Man and Mollusk: A History of Shellfishing on Cape Cod

This 2018 exhibit, Man and Mollusk: A History of Shellfishing on Cape Cod, showed the many kinds of shellfish found in our waters and the vintage tools that were used to gather them, as well as the use of quahog shells by the Wampanoag Indians to present-day oyster farming by local fishermen.

Thanks to Tom Chilton and Bob Grosch for curating this exhibit.

The Various Collections

The Museum Archives include general collections, family collections, photograph collections, an artifact collection, an oral history collection and a library.

For more information about any of the collections contact the Museum Archivist, Colleen Hurter, at

The General Collection

The general collection contains papers of Woods Hole organizations, churches, business records, a few Cape Cod ship and maritime logs, genealogies and house histories, and numerous maps, charts, and plans. The links and material below delineate the content of our collections in more detail.

General Collection   Family and Individual Collections   Photo Collections

The Photograph Collection

At Quissett Beach. A photo from the Marshall Family Collection

The photograph collection contains over 5000 photos of Woods Hole and Quissett going back to the 1850s, including family albums and photos, village scenes, boats, yachts, steamships, pictures of the early days of the scientific community starting in the 1880s with the U.S. Fish Commission and the Marine Biological Laboratory, as well as albums showing MBL activities in the 1920s and 1930s.

You can browse through over 3000 photos from our collection by clicking here. 

The Baldwin Coolidge Collection
A prized part of the photo archive is the Baldwin Coolidge Collection. Mr. Coolidge was a Boston photographer who worked extensively in the Woods Hole area from the early 1890s to about 1910. Our collection of his works contains 100 original prints and two glass plate negatives, as well as 100 more sepia and black and white copy prints.

The Museum has published a book of Coolidge’s photos, New England Views: The Photography of Baldwin Coolidge (1845-1928).

The Painting and Artifacts Collection

The painting collection includes artwork by William H. Littlefield, Peggy Clark Kelly, R. Swain Gifford, Dr. Leroy M. Yale, Jr., Franklin Lewis Gifford, artwork by and of members of the Fay family, and paintings and artwork by many local artists. The archives houses an extensive clothing collection dating from the 1840s to the 1930s; in addition there are a few quilts and paisley shawls. Other artifacts include ephemera, china, tools, crafts, maritime objects and boat models pertaining to the village of Woods Hole and environs.

The Oral History Collection and the Reading Room

The Oral History Collection contains over 600 recordings of interviews and “conversations” (public talks) with local residents and visiting scientists, collected since 1974. About 200 of these have been transcribed. The collection is constantly added to by digital recordings made from the monthly Conversation program. Most recordings are available in digital form.

The library is shelved in the research Reading Room at Bradley House and contains over 300 reference books on maritime history, boat building, Woods Hole, Cape and Islands history, Massachusetts history and some genealogy. Books are for reference only and may not be withdrawn. To see the library catalog, click here.

Maritime Records, Ship & Whaling Logs

The collection includes three types of records: Maritime Account Ledgers, Whaling Logs and accounts of voyages on other ships. The following are in the collection:

1. Bar Neck Wharf Company ledgers (facsimile) 1827-1840
2. Bar Neck Wharf Company ledgers 1853-1867
3. E. Swift & Co. ledger 1857, 1858, 1859
4. J. & E. Swift Co. ledger, Live Oak and Cedar, 1856-1860


1. Log books of Amulet* and Hippogriffe 1847-1849
2. Abstract log of Hippogriffe 1858
3. Abstract log of Kit Carson 1861-1862

1. Log book of the Hobomok* August 12, 1848-April 27, 1853
2. Log book of the Hobomok* 1853-1855
3. Log book of the Hobomok* 1856
* indicates volume has been digitized

Journal of the Voyage of the Schooner Louisa A., 1880