The core of the Wellfleet Historical Society and Museum lies in its collections which have been assembled over the last sixty years and housed in two adjacent buildings near the center of town. The collections are broad and eclectic and consist of objects, documents, letters, maps, photographs, and art. Of particular richness are materials that reflect Wellfleet’s history as a village largely dependent on the sea for its livelihood. There are models, photographs and paintings of dories, fishing schooners and “coasters,” the moderate size schooners that transported goods and people from Nova Scotia to Florida and beyond. Nautical items such as 18th and 19th century ships’ logs, quarterboards, brass sextants and box compasses illuminate Wellfleet’s seafaring history and noted ship captains. Further fleshing out the story of the town’s commercial prominence in fishing and maritime transport are containers for shipping oysters and mackeral, handwritten account books and receipts from the ships, commercial wharves and stores that reveal what was bought and sold, to whom and where.
Complementing the maritime materials are agricultural tools, household objects and furniture, toys, and textiles. There are hundreds of photographs documenting Wellfleet’s buildings and infrastructure: homes, churches, schools, libraries, and inns, as well as roads, railroads, bridges, dikes, and wharves. The collection also includes maps, site plans, news documents, and photographs that document the development of Wellfleet’s vibrant tourism industry from the late 1800’s to the present.