The nearly 3,000 items in this collection offer a comprehensive overview of the development of the oceangoing passenger ship from the 1870s until its demise about a century later. The collection includes ships’ plans, brochures, pamphlets, postcards, rate cards, menus, passenger lists, snapshots and postcards, and a selection of reference books.
The Morse collection was fully inventoried and catalogued, by maritime historian Lincoln Paine. Norman H. Morse (1921-2011) began collecting ocean liner ephemera at the age of fourteen and it remained a lifelong passion. After studying architecture at the College of William and Mary, Morse joined the real estate offices of the Astor and Whitney families, for which he made occasional transatlantic passages to Great Britain and Europe. He retired to Portland in 1988. Morse specifically wished for his collection to remain accessible to students, historians, and others interested in travel and passenger shipping. To mark his donation of his collection to OML in 2009, OML mounted the exhibition, Triumph of the Passenger Ship: Highlights from the Norman H. Morse Ocean Liner Collection, 1870-2010 (2012).