BATH — The Maine Maritime Museum has acquired a collection of about 600 documents related to the Crooker family of Bath’s shipping interests.

“We’re delighted it fell to us because of the Bath connection, obviously, but more importantly this means it’s going to be preserved intact, which I think is important, and accessible to researchers,” said Christopher Timm, the museum’s curator of exhibits. “It will be accessible to the public rather than split up into private hands.”

The documents were unearthed by family members in a recently deceased relative’s home and taken to Daniel Buck Soules of Daniel Buck Auctions, Inc., who took them on consignment. The Maine Maritime Museum purchased the collection before it could go to auction or be split up.

“It’s nice to have it all stay together,” Soules said of the transaction. “I’m absolutely thrilled. I’m just so glad that they were able to keep it in the Bath area, because there was just so much there that was historically important.”

Maine Maritime Museum did not disclose the purchase price.

Soules had previously told The Times Record that the documents are valued at between $6,000-$12,000.

The documents, which include ship manifests, correspondence, bills of sale and other historical items, trace the history of the Crooker family’s shipping empire in Bath in the early- to mid-19th century. The collection shows vast interests across the world, from California to the Caribbean to Europe.

“The Crooker shipyard was very successful — one of the most successful in Maine, and thereby the country if not the world — in the 1840s and 1850s,” said Frederic B. Hill.

Hill, an Arrowsic resident and Crooker descendant, chronicled the shipping company’s history in his 2016 book, “Ships, Swindlers, and Scalded Hogs: The Rise and Fall of the Crooker Shipyard in Bath, Maine.”

While Hill had access to a similarly sized collection of documents held by his brother, Dick, he noted that he’ll be looking through the documents in advance of a paperback release of his book this spring to see if there are any important updates or additions to make.

Museum staff, who picked up the documents Tuesday, will place them in the Nathan R. Lipfert Research Library.

“One thing that struck us was there are a few documents on the family’s involvement in California gold mining, which we don’t know a lot about,” said Timm. “That will be a kind of interesting angle.”

While Timm said that the museum does not generally release how much it pays for items, he noted that several donors, including the Hills, stepped in to help the museum purchase the collection. In addition to helping the museum purchase the documents, Timm said that Dick Hill plans to donate his similarly sized collection of Crooker family papers to the museum.

“It’s an extremely valuable collection of papers. Combined with our family’s collection, it will constitute a terrific legacy for the city of Bath and it’s shipbuilding history,” said Hill.