Discover Portsmouth Exhibits, Programs & Events

26th Annual Gingerbread House Contest

Gingerbread 2016 winner

Juror’s Selection: Youth Category – #53 Winter Log Cabin, Brett Starr. Snowy, pretzel cabin with ‘fieldstone’ fireplace, thatched roof and yard filled with evergreens.

Through Friday December 23, 2016 at Discover Portsmouth.

Free + open to the public

affordable family fun for the holidays!

Juror’s Selections:

Youth Category – #53 Winter Log Cabin, Brett Starr. Snowy, pretzel cabin with ‘fieldstone’ fireplace, thatched roof and yard filled with evergreens
Adult Category – #40 Fantasy Cottage, Joanne Nichols. Grey, shingled cottage with red trim and window boxes.
Family Category – #64 Penguin Palace, The DeCristofaro Family. Pretzel log cabin, with ‘fieldstone’ fireplace and penquins playing in snow.
Business Category – #36 Hilton Garden Inn – Robert Menard, The North Church. North Church with formed bricks, sitting on pedestal in left of gallery. [Read more…]

2016 Annual Appeal

Share Your Love of Portsmouth History!

Discover Portsmouth Exhibit

Help us continue to tell Portsmouth Stories.

Please consider making a gift to our annual appeal and help us continue to bring History, Arts, and Culture to Portsmouth and the greater Seacoast! Individual contributions are critical and make up 50% of our operating expenses.

What a year! We cannot help but look back on this year with heartfelt gratitude and pride for the tremendous amount of support we have received from the community. The exhibition Illuminating Tarbell attracted record crowds of residents and tourists, garnered national and global media coverage, and motivated many new members to join PHS. The popular Wendy Turner: Island Light exhibition rounded out the summer season, inspiring guests to build a deeper appreciation of the beauty of our rugged coast.

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Each of these shows was accompanied by a dynamic lecture series, books and related merchandise in our Museum shop. Patrons at both exhibitions were impressed at our policy to provide free public access—a cornerstone of our mission to bring history, arts and culture to the greater public. By this year’s end, PHS is on track to welcome 40,000 visitors–a 33% increase over last year.

Education about our past is the key to understanding our future, and the year 2016 saw the expansion of the Society’s informative Historic Walking Tours into a daily program available from Memorial Day to Columbus Day. These tours, which exploded in popularity and growth, were offered in addition to our Historic Preservation Tours organized by the Portsmouth Advocates and the Sankofa Tours run by our own Portsmouth Black Heritage Trail.

In addition, we’ve put a spotlight on our own comprehensive full-year Third Grade Portsmouth History Program, now celebrating its 10th anniversary. We hope to expand this program beyond the Portsmouth schools to the greater Seacoast in the future. And since no education is complete without a good book, in addition to this year’s two exhibition-related catalogues, the Portsmouth Marine Society Press has been hard at work editing a third book by scholar Pat Wall titled Lives of Consequence: Blacks of Early Kittery & Berwick in the Massachusetts Province of Maine (expected 2017). The subject matter of this book complements the popular programming of the Portsmouth Black Heritage Trail, which includes the annual Tea Talks series and the widely lauded Black New England Conference.

We’ve seen an even greater focus on the stewardship of our facilities this year— completing much-needed renovations to our beloved John Paul Jones House and also critical upgrades to our gallery and program spaces at Discover Portsmouth. Those spaces have seen even more use in 2016 by non-profits, corporations and individuals as we have watched our Rental Program continue to expand and grow.

Looking forward, Portsmouth Historical Society has ambitious plans for the rest of the season and for the upcoming year. Make sure to come see:

  • What Artists Look Like 2016 (November 4 – December 23, with opening night Friday, November 4, 5-8pm), black and white portraits of over 30 local artists, with examples of their works, by Portsmouth photographer Jay Goldsmith, accompanied by art from each artist.
  • It’s Pastel!, the New Hampshire Pastel Society’s Eighth Annual National Juried Exhibition (October 22 – November 26).
  • 26th Annual Gingerbread House Contest (Friday December 2 – 23) as part of the citywide month-long celebration, Vintage Christmas in Portsmouth. Kickoff Party Friday, December 2, 5-8pm
  • Four Centuries of Portsmouth Furniture—with the New Hampshire Furniture Masters (April 7, 2017- June 18, 2017) and Seacoast Sculpture—with the New Hampshire Potters Guild (July 7, 2017-October 1, 2017)

We would not be able to introduce, interpret, and stimulate the study of Portsmouth history, and provide this level of programming and opportunity to the community without your support.

Please keep us strong and vital as we plan for the future. Your generous donations will allow us to continue to grow our increasingly popular exhibitions, lectures, programs and tours while remaining accessible to all. Share your love of Portsmouth history – make a gift today!

You can donate online now by clicking on the button below, or send your donation to:
Portsmouth Historical Society
P.O. Box 728, Portsmouth, NH 03802

phone 603-436-8433 | email

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Thank you!

Discover Portsmouth Welcomes New Museum Shop Manager

2016 Museum Shop at Discover Portsmouth
Nov. 2016, Portsmouth NH: Cynthia Novotny uses the word “love” a lot. She loves her new job at Discover Portsmouth where she runs the Museum Shop. She loves Portsmouth and its history.

“Don’t you love this?” Cynthia says, picking up a new mug with images from the Port City. She has spent months stocking the nonprofit gift shop for the holiday season. Everything is hand picked. [Read more…]

What Artists Look Like – 2016

Jay GoldsmithExhibition opens at Discover Portsmouth

Portraits of local artists & their work,
Friday November 4- Friday December 23, 2016
Opening Night – Art ‘Round Town Friday November 4 5-8pm

Portsmouth, New Hampshire…Jay Goldsmith’s latest exhibition, “What Artists Look Like,” is an homage to the days of crisp black and white. In an age of instant digital photography and high-speed inkjet printers, he missed his old darkroom. Goldsmith’s latest exhibition, “What Artists Look Like,” is an homage to the days of crisp black and white images and hand-made prints. The free exhibition features unique portraits of Seacoast artists, and runs from Friday November 4 to Friday December 23 at Discover Portsmouth. [Read more…]

Third Grade Portsmouth History Program Celebrates Tenth Year

“Fun and accessible local history”

Third Grade History Program, Portsmouth Historical SocietyPortsmouth Historical Society created its Third Grade Portsmouth History Program in 2006 to increase understanding and enthusiasm for local history by sending our PHS educator into local classrooms for an-depth, year round educational experience. The educator develops relationships during nine visits with each class, culminating in a field trip through Portsmouth. This exposure and continuity helps children understand that local history is fun and accessible. Our solid program has strong credibility and substantial teacher support; and has the added benefit of preparing students for the state of New Hampshire’s fourth grade state history program. [Read more…]

Wendy Turner’s New Book Available

Wendy Turner Island Light

Wendy Turner – Island Light,

Carl Little, with contributions by Catherine Armsden and Mekeel McBride
Portsmouth Marine Society Publication 36
Hardcover with jacket, 112 pages, 10 x 12, full color throughout
$40.00 ISBN: 978-0-915819-44-7
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Wendy Turner’s paintings of the Maine and New Hampshire coast, from the Schoodic Point to the Isles of Shoals, done over a period of thirty-five years, demonstrate the range and talent of this artist who lives and works in Kittery Point, Maine.  While often based on the plants, water, rocks, sky, and sea life of the Seacoast in terms of their subject matter, her watercolor and oil paintings have an ineffable quality that elevates them from depictions of nature to transcendent and sublime works of art. This book follows her work through various transitions in her career, starting with her delicate watercolor images of tide pools.  Over time, her focus moved from images taken along the beach, to beautiful garden studies, and then moving on to her large tour-de-force rock and wave paintings. [Read more…]

New Book Explores the Life, Art and Process of Edmund C. Tarbell

Illuminating Tarbell is a unique two-part book devoted to the life and legacy of Edmund C. Tarbell, one of the major American Impressionist painters and the leader of the Boston School. Although often most closely associated with Boston, Tarbell maintained a home and studio in New Castle, New Hampshire, for more than thirty years and had an especially close relationship with this beautiful area.

Illuminating Tarbell: Life and Art on the Piscataqua and Legacy in ActionThis book, published to accompany an exhibition at the Portsmouth Historical Society, illustrates and discusses many of his principal works, some never published before and several recently conserved. Based on new research into the holdings of the Tarbell Charitable Trust and other sources, Jeremy G. Fogg and Christopher Volpe examine Tarbell’s career, emphasizing the importance of family and place to his artistic vision. Read more…

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A Visitor Center. A Community Center. A Nonprofit Hub.

Discover Portsmouth Center

We are dedicated to increasing public understanding and enthusiasm for local history. Our trustees, staff, sponsors, and members believe strongly that the uniqueness of Portsmouth is defined by the city’s past. Our mission is to provide a central location where, in cooperation with other groups, we can introduce, interpret, and stimulate the study of Portsmouth history.