GLOUCESTER, Mass. -- October 26, 2012 -- “Whether a kid wants to be a fisherman, a boat builder or a marine scientist, those worlds are open to them here,” said Balf. Now a year into its reincarnation from the former Gloucester Maritime Heritage Center, Maritime Gloucester is an eclectic mix of museum, classroom, woodshop and laboratory.
The red and white pinky schooner Ardelle leaves the pier behind
Maritime Gloucester frequently with a group of elementary students
They head into the harbor, learning to take water samples, assess water quality, and spot native birds.
The Ardelle serves as Maritime Gloucester’s sail-powered research
vessel and takes groups, from elementary students to undergraduates at
Endicott College, out to study the harbor. The schooner, built and
captained by Essex boat builder Harold Burnham is decked out with
Maritime Gloucester, said Mary Kay Taylor, who heads the nonprofit’s
educational programs, bases how it teaches marine science on
Gloucester’s marine and fishing history. But the Ardelle also sits, says
director Tom Balf, between Gloucester’s past, present, and future.
“Whether a kid wants to be a fisherman, a boat builder or a marine scientist, those worlds are open to them here,” said Balf.
Now a year into its reincarnation from the former Gloucester Maritime
Heritage Center, Maritime Gloucester is an eclectic mix of museum,
classroom, woodshop and laboratory.
On any given day, gig-rowing crews pound through the harbor, students
in the COMPASS alternative high-school program work in the boat shop and
visitors identify plankton through a microscope.
Maritime Gloucester essentially closes to the public at the end of this
weekend, after opening for the season in May. While the center’s
physical museum and aquarium won’t be open, staff will still be
presenting their programs in schools, and the center will host several
events though the winter months.
Through the end of November, students from the city elementary schools
are also visiting the center for marine science classes. They have six
sessions with Maritime Gloucester. Students, many of whom rush about
excitedly and eagerly call out the answers to questions posed by the
staff, learn everything from dissecting a squid and closely examining
the insides of pollack, to studying animal and plant plankton, to
learning about shipwrecks.
The schools program started with Veterans Memorial Elementary School
with Grade 3 students and expanded to include Grades 3 and Grades 5
districtwide. It’s called the Ocean Explorers program, and, in the
summer, Grades 5 and 7 students participate in a marine remote operated
vehicle (ROV) lab, run by the Gloucester Education Foundation.
Taylor said the courses and exhibits allow for hands on learning,
centered on Cape Ann’s marine environment, and it’s why touch tanks and
research projects are so important.
“The whole place is active discovery,” said Taylor, “it’s not a passive place.”
Burnham and The Ardelle started working with Maritime Gloucester last
year, but had their first full season this year. Both the boat, and the
new pier its docked on are the latest additions to the multifaceted
The pier, named for Harriet Webster, Maritime Gloucester’s first
executive director who fought tooth and nail to build it, was dedicated
this year. Balf took the helm almost a year ago, after Webster had
passed away suddenly in June 2011.
It was 12 years ago, when 300 or so residents came together and bought a
derelict piece of property on Harbor Loop, the former Burnham Brothers
marine railway and grist mill. Those residents, led by now-board
president Geoffery Richon, purchased it from the Gloucester Marine
Originally, the yard had everything you needed to outfit a schooner
hull, said Taylor. From then on, it remained a mishmash of industrial
buildings, from the old grist and lumber mill to an ice house – and a
mishmash it stayed.
The Maritime Gloucester buildings take up the tip of Harbor Loop,
stretching out to a newly rebuilt pier. To the left is the old grist
mill, now the Dory Shop, run by Geno Mondello. To the right, a large red
building forms the center of the the harborfront museum, joining an
exhibit on Stellwagen Bank with the Gorton’s Seafoods Gallery.
The gallery houses “Fitting out” an exhibit that looks at industries
that supported the Gloucester Fishing fleet at the start of the 20th
Beneath this complex of buildings is Paul Harling’s Dive Locker. The
locker, an old “mug-up” room for dive workers, showcases old diving
suits, helmets, and occasionally Stubby, the Harbor Loop cat.
Read the full story in the Gloucester Times