This summer, the Penobscot Marine Museum, located in Searsport, celebrates the “LOBSTAH.” Exhibits conceived by curator Ben Fuller, who came to the museum a year and a half ago after working many years as head curator at the Mystic Seaport Museum, include artwork with a thematic connection to lobsters and lobster fishing, lobsterboat racing, the evolution of lobster boats and gear, and lobster natural history, biology and related research. There is also a cooking series, “From Bait to Plate,” on July 21 and 28.

Visitors are introduced to the “Lobstah” celebration in the Vestry, one of 12 buildings in the mid-1800s maritime village. In the entryway, they see photographs of Maine lobstermen and women, and are invited to identify each by looking through the book the photos were taken from, “Down the Shore: The Faces of Maine’s Coastal Fisheries,” by June Kantz. Afterwards, they can duck through a simulation of a lobster trap head into an exhibit, much of it hands-on, presenting all phases of the lobster industry in Maine.

Graphs and charts on loan from the Island Institute show the spike in lobster landings in the past few years, and different types of traps illustrate the evolution of lobster fishing gear. A placard relates the curious fact that that despite trap design improvements, underwater cameras have revealed that 95 percent of the lobsters that enter a trap simply snack on the bait and go right back out the way they came in.

A touch tank holds a solitary lobster that Fuller says has been busy “altering his real estate” ever since he arrived. Fuller thinks he is digging holes in the sand and gravel in the bottom of the tank to reach the live clams brought in for his meals.

Next to the tank, a small room simulates a submarine used by fishermen and scientists to observe lobsters in their natural habitat. A five-minute segment of the award-winning video, “The Realm of the Lobster,” by Nick Caloyianis and Clarita Berger, shows among other things a lobster being devoured by a wolf fish. Audio identifies each new species as it appears on the screen.

Around a corner, adults and children can measure themselves with a human-scale lobster gauge to find out if they would be a “keeper.” They can obtain a sticker stating their size (what could be more appealing to kids?) to wear around the museum.

Visitors can step into a section of a lobster boat to enjoy a nine-minute video, “A Day in the Life of a Lobsterman,” filmed in 2004 by Josh Povee and David Conover. It features Walter Day, a lobsterman from Vinalhaven.

If a visitor wants to stick with the “Lobstah” celebration and come back later to view other exhibits, the next stop might be the Lobsterboat Racing Exhibit in the Jeremiah Merithew House. Formal racing, Fuller says, goes back to the 60s. The Lobsterboat Racing Association was established in 1991; the museum is displaying racing memorabilia and posters with the appealing caption “All Work and No Play Is No Way to Go” for all the races from 1991 to the present.

Directly across Church Street in the Nickels-Colcord-Duncan Barn and Boat House, visitors can see a 33-foot lobster boat built by Vinal Beal on Beals Island in 1950. A chart shows where the boat fished when owned by the Thompson family in Addison.

A short walk up the street, the Douglas and Margaret Carver Memorial Art Gallery holds the juried art show, “The Art of Lobstering,” which features 65 works by artists from all over Maine. Curator Fuller says when the museum put out a call for work with anything do to with lobstering it received 400 pieces from 150 artists. The variety is astonishing, including sculptures, wall hangings, pottery and paintings in all types of media – metal, wood, watercolors, oils, acrylics, mixed media and woodblock prints – in styles that vary from realistic to abstract, and portrayals from serious to whimsical. One large painting captures a large, crowded harbor scene of the sort familiar to all Maine summer boaters: every possible kind of boat is vying for its share of the waters. Other artwork depicts lobstermen, lobster pots, seascapes, wharves, fish houses, boats and of course, lobsters. Three rare Andrew Wyeth lobster watercolors hang at the entrance to the exhibit.

Once visitors have viewed the “Lobstah” presentations, they can visit other exhibits celebrating the lives and adventures of sea captains and their families whose homes were in Searsport. In the Old Town Hall, one exhibit shows Maine’s role in international seafaring and shipping, including the importance of granite from Vinalhaven and lime rock from Rockport, Rockland and Camden. Another displays beautifully composed photographs taken by Joanna Colcord when she, her mother and brother accompanied their father, a sea captain, on his journeys around the world. There are cases with numerous exquisite items that captains brought back from all over the world.

The Fowler-True-Ross House and Barn provide a glimpse into the Searsport homes life of sea captains’ families. All rooms in the home are authentically furnished, and some display a special summer exhibit that features preparations for a wedding in a captain’s family.

The museum owns an extensive collection of marine art, much of it gathered by John A.H. Carver, who was president of the museum for almost 30 years. In the Captain Jeremiah Merithew House, many paintings are on display along with a variety of exhibits, including aspects of island towns, furniture from China and the natural history of Penobscot Bay. On the second floor, paintings include what museum trustee Renny Stackpole says is “one of the most remarkable single collections” of the eminent marine artists from the Buttersworth family.

The Penobscot Marine Museum was founded in 1936. The story goes, says Stackpole, that Clifford Nickels Carver was driving with a member of the Wheatland family along Route 1 when they noticed a fellow standing beside a barn, sawing up ship half-models. They were horrified and stopped to ask the man why he was doing this. “Well,” he answered, “no one around here seems to care for these old things, and they make good kindling.”

The incident, says Stackpole, was catalyst for action among Searsport residents, including writer Lincoln Colcord, Robert Porter Nichols and Cliff Carver, all from seafaring families, to preserve the rich maritime history of Searsport (and Maine and America in general). “Ten percent of the master mariners who sailed in the American Merchant Marine between 1882 and 1890 came from Searsport,” Stackpole says, adding that in many cases, there were three generations of families who boasted captains. As the last of these captains died, says trustee Clark Nichols, who was born in the museum’s Fowler-True-Ross House, the treasures they had brought home from all over the world were being snapped up by antique dealers.

The new museum, which featured items that were loaned, then often donated by Searsport families, was first housed in the Old Town Hall, donated by the town. Over the years, money was raised to buy other properties, including three captain’s houses. (The First Congregational Church of Searsport, which is part of the museum village, is not a museum building, but does contain stained glass windows that are memorials to various seafaring families in the town.)

In 1984, the museum was given funds to build the Steven Phillips Memorial Library, which according to librarian and education director John Arrison holds 23,000 photographs, 3,000 nautical charts and 12,000 volumes, some from the mid-1700s, most the mid-1800s.

Eight of the buildings in the museum village are on the National Register for Historic Places. “It’s remarkable they have been preserved” says Stackpole, “and only by the foresight of the trustees and staff, who purchased the buildings and restored them authentically.” None of the buildings have been moved to the site from other locations. “Here we have the real thing,” Stackpole says, “a true maritime village as it was in the mid-1840s.”

The Penobscot Marine Museum is open Memorial Day weekend through the third Sunday in October, Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays 12 to 5 p.m. The Stephen Phillips Memorial Library is open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, with different hours during the rest of the year. More information can be obtained at the museum website,