The Adams Collection

This collection is an assemblage of work by Captain Edward H. Adams. They are photographic representations of The Adams Collection which includes about 175 of his original models and carvings. The Adams Collection was previously housed at the Sheafe Warehouse, and is now cared for by the Special Collections staff at Portsmouth Public Library, on behalf of the City of Portsmouth Trustees of the Trust.

The Captain was born Edward Hamlin Adams to Joseph and Olive Adams on October 22, 1860. Influenced by his artist mother, he began carving as a child, and started modelling his first scale gundalow in 1882. He completed it in 1886 and spent decades hauling freight and navigating the Piscataqua earning himself the title of “Captain.” Adams was a skilled builder and artist who completed his last gundalow, the Driftwood, in 1950 with his son and business partner Edward Cass Adams. Adams passed away on April 9, 1951 at the age of 91.
Between Adams’ earliest carvings and those completed by Cass after his death, more than ninety years of animal and fish carvings, ship models and other folk art are represented in this collections, each of which offer singularly unique interactions with the region’s environmental and maritime past.

As comprehensive as this collection is, it is only a portion of Capt. Adams work. Additional pieces of the Captain’s legacy exist in other local institutions and include artifacts and holdings at the Portsmouth Athenaeum, the Portsmouth Historical Society, and the Durham Historic Association Museum. Further holdings also range from the Adams family papers located in the University of New Hampshire archives, to a stunning replica gundalow, inspired by and aptly named for the man himself and sailing today courtesy of the Portsmouth Gundalow Company.

The artifacts themselves range from intricately built ship models, carved waterfowl and other regionally-specific animals to miscellaneous household items and tools. They vary widely in size and condition causing the preservation and longevity concerns of this collection to remain a chief priority and part of the emphasis in digitization.

Preservation care has included painstaking inventories with special attention paid to both long-term housing requirements, (i.e. size/weight/physical condition) and to the organization of the pieces, (i.e. chronological, thematically etc.) for the purposes of consistent tracking and physical access. The artifacts have also been photographed in order to aid in the efficiency of visual access to the physical artifacts once they are individually wrapped, while minimizing the disturbance of surrounding pieces.

The dual roles required to both maintain and preserve a physical collection alongside the creation of a digital one is a purposeful process and specific to the individual collection. In this case, the process for preserving and digitizing the Adams Collection is both driven and compounded by his beloved status in our regional history and the integrity of his contributions as a skilled gundalow captain, navigator and builder. The work of Capt. Adams remains relevant and sought after in any number of fields and venues, rendering diversity of access to his work necessary as well. All preservation and digitization research, quality control, rehousing and organization was completed by PPL Special Collections staff, Nicole Luongo Cloutier and Jessica Ross.
Browse 147 items in The Adams Collection