Learn About Maine's History

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Flag of United States  , Maine
Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Maine State Museum

Type of Attraction: Museum
Reviewer: Rose McLaughlin
Date of Visit: December 1st, 2012

It was a snowy Saturday when my sister and I made our way up to Augusta, Maine to go to the Maine State Museum. The museum was very easy to find, since there are many signs in Augusta leading you there. After we made our way around the rotaries in Augusta, we finally came to the museum. The museum is located in the Maine State House complex inside the Cultural Building. The Maine State Museum shares a building with two other institutions: The Maine State Library and Maine State Archives. We drove into the parking lot and were confused about where to park but we eventually found the visitors parking lot, which was towards the back. In front of the museum are two statues, one of Samantha Reed Smith, and the other a tribute to the firemen of Maine.

We entered the museum through a large lobby and purchased our tickets from the clerk. The front desk is actually inside one of the floor exhibits and right across from their gift shop. The museum was very quiet and there were very few people there that day. I was surprised at how low cost the tickets were. My ticket cost $2 and my sisters $1. The admission fees are $2 for adults, $1 for children ages 6 through 18, and children under 6 get in for free. For a family the cost is $6, maximum, and for senior citizens (aged 62 and older) the cost is $1. For a special tour or program the fee is $5, and school groups pay no admission costs. The museum also only accepts cash or checks for admission tickets. As far as hours the museum is open Tuesday through Friday 9:00am to 5:00pm, Saturdays 10:00am through 4:00pm, Sundays (from June 24th to November 25th) 1:00pm to 4:00pm. The museum is also closed on all Mondays and all state holidays. The museum does a lot of tours for schools, mostly in the elementary grades.

The museum consists of four floors consisting of the following exhibits: At Home in Maine, To the Highest Standard, Popham Colony: Maine's First English Settlement, Back to Nature, Maine Gems, Cabinet of Curiosities, Maine Bounty: The People and Resources that shaped Maine, Made in Maine, Struggle for Identity, 12,000 Years in Maine, Tourmaline and the Rich Legacy of Mining at Mount Mica, and the new Malaga Island: Fragmented Lives.

It actually took around 120 years before the museum that is here today to be created. In 1836, the Maine State Legislature voted in favor of "a cabinet or museum of mineral specimens…at the State House in Augusta". The first display was 1,566 rocks and minerals, which were exhibited in custom cabinets. Because no seemed to be interested in preserving or studying the rocks and minerals all of the specimens on display were ruined and had to be discarded of. In 1861, they tried again. Another set of specimens were exhibited in the State House but these items were also neglected and eventually sent to Colby College (in Waterville) on a long term loan. Later, an inland Fisheries and Game employee was interested in making a collection of mounted animals that he felt represented Maine. He occupied the basement level rooms to display his collection. In 1900, it was recorded that 10,000 people came to the State House to view the collection of 200 different species. Also in the display was the Lucky Chair, a chair made deer antlers and hide, which is still on display in the museum today. In 1910 to 1911 the State House expanded and a new space was provided for the museum. The mineral collection that had been on loan to Colby College came back to be exhibited. At this time the museum also began to display other historical artifacts. Sadly, in 1945 the museum operations were halted due to overcrowded conditions at the State House. Thankfully, in 1965, public interest in a museum rose and a referendum was passed for construction of a building to house the Maine State Museum, the Maine State Library, and the Maine State Archives, which is where the museum still is today.

The first exhibit we entered was Maine Bounty: The People and Resources that shaped Maine. The Maine Bounty collection consists of the tools and equipment Maine people used for the resource-based industries they relied on. The exhibit included a replica of the Lion Locomotive to represent the railroad industry Maine once had. Also inside the exhibit is a 3/16 to 1’ scale model of the St. Mary Ship. The St. Mary ship was built in Phippsburg and was launched in 1890. The cost to build the St. Mary was $120,000 and was the next-to-last wooden square-rigged ship built in the U.S. The exhibit also featured the River Driving industry, lobstering, the Blueberry Industry, Sardine Packing Ice Harvesting, fishing, and quarrying. Maine actually was once the number one supplier of granite to America. In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s Maine provided about one-third of the national production of granite. I though this part of the museum was very well done. I was expecting to see more information and artifacts on the lobster and blueberry industries since Maine is very famous for them but for the most part I felt each industry was well represented.

After Maine Bounty we looked at the Tourmaline and the Rich Legacy of Mining at Mount Mica exhibit. This exhibit was smaller but had a nice display of Maine gems. The next exhibit we entered was Back to Nature. This exhibits shows the four seasons in Maine as well as the different natural environments in Maine. Also in this exhibit animals and plants are displayed. Black Bears, River Otter, Bald Eagle, Woodchuck, Red-tailed Hawk, Brook Trout, Moose, Deer, and many other species. My favorite part of the Back to Nature exhibit was the luck chair. The luck chair is made out of dropped antlers from deer. The seat of the chair is made of deer hide. The history of the chair is that at the beginning of the hunting season every year, hunter’s would go to the State House to touch the chair, believing that doing so would bring them good luck.

The next exhibit we entered was Made in Maine which displays the many different products Mainers have produced in the past. The product making scenes this exhibit featured were sewing clothes, carding wool, spinning woolen yarn, transferring water power, making patent rifles, working iron, making shoes, and weaving woolen cloth. The exhibit also displays a very impressive three-story water powered woodworking mill. I’m actually not sure what the next exhibit we entered was called but this exhibit displayed a few of the modes of transportation Maine people have used in the past. 

We then entered the “To the Highest Standard: exhibit which featured original and historically important flags. The next exhibit we came upon was Struggle for Identity. This exhibit had a very impressive display of Native American artifacts and many displays of Native American culture. The smaller exhibits titled Popham Colony: Maine’s First English Settlement and 12,000 years in Maine were also featured in the Struggle for Identity exhibit. The Popham Colony display features many artifacts from the colony and the 12,000 years in Maine displays a replica of a meat stone cache.

We then made our way upstairs to check out the At Home in Maine displays. This exhibit is newer, constructed in 2008, and is the largest in the museum. At Home in Maine displays many artifacts and possessions as well as replicas of certain rooms inside typical past Maine homes. There was an 1890’s Acadian kitchen, the 1938 Talbot family dining room, a 1880’s Boothbay parlor, a typical Maine porch, a typical Maine attic (the boards even creaked as we walked over them), the bedroom of Birney Moore, and a 1970’s style living room. The bedroom of Birney Moore was actually set up to look exactly as it did on his graduation day. The best part of this exhibit was the 1970’s themed living room. We were actually able to sit in the living unlike the other rooms. Also in this exhibit was a display of Maine media. There was an old television set playing old TV programs. The TV program playing while we were in the exhibit was Ern Westmore’s Tips and Tricks Show, an episode on how to attain the correct posture. Some of his other episodes included how to curl your hair, correct hairstyle for your face and shape, and correct eyeglasses for your features. It was a clear indicator of how different society views certain things these days. 

The last exhibit we saw was Malaga Island: Fragmented Lives. This exhibit was really more of a tribute to the people who were forced to move off the island. There were a few artifacts that were found on the island, they are still even finding artifacts and personal possessions today, and there was a lot of information about peoples lives on Malaga Island and information about how and why they were forced off the island. I actually hadn’t remember much from what I learned about Malaga Island, since it had been since elementary school, so it was nice to be able to see that exhibit.

On our way out of the museum we stopped into the gift shop. There were many books about Maine and also many replicas of artifacts for sale. I was very impressed with the museum and felt that they displayed and represented everything very nicely. This museum would also be a very great place for field trips, which the museum does often. If you are looking to avoid school groups try to go during a season other than the spring, since this is their busiest time for school groups. 

For school groups or field trips the admission fees differ. For students in pre-school through 12th grade there is no admission charge. Also, for education programs for student pre-school through 12th grade there is no charge either. For adults in groups the charge is $1.25, for senior citizens in groups $1, and for programs for adults and non-school groups the fee is $5 each.

When leaving the museum we had planned on going to somewhere to eat but because it had been snowing that day and my car wasn’t doing very well on the roads we decided to head home instead. The closet places to the museum for eating would the Cross Café, a cafeteria in the Cross Office Building, behind the State House. The café is open from 8:00am to 3:30pm Monday through Friday.  
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tah101fall2012 on

Specific Comments
This is a nice review of the Maine State Museum. It is well written and clear, containing both information and your reactions to the exhibits. Your photos are also a nice touch.

As for possible improvements, I would just say to go through the essay and see if you can polish the writing here and there. There are a few small spelling and other areas, and a few places where the language could be smoother.

As I've suggested in other reviews, in order to make the text flow better you might consider putting all admission info (hours and ticket prices) at the end of the review, with a heading like "Visitor Information."

Also, please provide links to any place you include in your review (mainly the museum).

Grading Criteria
1) Did the author show that he or she visited the location and made careful observations? Yes

2) Does the review follow the basic requirements for length, format, and overall content? Yes

3) Does the review give the reader a good idea of what it is like to visit this location? Yes

4) Does it give the reader information about the attraction, e.g., costs, hours, location? Yes

5) Does it offer opinion regarding the quality of the attraction and its goods and services? Yes

6) Is it written in a readable style, with few or no grammatical, spelling and other errors? Yes

7) Does it include photos or videos (these are optional but can earn extra credit points). Yes

8) Was everything done on time, including draft, class presentation, and final version? No class presentation

Bottom Line: Decent as is; suggest minor edits as noted.

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