At the Wisconsin Maritime Museum, there is something for everyone! Explore the streets of old Manitowoc and learn about Wisconsin’s rich shipbuilding history. We have exquisite ship models, ship engines, interactives, children’s play areas and a real WWII Submarine!

Maritime History Gallery

Step back to the 1840s and learn how shipbuilding and shipping were some of the first industries in the newly-formed state of Wisconsin. Explore the streets of old Manitowoc where shipbuilders, sailors and traders walked more than 150 years ago. Learn how Wisconsin shipyards contributed to our nation’s growth during the 20th century and its defense during WWII by building ships and submarines in Manitowoc and northeastern Wisconsin.

Model Ship Gallery

Scale models, half-hull models, and quarterboards tell of Great Lakes sailing ships and freighters, past and present, in the Model Ship Gallery. This exhibit features a shipwreck diorama featuring Edmund Fitzgerald as it looks lying deep in the waters of Lake Superior.

Chief Wawatam Steam Engine

Step into the engine room of a Great Lakes ship in the early 1900s and see a 65-ton steam engine come to life under your control. Built in 1911, this powerful triple-expansion steam engine was used by the ice-breaking car ferry Chief Wawatam to transport passengers, vehicles, and rail cars across the Straits of Mackinac.

Wisconsin-Built Boat Gallery

Renowned throughout the Great Lakes and the world, Wisconsin boat builders have a tradition of craftsmanship that goes back 150 years. Walk through the Wisconsin-Built Boat Gallery, presented by the Manitowoc Company, for a close-up view of actual boats that helped build that tradition. 

A black and white photo of a long ship called ADRIATIC. The ship has two masts and an old self unloading bucket arm.

Adriatic and the Birth of Self-Unloaders

New in 2023!

Located on the Museum’s lower level, this new exhibit is a permanent installation of self-unloading bucket technology that was salvaged from the shipwreck Adriatic in Sturgeon Bay. It also features an interactive element demonstrating how the technology worked using gears and a bucket conveyor system.

USS Cobia Below the Surface

Learn what life was like aboard Cobia during WWII, from the everyday mundane tasks to the times of sheer terror. Experience what it felt like to be in a submarine during a depth charging, the most feared anti-submarine weapon, as we recreate an actual battle from Cobia’s War Patrol log.

Wisconsin’s Underwater Treasures

Wisconsin’s Underwater Treasures highlights shipwrecks of the mid-lake region of Lake Michigan. This exhibit features new interactive kiosks and broader selection of artifacts from culturally significant shipwrecks in the Wisconsin Shipwreck Coast National Marine Sanctuary!

Children’s Waterways Room &
Aquatic Invasive Species Lab

The Children’s Waterways Room, presented by Burger Boat Company, allows children of all ages to launch boats and navigate through Wisconsin’s maritime landscape. In our Aquatic Invasive Species Lab, you can become a fisheries biologist. Read clues that lead you to information about some of the many aquatic invaders impacting the ecosystems of waterways throughout the Great Lakes.

Attack of the Sea Lampreys!

Sea lampreys are native to the Atlantic Ocean, but these snake-shaped fish slithered into the Great Lakes through shipping canals. The sea lamprey invasion really got moving after 1919, when the Welland Canal was renovated. By 1937, sea lampreys had spread to all five lakes. Since the 1950s, biologists have chemically
treated sea lamprey larvae in rivers where they hatch. The lampricide kills sea lamprey larvae but doesn’t harm other fish.  The annual cost of controlling sea lampreys is about $20 million. But this effort helps save a fishing industry worth over $7 billion.

This exhibit will be an upgrade to our existing Invasive Species Lab and will feature a freshwater tank of sea lampreys!

Little Lakefarers Room

Presented by Aurora Healthcare, this hands-on environment is a special place for young children and their parents to relax, explore, look through a periscope, play maritime games, and read about life on and near the water.

Riverside Gallery & Other Temporary Exhibits

Our lower Riverside Gallery hosts special exhibits throughout the year. Click here to view the current exhibit and other temporary displays.

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