Nantucket Lightship Basket Museum History

The Nantucket Lightship Basket Museum (NLBM) was founded in 1997 with the purpose of preserving Nantucket’s rich history of lightship-basket making through public education and creating a permanent home for the display of lightship baskets, both historic and contemporary. The original museum was funded in large part by Nantucket basket makers.

The museum opened in 2000 at 49 Union Street, Nantucket, featuring a portion of the workshop of well-known island basketmaker José Formoso Reyes (1902–1980) and displays of historic baskets. Each year the museum hosted a special exhibition focused on aspects of island basket tradition and modern practice, and sponsored youth weaving classes to perpetuate the art form. The museum compiled biographies of significant basket makers and gathered a permanent collection of baskets which includes examples by Rowland Folger, Captain Thomas James, William Appleton, José Reyes, Stephen Gibbs, Susan Ottison, Karol Lindquist, and many others.

In 2021, the Nantucket Lightship Basket Museum affiliated with the Nantucket Historical Association, acknowledging that education and scholarship are key tenets of both institutions. As a result of this affiliation, basket making has been integrated into the NHA’s year-round offerings of craft classes for children, youth and adults; and it has been manifested in NHA’s scholarship, publications, oral histories and in-person and virtual programming.

The Reyes workshop is now on display in the Decorative Arts Gallery at the Whaling Museum, and the annual basket exhibit is open every summer at Hadwen House on Main Street.

The NHA is pleased to support the original NLBM mission to promote the awareness and appreciation of lightship baskets and their makers, by educating and engaging the public about the complexity of this art form unique to Nantucket, and placing it within a broader context of related crafts. We are proud to be “Weaving Nantucket’s Past into its Future.”

The Nantucket Historical Association preserves and interprets the history of Nantucket through its programs, collections, and properties, in order to promote the island’s significance and foster an appreciation of it among all audiences.

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