Opening April 3, 2019 for the 103rd Season!

New England Folk

According to Edgar Allen Beem, an art critic and free-lance writer in Maine, in a June 11, 2008 article in Yankee Magazine, “Folk Art is the art of the people, a more humble manifestation of the human experience perhaps but much more authentic than much of the artifice that passes as fine art today”.

Characteristically folk art is not influenced by movements in academic or fine art circles, and, in many cases, folk art excludes works executed by professional artists and sold as “high art” or “fine art”. In contrast to fine art, folk art is primarily utilitarian and decorative rather than purely aesthetic. It was never intended to be ‘art for art’s sake’ at the time of its creation. Folk Art may be characterized by a naive style, in which traditional rules of proportion and perspective are not employed.

Folk art expresses cultural identity by conveying shared community values and aesthetics. The varied geographical and temporal prevalence and diversity of folk art make it difficult to describe as a whole, though some patterns have been demonstrated.

It encompasses a range of utilitarian and decorative media, including cloth, wood, paper, clay, metal and more. If traditional materials are inaccessible, new materials are often substituted, resulting in contemporary expressions of traditional folk art forms.

It may be learned formally or informally; folk art may also be self-taught. It is of, by, and for the people; all people, inclusive of class, status, culture, community, ethnicity, gender, and religion

Terms that might overlap with folk art are naïve art, tribal art, primitive art, popular art, outsider art, traditional arttramp art and working-class art/blue-collar art. As one might expect, these terms can have multiple and even controversial connotations but are often used interchangeably with the term “folk art”.

The recent resurgence of the DIY movement and the internet’s most creative online marketplaces has allowed for spaces where contemporary folk art lives and thrives.

This exhibit presents folk art and more from the 1700’s through the present time. Some pieces may be considered “Naïve”, “Outsider” or “Tramp Art”. Others represent contemporary crafts and perhaps, even “Fine Art”. It includes a variety of media; basketry, quilts, pottery, scrimshaw, collage, silhouettes, paintings, wood and slate carvings, and stained glass. Some of the artist are self-taught and some have had formal training. All objects relate in some way to New Englanders.

Please also visit to learn about the New Hampshire Folk Art program (April 5 – Sept. 29) at Discover Portsmouth’s Academy Gallery.



Woodman House

Built in 1818 as the residence of Charles and Annie Woodman, The Woodman House today is a unique example of an authentic 20th-century museum. It now houses the Natural History and Veteran Memorial sections and contains extensive and well-preserved collections of local area interest.

The War Memorial Museum The top floor of the Woodman House houses an extensive collection of Civil War artifacts and memorabilia, as well as other collections from wars in which local citizens participated.

Among the many items of interest, one of the ten known “Napoleon” Civil War cannons, complete with its original caisson. Batteries of these guns stopped Pickett’s famous charge at Gettysburg.

Birds & Butterflies The Museum’s first curator, Melville J. Smith, created a series of wonderful dioramas to showcase the Museum’s excellent collection of birds. Shore and land birds in their natural settings and several specimens of Arctic Owls are displayed. An additional room is devoted to dioramas of tropical birds.

Several wall-mounted displays show off a beautiful assortment of jewel-toned moths, butterflies, and insects from nearby locales and the tropics.

Rocks and More Rocks An excellent mineral collection which includes nearly 1300 outstanding specimens. There are hundreds of fossils, collections of area rocks, and displays of dynamic geology.

Native American Artifacts A large display of Native American artifacts includes pieces from the Madbury Culture that lived in this area three to six thousand years ago, as well as the famous Red Paint Culture of nearby Maine. Interesting Incan items from South America are also on display.

Mammals & Marine Life  The museum’s first-floor gallery houses a large display of mammals and marine life with emphasis on the wildlife of New England. Included in the exhibit is a mounted specimen of the last cougar killed in New Hampshire — in nearby Lee in 1853, as well as a 10-foot polar bear killed by a Dover man near the Siberian coast in 1969. If sharks fascinate you, don’t miss the museum’s Marine Room where you can see a blue shark caught off the coast of Ogunquit Maine, or visually feast on a 27-pound lobster, a large green turtle, or a man-killing bivalve clam found off the Australian coast.

Snakes & Turtles A collection of snakes and turtles and a cabinet filled with botanical oddities are also housed in this section.

Childhood Gallery If you’re a doll lover, former or current Boy or Girl Scout, or if you simply want to show your children how kids used to entertain themselves, please visit our childhood room.

Learn more

Woodman Museum