In 1906 the Museum opened its doors to visitors for the first time under the name "Städtisches Morgenstern-Museum" (Municipal Morgenstern Museum). The name of the museum reflects the origin of most of its exhibits which came from a collection put together by a local history association calling itself " The Men of Morgenstern. Local History Association of the Elbe and Weser Estuary ".
In 1902 the local history association sold its collection to the town of Geestemuende (now a suburb of Bremerhaven) which wanted to open a local history museum. However, as the collection was still managed by The Men of Morgenstern, the name Städtisches Morgenstern-Museum soon became firmly entrenched in people's minds.
In December 1984, when planning a new museum building, the civic authorities decided to give a completely new face to their local museum and also change its name. As a consequence the museum was to be rechristened and officially called the "Historisches Museum für Bremerhaven und Umgebung" (Historical Museum for the Town and Region of Bremerhaven. However, during the reconstruction phase the name "Historisches Museum Bremerhaven/Morgenstern-Museum" was decided upon.
The "The Men of Morgenstern. Local History Association of the Elbe and Weser Estuary" started collecting objects for an exhibition of local history in 1897 in Lehe (now a suburb of Bremerhaven). The name "Morgenstern" refers to a castle built near Weddewarden in the Middle Ages by order of the Archbishop of Bremen, which was the meeting place of the local history association.
After being transferred to civic ownership in 1902 the collection was gradually extended to include exhibits from pre- and early history, rural cultural anthropology and even natural sciences. Unfortunately many of the exhibits were destroyed during the Second World War or just afterwards.
After the war the museum had to be rebuilt. During this period an outstanding and comprehensive collection on the history of shipping was put together. In 1975, however, this important collection, together with other museum exhibits, was given to the German Maritime Museum, a national museum founded in Bremerhaven in that year.
In 1984 the civic authorities of the city of Bremerhaven decided to give a completely new face to their local museum. At the same time it was to receive a new building. The museum was to be a museum of history and as such its tasks was to document, research and present the history and development of the town and region of Bremerhaven. In 1989 a new director was appointed in order to realise this new concept.
In 1990 the motor fishing vessel "GERA", the last German side trawler, was saved from the scrap yard and has been redeveloped as a museum ship. In 1991 the museum moved into its new premises on the banks of the river Geeste.
While developing the permanent exhibition many new exhibits were added to the museum's collection and these form the basis for the annual special exhibitions. An outstanding example of the extensive research work carried out by the museum is the German Emigration Database, an international research project started in 2000.