New England is dotted with maritime museums, owing to the region’s rich seafaring past. But this quaint Massachusetts museum boasts a historical treasure most others don’t: an entire exhibit dedicated to the Irish mossing industry.
Scituate, a small coastal town, was long a hub for harvesting Irish moss, a seaweed commonly used as a thickening agent in products like toothpaste, ice cream, and even some medicines. Scituate locals harvested the red plant for about a century, until the industry shuttered in the late 1990s due to competition from foreign markets.
Harvesting Irish moss was grueling, physically demanding work that often resulted in little pay. At the Maritime and Mossing Museum, you’ll learn all about the industry, and get to see the tools of the trade like various creels and rakes. You’ll also find exhibits on the fisherman who started the town’s moss harvesting industry, an Irishman named Daniel Ward.
The museum offers more than just moss harvesting history. Part of it is also dedicated to the local shipbuilding industry, as well as the many local shipwrecks. In those exhibits, you’ll find a nautical chart mapping Scituate shipwrecks, artifacts recovered from an 1853 wreck, and information about other wrecks from the 19th and 20th centuries. The Lifesaving Room details the heroic efforts of those in the Massachusetts Human Society, which is dedicated to saving shipwrecked sailors.
Know Before You Go
The museum is open on Sundays from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. It won't take you long to see everything, but it is quirky and well put together. Its exhibitions and events are always changing, so you never know what you may find!