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.

Experience the history of Cape Cod through our newest exhibit, Main Street Cape Cod. In collaboration with 22 museums and historical societies across Cape Cod, the Atwood Museum invites you to journey the historic main streets of the each town.

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

In honor of the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II, the Durand Room has been transformed into a special exhibit that takes the visitor on an audio and visual experience. Relive one of the most important times in world history as the Atwood Museum brings to life the significant battles, leaders, and women that helped America win the war. Don’t miss some of FDR’s famous speeches through the backdrop of his fireside chats and the world famous painting of FDR by local artist Alice Stallknecht. Also learn about the role that Chatham played in the war, including the story of two young boys who discovered a Nazi spy hideout on Morris Island.

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.