Bath museum named among 10 best maritime museums in the world

Posted Sept. 19, 2012, at 1:35 p.m.

BATH, Maine — Maine Maritime Museum has been named the seventh-best nautical museum in the world by an international website specializing in nautical themes.

The Bath-based museum, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, was one of three museums in the United States to be recognized on the Maritime Insights.com list, which features maritime museums from around the world.

Dave Garrison, spokesman for Maine Maritime Museum, said the museum did not seek the recognition and it came as a surprise to museum officials, but that positive reactions have been strong among visitors and on the museum’s Facebook page.

“For us to be mentioned in the company of some of the other museums that were listed was very, very flattering for us,” said Garrison. “Hopefully this will help get the word about us out to a new audience.”

At the top of the list was the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, England, followed by Australia’s expansive Sydney Maritime Museum. The San Diego Maritime Museum was the highest-ranking facility from the United States, with the Michigan Maritime Museum coming in sixth.

The Asia-based website, which has about 25,000 Facebook followers, praised the Bath institution as a “treasure-house of important nautical history.” Maine Maritime Museum’s focus is on the history of wooden shipbuilding, particularly in Maine, though there also is an emphasis on numerous other maritime themes. The main museum, which is situated on the bank of the Kennebec River, is complemented by numerous historic outbuildings, many of which have been preserved since the days when the Bath shorefront was the site of dozens of shipbuilding companies.

Despite a slack economy, Garrison said the museum is doing well. There were approximately 45,000 visitors in 2011 and so far this year that number is up by about 7 percent. Garrison said foreign visitors make up a healthy chunk of that total. Garrison said he recently met visitors from Greece, Great Britain, France and Australia during a period of an hour in the museum’s gift shop. Though the museum’s reputation is expanding at the worldwide level, Garrison said a visitor survey under way shows that the majority of visitors hear about Maine Maritime Museum by word-of-mouth.

Garrison said he doesn’t know how many maritime-themed museums there are in the world, but estimated that they number in the thousands.

“Even in the United States alone there are hundreds and hundreds of maritime museums,” he said. “To be picked out of that group really floored us.”

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