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Nantucket museums offer a glimpse into what life was like during the Island's golden era as the whaling capital of the world. Meet the family founders, explore Nantucket’s whaling history, learn the history of the island’s famous lighthouses, or meet one of American’s most fascinating women, Nantucket native Maria Mitchell, astronomer, naturalist, librarian, and educator.
If you only have time for one, be sure and visit the Whaling Museum to learn more about Nantucket's rich maritime history as the whaling capital of the world. But if time permits, fit in as many Nantucket museums as you can - you’ll be educated, enlightened and entertained!
Egan Maritime Institute
4 Winter Street
Located at the historic Coffin School, an impressive 1854 Greek Revival-style building in the heart of Nantucket Town, the Egan Maritime Institute is the island’s only non-profit organization devoted exclusively to celebrating Nantucket’s seafaring heritage. The Egan Maritime Institute maintains a collection of fine art, maritime books and artifacts related to the maritime world. The museum is open to the public, but it is primarily a research museum, and there were no exhibits on our last visit.
Maria Mitchell Natural Science Museum
7 Milk Street
The Maria Mitchell Association operates two observatories, a natural science museum, an aquarium, and preserves the historic birthplace of Maria Mitchell. A wide variety of science and history-related programming is offered throughout the year for people of all ages.
Museum of African American History
29 York Street
The Museum of African American History on Nantucket features two historic sites, the African Meeting House and the Florence Higginbotham House. These buildings were at the center of a thriving nineteenth-century African American community on the island. The Museum presents cultural programs and interpretive exhibits on the history of African Americans on Nantucket and offers guided tours of Nantucket’s Black Heritage Trail.
For more information on the Black Heritage Trail, click here!
Nantucket Lightship Basket Museum
49 Union Street
Lightship baskets are unique to the island of Nantucket. The Museum exhibits and documents a wide range of Lightship Baskets from the earliest forms created in the 1850s to present-day creations. The Nantucket Lightship Basket Museum plays an important part in preserving Nantucket’s historic heritage.
Nantucket Ship Wreck and Life-Saving Museum
4 Winter Street
Treacherous shoals and inclement weather led to over 700 shipwrecks in the surrounding waters of Nantucket, causing the area to be dubbed “a graveyard of the Atlantic.” The Nantucket Shipwreck & Lifesaving Museum preserves the memory of those Islanders who risked their lives performing rescues so that others might live.
13 Broad Street
Our favorite Nantucket museum! Restored in 2005, the Nantucket Whaling Museum features a restored 1847 candle factory, world-class exhibits and demonstrations, a fully accessible rooftop observation deck overlooking Nantucket harbor, and the skeleton of a 46-foot sperm whale.
In 2008, the whaling museum received accreditation from the American Association of Museums, an honor bestowed upon fewer than one of every twenty-two museums in the country.
For more information on current exhibits, and the informative and entertaining programs and lectures: Nantucket Whaling Museum.
Be sure to check out the Museum Shop at 11 Broad Street. It is one of the best gift shops on the Island!