2020 exibition logo.jpg
We are excited to be planning the 2020 exhibition
at the CHO!
Virtual tour click here

This exhibition has been organized to honor the Native Americans, the first European settlers, the founding families and the early settlements of the Outer Cape in the 1600s. It continues the Pilgrim story of migration from Plymouth to Outer Cape Cod, then called “Nawsett” (today’s Nauset), and describes the lives of the first generations of families that settled here.

Our presentation begins with the region’s Native American tribes and their initial encounters--peaceful and not--with early European explorers and then the Pilgrims on the Mayflower. Next we recount the expeditions launched from Plymouth to Nauset to find more fertile land to expand and sustain the colony.

Finding that the Outer Cape offered better prospects, at least for some, the Plymouth Colony Court in 1644 gave land grants to each of seven families to settle the area that today includes parts of Orleans and Wellfleet, and all of Eastham. We explore the backgrounds of these founding families, and the imprint their first and second generations left on our history.

In our final section, the everyday lives of the founding families are recounted, including their homes, clothing, diet and customs. Some practices will seem strange to us today, while others (such as children’s games) will sound quite familiar.

Until we can re-open the Meetinghouse Museum under state COVID-19 guidelines, a virtual tour (click here) of the exhibition will be presented to you in this 400th anniversary year of the Pilgrims’ landing in Provincetown and then Plymouth. Please come back and see us, and bring your other family members and friends, to fully experience the exhibition and displays in person.

Models of Maritime

May 19 - September 29, 2019

Thur, Fri, Sun 1-4pm, Meetinghouse Museum


Admission: $7 Adults; $5 for Seniors

Free for OHS Members, Students and Veterans


The Orleans Historical Society has brought together important items from its collection and other museums/private collectors on Cape Cod to showcase the entrepreneurial spirit of living by the sea.  The exhibit will include ship models and other artifacts that tell its story in dramatic form as only people of Cape Cod can do. Designed by Dr. Edith Tonelli, Guest Curator, the exhibit is sure to fascinate viewers of all ages.

Attack on Orleans! The German Submarine Attack off Nauset Beach on July 21, 1918


Marking  the 100th anniversary of the German U-boat attack on the tugboat Perth Amboy off the coast of Orleans. The shelling of the tug and the barges that it was towing was the only German attack on American soil during WW I.
In addition to an exhibit, there are other special events marking the centennial. 
Outermost Inspirations
July 26- August 22, 2018
This past winter, Orleans was again reminded how nature can change our coastline as Beston’s The Outermost House taught us 90 years ago. The Historical Society has been saving photographic and physical evidence of these changes, but the Addison Gallery’s artists are recording the soul and beauty of these changes.  We are excited to be working on this exhibit with Helen Addison. Our mission is to bring history and culture to Orleans and this involves finding different ways to look at the heritage of this wonderful town. Since its beginning, the Addison Gallery has had a solid record of showing how these historical landscapes are being seen by today's artists.  We are looking forward to this fresh perspective and the beginning of a great partnership.
Special events associated with the exhibit 
Afternoon Curl | pastel | Amy Sanders
 Afternoon Curl | pastel | Amy Sanders
Walking the Beach | oil on canvas | Paul Schulenburg
Walking the Beach | oil on canvas | Paul Schulenburg
The CG 36500


The story of the CG36500's famed rescue of 32 people off of the oil tanker Pendleton, which broke apart in a storm in February of 1952. It was the most famous small-boat rescue in Coast Guard history and was featured in Disney's film The Finest Hours. The actual boat can be seen elsewhere.