    into a slaver, making many voyages to Africa. She was finally captured by a British
    Man-of-war, with a cargo of Africans aboard, and destroyed in a river on the west
    coast of Africa.” What do these two hits indicate? that, while the slave trade thrived, after the Anti-Slavery Act of 1833 was passed in England, financing, equipping and, conducting a slave voyage was risky business. According an article in “The History Press”( ), “The act had two major parts to it – the emancipation of all slaves throughout the British colonial empire except those held by the East India Company…” Could it have been the British were shutting down the East India’s competitors only?

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