The Alluring and Enduring Maine Coast

Historic images from the Penobscot Marine Museum

By Lisa Mossel Vietze

The Penobscot Marine Museum’s photographic collection is vast — overwhelmingly vast . . .

. . . Lucky for me, I had the privilege of working with Kevin Johnson, the museum’s photo archivist, who guided me in the right direction as we selected the group to include in this issue of Island Journal.

Hours and hours of looking through images in the museum’s collections from the Eastern Illustrating and Publishing Co., Elmer and Ruth Montgomery, and Ed Coffin left me feeling I had seen each and every harbor of our state’s coast. While they each have their unique characteristics, they all began to look the same.

I kept asking myself, what is going to engage the viewers in this folio? How am I going to tell the story of what this coast was like before my family lived here? What will give the viewer a strong sense of place? And I kept hearing one answer: People.

old photo of crashing ocean waves
old photo of women working at sardine factory

After pulling over 150 possible images for this folio and the exhibit that will follow at our Main Street, Rockland gallery, we narrowed it down to images that had characters with stories that transcend the barriers of time. Represented by a few key images here, the exhibit that opens June 26, “The Alluring and Enduring Maine Coast,” features 30-plus photographs. Characters such as the Broiler Queen of Belfast, a reminder of that town’s chicken processing past, craftsmen working granite architectural elements on Vinalhaven, and the barber on a boat out of Thomaston, each call to the viewer from the two dimensional space and ask us to imagine their lives and listen to their stories. I particularly like the women in all their finery and a girl with her doll, putting out a spread on Matinicus. I can only imagine what it felt like in all those clothes and hats, offering a picnic for the fisherman on the rocky beach.

This is the first time we have hosted an exhibition of historic images from such a broad geographic range, from down the coast to Eastport and out to Matinicus.

We invite you to see the exhibit to learn more about that broiler queen and the others, as each image will have an informative caption researched by museum volunteers. And yes, each has a story to tell.

For more information about the Archipelago Fine Arts Gallery exhibit in Rockland, please visit