Dr. Charles Burden relaxes by his bar enjoying a martini while he reads The Times Record newspaper. Photo by Benjamin Bisson

BATH — A local pediatrician who cared for Bath-area kids for more than four decades and helped shape local history as one of the founders of the Maine Maritime Museum died Saturday.

Dr. Charles Burden, 87, was born in and raised in Bath, serving the area as a pediatrician for 44 years. He treated about 10,000 Midcoast children over the course of his career, according to a 2018 Times Record column.

Burden’s son, Benjamin Burden, said his father worked long hours at his practice and also made house calls throughout the area.

“But he’s always been industrious,” Benjamin Burden said. As a boy his father worked for the Bath Daily Times and would gather trucks full of newspapers because there were paper shortages during World War II. He also went lobstering in the summer during high school and college, and built a wharf on Birch Point in West Bath that provided fuel and bait.

Dr. Charles Burden and his daughter, Heidi, pictured circa 1961. Photo courtesy of the Burden family

In an interview with Zac McDorr, Charles Burden said he liked history in high school but became truly engaged in the city’s maritime history when became curious about the house in which he lived. It was once the home of Bath shipbuilder John Patten. He was told he could join the Marine Research Society of Bath being formed at the time, “and I could learn all I wanted to.”

In 1964, Charles Burden and Bill Mussenden co-founded the Bath Marine Museum, which is now Maine Maritime Museum, according Burden’s obituary. The museum first opened at 38 Centre St, where Byrnes Pub is now located. It’s now on Washington Street.

Charles Burden served as the museum’s director and exhibits curator for the first eight years. He served on the museum board for 53 years and was involved to the end, according to Christopher Timm, the chief curator and director of external affairs for the Maine Maritime Museum.

It was Charles Burden’s involvement in the marine research society that steered it toward being a museum rather than a social group, as he thought about how best to share the stories with the public, Timm said.

Dr. Charles Burden, one of the three young boys pictured, instigated a newspaper collection effort in the Bath area 1940’s during a paper shortage. Photo courtesy of the Burden family

Over 50 years, Charles Burden donated well over 7,000 artifacts to the museum collection, Timm said. Burden’s interest in artifacts, known as the material culture, shaped the museum’s trajectory and put it in a position to be something much bigger and broader than just a place for people interested in local history.

“He really had a love for the place and it was mutual,” Timm said.

Charles Burden’s passion for history expanded beyond Bath. He also served on the Pejepscot Historical Society based in Brunswick, where he was instrumental in developing the Skolfield-Whittier House into a house museum on Park Row. He has also served on the Maine State Museum Commission and served on the Maine Historical Society’s Collections Committee.

No funeral is planned, but the family will announce a celebration of life at a later date.

 

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