Nantucket Museums & Historical Sites
With numerous museums, Nantucket’s rich history and culture is available for all visitors to discover – and most are within walking distance of The Nantucket Hotel!
The Whaling Museum
Renovated in 2005, the Whaling Museum includes a fully-restored 1847 spermaceti candle factory, a forty-six foot sperm whale skeleton and top-quality exhibition halls displaying hundreds of artifacts, including a world-class collection of scrimshaw, paintings, furniture, lightship baskets, samplers and clothing. Visitors can also climb the grand stairwell to the rooftop observation deck for a one-of-a-kind view of Nantucket harbor.
Quaker Meeting House
Built in 1838 as a school for the Society of Friends, or Quakers as they are known today, the Quaker Meeting House provides an appropriate setting for presenting the Nantucket Quakerism story. It is still used in the summer months for regular meetings of the Religious Society of Friends and is open to visitors.
Oldest House & Kitchen Garden
The Jethro Coffin House is the oldest island residence retaining its original foundation. It dates to the period of Nantucket’s first European settlement. A period kitchen garden is located behind the property and features a wide array of plantings, recreating what would have been common in the 1700s.
Built in 1746 this mill is the oldest functioning mill in the country! It is a famous and often photographed Nantucket landmark and interesting to visit.
Nantucket Shipwreck & Lifesaving Museum
During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the men of the United States Lifesaving Service performed hundreds of rescues off the coast of Nantucket. Learn about their selfless acts of courage and the Island’s maritime history at the recently renovated Shipwreck & Lifesaving Museum. The museum’s grounds offer breathtaking views of Folger’s Marsh and are ideal for picnicking.
The Admiral Sir Isaac Coffin School
The historic Coffin School was founded in 1827 by Admiral Sir Isaac Coffin, an English baronet who intended to provide “a good English education to youth who are descendents of the late Tristram Coffin” (almost every child on Nantucket), including nautical training for Island boys. Currently, the Coffin School welcomes visitors to experience educational and entertaining speaker programs that explore topics related to Nantucket’s maritime traditions, culture and history, in addition to showing classic maritime movies in July and August.
The Nantucket Lightship Basket Museum
The rich heritage of the lightship basket reflects the spirit and creative spark of the people who made them and inspires the work of those who keep the art alive today. Today, the lightship basket is recognized internationally as a Nantucket icon. Both annual and permanent exhibits, guest speakers, weaving demonstrations and tours of the 1820s-era garden are offered throughout the season.
The Nantucket Atheneum is one of the oldest public libraries in continuous service in the United States. Once attracting prominent 19th century speakers – including Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Lucretia Mott and Frederick Douglas – the Great Hall on the second floor now serves as a free research and information area with reference books and public access computers. The Weezie Library for Children offers year-round programs, including storytelling, music, puppet shows and Family Nights, and features a vibrant selection of material for Island youth. The adjoining Atheneum Garden provides a welcome downtown green space for relaxing, playing or quiet reading.
The Maria Mitchell Association
Maria Mitchell, America’s first female astronomer, was born and raised on Nantucket Island. From a telescope placed atop the Pacific National Bank, she sighted the comet that brought her international fame. The Maria Mitchell Association educates adults and children in astronomy, environmental science and Island history through various programs and facilities.
Located on Nantucket Harbor, the Aquarium is “cozy” and exhibits Nantucket marine life. It also offers ecology and beach discovery field trips for families with younger children.
The African Meeting House
This small post-and-beam building is the nation’s second-oldest church structure still standing and was built by free African Americans for their use. The African Meeting House, and adjacent Seneca Boston-Florence Higginbotham House, are the only public structures remaining on the island that are identifiably central to the African American community’s 18th and 19th-century American history. The first Africans on Nantucket were slaves, but when slavery was abolished on the Island in 1773, they became vital contributors to the community as whalers, tradesmen, barbers and clergy.