CAMDEN — Kevin Johnson, photo archivist at the Penobscot Marine Museum, and Jon Johansen, publisher of the Maine Coastal News, will present a slide show of photographs from the Ed Coffin Collection.
“From the Cradle to the Grave: Mining the Ed Coffin Collection” will be presented at the Camden Public Library, Tuesday evening, April 2, at 7 p.m., to kick off Maritime Month.
In addition to the photography exhibit, the library will host a speaker series celebrating our local maritime heritage throughout April for Maritime Month
One doesn’t have to be from Maine to become smitten with its maritime history, according to Camden Library, in a news release. Ed Coffin’s collection of more than 2500 photographs that he compiled over a period of more than 60 years is a testament to that. Coffin donated his photographic archive to the Penobscot Marine Museum in 2013, and it was digitized and cataloged over the past four years.
Before his death last May, Coffin made an effort to preserve and share Maine’s Midcoast maritime history.
There are many themes to explore in the Coffin collection, but two that stand out as crowd pleasers are ship launches and ship wrecks, according to the release. The “birth” and “death” of ships have long held the public’s fascination.
Ship launches have been observed for hundreds of years as events of public celebration, marked by solemn blessings, Champagne bottles broken over bows, and a general air of festivity and hope. Most of Maine’s Midcoast towns have been involved in building boats, ships, and schooners. Watching the culmination of a year or more of construction and investment has been a spectacle not to be missed. On the flipside, the wreck of a ship evokes entirely different feelings, but the pull to see the tragic scene and to learn the grim story can be just as strong.
This collection of images from the late nineteenth and early twentieth century shows more than the individual stories of ships launched and wrecked. Placed in the framework of life during the Age of Sail, these photographs highlight a fundamental fact of our lot as human beings. They show how our capacity for invention has given rise to transformative technologies such as sailing ships and demonstrate how these technologies eventually reach their end.
As with anything born or made, however much they inspire admiration and awe, they become artifacts. It is our instinct to remember them.
Ed Coffin was born and raised on Nantucket Island, and the sea and coastal life were in his blood. At age 18, he went to sea and worked aboard 21 vessels during the dangerous times of World War II. Three of his vessels were torpedoed and sunk in the very next trip after he had debarked and moved onto other vessels.
After some time in New York and Georgia, the pull of the sea brought him and his wife Barbara to Owls Head in 1949. He worked as a surveyor, which led him to really get to know the geography and people of the area.
His interest in history led him to write several books which he self-published, including a history of Owls Head, Maine.
Other events in the Maritime Month speaker series will include:
Nic Damuck, president of BlueJacket Shipcrafters of Searsport, Tuesday, April 9, at 7 p.m., with a slide talk about the process of creating highly detailed scale models of ships.
Karl McKetchie, of SeaKnowledge, will present photos and video from recent scientific and archaeological explorations, Thursday, April 11, 7 p.m.
Tuesday, April 16, 7 p.m., the library will host “A Conversation with Merritt Carey,” round-the-world sailor and America's Cup team member – Merritt now lives in Yarmouth and helps run the fisherman’s co-op in Tenants Harbor.
“Pirate John” will offer poems, stories, and piracy in full pirate regalia, including tales from his dozen-plus years before the mast on schooners on the Maine coast, Saturday, April 20, 2 p.m., featuring John Bullock.
Tuesday, April 23, 7 p.m., Diane Cowan of the Lobster Conservancy will talk about “The Steamy Side of Lobsters” – a lobster, to another lobster, is more than just another pretty face on a plate.
Thew Suskiewicz, a scientist at Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences will speak on how the changes in the Gulf of Maine are affecting the ecosystem and the fishing industry, Thursday, April 25, 7 p.m..
Tuesday, April 30, at 7 p.m., Kim Huguenard, Preston Spicer, and Laura Rickard will showcase results of an ongoing, National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded citizen science project to measure storm surge in three Maine estuaries.