The Museum Galleries
The galleries and permanent exhibits on the ground floor of the Museum are shown below. You can preview items from our galleries available on our Pinterest page.
Ground Floor Plan
The Old House
The Old House is the original Atwood House built in the 1750s by Captain Joseph Atwood. The house remained in the Atwood family until the 1920s when the Chatham Historical Society was formed and purchased the building. Explore with a docent or audio guide, the seven rooms on the ground floor containing objects from the 1700s – 1900s showing three centuries of family life on Cape Cod. An additional room, Marjorie’s kitchen was added in the 1830s.
The Main Exhibit Gallery
The Main Exhibit Gallery is a rotating gallery highlighting the rich history of Chatham and Cape Cod.
Our current exhibits are Weird, Wacky, Wonderful: Curiosities from the Collection and the Clubs of Chatham: A Century of Summer Leisure. Weird, Wacky, Wonderful is a bold new exhibit showing off some of the most fascinating objects collected by the Historical Society over the last hundred years. You will be wowed by a brass speaking trumpet, a collection of old tonsillectomy tools, a hair art wreath, and many more amazing oddities!
The Clubs of Chatham shows off the long and storied histories of five of Chatham’s most prominent summer clubs. Our exhibit features five displays from the Chatham Beach and Tennis Club, the Chatham Yacht Club, Eastward Ho!, the Monomoy Yacht Club, and the Stage Harbor Yacht Club.
The Fisheries Gallery
This gallery highlights the four kinds of commercial fishing most prominent in this area: line fishing, weir or trap fishing, shell fishing, and lobstering.
The Joseph A. Nickerson Jr. Portrait Gallery
Our two newest exhibits adorn the Joseph A. Nickerson Portrait Gallery for 2020. The Turning Point is our tribute to the 400th anniversary of the Pilgrims coming to the New World. This exhibit showcases the many challenges they faced as they sailed here on the Mayflower, including the critical “Turning Point” off the shores of Chatham that changed the course of history. The other new exhibit in the Portrait Gallery, The Wampanoags, highlights, the original settlers in the area. Maps, artifacts, and informational timelines create a compelling story for our visitors.
The Tool Room
A variety of tools, trade signs, and other artifacts make up the tool collection. These objects date from early the 1800s thru the early 1900s. Highlighting the Tool Room Exhibit is the restored Atwood Store Sleigh, discovered in the basement of the Eldredge Garage before the building was demolished. The sleigh is about 150 years old and emblazoned with “Atwood Store” and “Groceries” in gold lettering on its dark green paint. It has a long, open bed to accommodate large, unwieldy loads, and iron runners that curve up at the front. As with the other parts of the Collection, nearly all items were donated by individuals with Chatham connections.
The Lighthouse Turret
From 1808 until 1923, ships in the Atlantic knew they were off Chatham, MA when they saw the town’s famous twin lights. In 1857, the lights were equipped with Fresnel lenses so they would project the beam farther out to sea. Relocation to the Atwood Museum was made possible by the daughters of Mrs. Fannie Lewis Shattuck. Restoration to the lantern room is a direct result of generous grants from the Community Preservation Trust Fund & the Cape Cod Five Cents Savings Bank Charitable Foundation.
The Joseph C. Lincoln Room
Joseph Crosby Lincoln (February 13, 1870 – March 10, 1944) Although born in Brewster, Joseph Lincoln’s adopted home was Chatham, and many of his 50 books, including 38 novels and several collections of short stories, verse, and personal reminiscences of Cape Cod, were written in his home on Shore Road. Lincoln’s works were bestsellers during the first half of the 20th century. Lincoln’s stories bring to life the people and the times of Chatham and Cape Cod during 19th and early 20th centuries.
This gallery was updated in 2018 and converted into a writer’s den reflecting the author’s inspirations and influences of today’s local novelists.
The Durand Room
Alice Stallknecht’s dynamic mural paintings are one of the highlights of the Atwood Museum. The Chatham Historical Society has several other paintings by the artist in the collection. Stallknecht’s lesser known works continue her devotion to her home of Chatham. A series of whimsical scenes, the work captures her unique perspective on the Cape Cod Region. Smaller in scale than her celebrated mural paintings, these images provoke the imagination, and demonstrate Stallknecht’s singular vision.
Alice Stallknecht painted Chatham. Townspeople, birds, boats, and weathervanes were her inspiration. Fiercely independent, Stallknecht created a body of work that is unique but also earned her place amongst American Regionalist Painters. American Regionalism became one of the dominant national art movements in the 1930s. American Regionalism strived to represent the conditions of the working class Americans.
The Stallknecht Mural Barn
Perhaps one of the most unique displays at the museum are these murals that provide a picture of a small town in the 1930s and 1940s. The murals were executed during that period by noted local artist Alice Stallknecht Wight. All of the people represented in the murals were residents of Chatham when Alice Stallknecht painted them.
The Nickerson North Beach Camp
This simple beach camp was used by the Joshua Nickerson family as a summer cottage. The building was located in Chatham in an area known as North Beach, a long point which once extended from Orleans to Chatham.
For many years, North Beach was a favorite place to get away from one’s daily life and live more simply. When erosion threatened the camp, it was floated across the water in the spring of 1991, and given to the Museum by the son of Joshua Nickerson. The North Beach landmass continues to change over time as the sands move rapidly along its coast. Currently it is divided by water (or breaks) in several places. Fortunately, the Nickerson North Beach Camp is now safely located on the Museum grounds.
The Spencer Y. Grey Maritime Gallery
Double-Take: Historical & Current Panoramic Photographs of Chatham features panoramic images of various locations and landscapes taken in the early 1900s and pairs them with photographs of the same places today. Visitors can view vistas like the iconic Twin Lights of the past next to the lighthouse today; Stage Harbor then and now; Mill Pond and more.
The exhibit was curated and sponsored by the Atwood’s Archivist Jean Young and her husband, photographer Andrew Young. In order to support research, educational programs, and more, custom prints and a coffee table book of images from this exhibit are available for sale through the gift shop.
The Atkins-Kent Gallery
The Atkins-Kent Gallery highlights the Pendleton Disaster and the Coast Guard Rescue by four brave men who saved a crew of thirty-two from the five hundred foot sinking tank vessel. Also highlighted in this gallery is the exhibit about lifesaving and the history of the Coast Guard.
The Wendy Wade Costello Gallery
The Wendy Wade Costello Gallery can be found on the lower level of the museum and is open on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 2-4 pm by request. The gallery features a selection of nautical charts and other documents from our extensive collection that is representative of Chatham’s maritime heritage.