Maine Maritime Museum Benefits from a Sea of Dedicated Volunteers

In 2022, 240 of them logged 18,602 service hours.

From left to right, Beth Holmberg, Mary Schreiber, and Ellen Whiting, Maine Maritime Museum volunteers
From left to right, volunteers Beth Holmberg, Mary Schreiber, and Ellen Whiting. Photos by Dave Waddell

Beth Holmberg, a certified journeyman blacksmith, first discovered Maine Maritime Museum while visiting from San Diego, and was impressed by the expansive campus. “I walked in the door and they said, would you be interested in a boat ride on the Kennebec?” She also checked out the on-site forge and talked shop with Michael Hetzel, the museum’s founding blacksmith. When she and her spouse moved to Maine a few years later, Holmberg reached out to Hetzel to see if he knew of any blacksmithing opportunities. Instead, he convinced her to join him. “One enthusiastic volunteer recruited another,” Holmberg says.

Now, she spends one day a week educating visitors while forging items for the museum store. She loves the view, but she counts how the organization manages its volunteers as the biggest bonus. “Maine Maritime Museum respects that we’re offering our time, and that we are not interchangeable,” she says. “We each bring different skills and interests to the museum. It is nice to have that appreciated.”

Mary Schreiber, a retired educator from New York, first heard about Maine Maritime Museum when her Topsham retirement community hosted a volunteer recruitment event. Now, she’s a docent at the Donnell House, the Victorian home of a shipbuilder, spending five to seven hours a week at the museum. “It’s very easy to be there, and to do a little extra when you can,” she says. “It may be hokey, but it feels like a second home.”

Schreiber credits some of the museum’s continued popularity to the “young people” at the helm, and the excitement and energy they bring to campus. But she also recognizes the role her fellow volunteers play. “There’s a buoyancy people feel when they’re there. That’s what our job is,” she says. “Maine is the way life should be. We’re giving people a little taste of Maine, and how kind and friendly people can be.”

Maine Maritime Museum Volunteering by the Numbers

Numbers tallied November 1, 2021 – October 31, 2022


Active volunteers


New volunteers in 2022


Volunteers with 25 years of service or more


Total logged volunteer hours

Ellen Whiting, a Bangor native who spent her career as a professor in Ohio, retired to Bath and heard about the museum from a neighbor. At a volunteer orientation program, the man running the session on historic shipyard tours looked right at Whiting and said they wanted more women on their team. Now, she is chair of the volunteer council and an ex officio member of the board of trustees, and she spends time each week acquainting guests with the only remaining intact shipyard in the country that constructed large wooden sailing vessels. “I give a very informal, 45-minute tour, and I allow a lot of interaction,” Whiting says. “By the end, I feel like I could go to dinner with the visitors. There’s intimacy that builds.”

Whiting says the museum has helped her realize that history is just storytelling. She also enjoys the advantages that come with volunteer work. “There’s something unique about being free from the responsibilities of being an employee,” Whiting says. “I had never volunteered before, but my life is very rich because of it.”

To learn more, visit 243 Washington St., Bath. 207-443-1316.