Maine State Museum – Augusta, Maine

Maine State Museum – Augusta, Maine

The history of the Maine State Museum goes all the way back to when the District of Maine separated from Massachusetts in 1820.  But it wasn’t until 1836 that the Maine State Legislature voted funds for a “cabinet or museum of mineral specimens at the State House in Augusta.  The whole museum then began with 1,565 rocks and minerals.  But, due to lack of knowledge they went to ruin and disappeared. 

The love of nature and what makes Maine so special was the driving force for others to take up the challenge of preserving the history of the state.  There was a game and fish employee who, in 1898, conceived the idea of making a systematic collection of mounted animals representing the fauna of Maine.  By 1900 it was estimated that 10,000 visitors had come to see the nearly 200 identified fish, birds, and animals.  There was also a chair made of deer horns which is still in the museum’s collections today.

The Maine State Museum officially opened int he State House in 1971.  It is accredited from teh American Association of Museums.

Not only is the Museum in the State House complex bu so is the Maine State Library and Maine State Archives.  There are many things to see at the Museum with the exhibits ranging from large to small.  The Museum occupies a 5,600 square foot gallery which allows for a wide variety of permanent and temporary exhibits to show off the state treasures.

Opened in November 2008, At Home in Maine is the museum’s largest new exhibit in over twenty years. Its significant and varied domestic artifacts tell stories of Mainers at home throughout history. In At Home in Maine, discover the nearly-forgotten summer kitchen, hear traditional music, watch home movies, glimpse treasured possessions, experience the hard work of housekeeping, appreciate indoor plumbing, share memories, and learn about the many other, sometimes unique ways that life at home in the past has shaped today’s Maine.

The Uncommon Threads: Wabanaki Textiles, Clothing, and Costume exhibit will take you through the different sources used with artifacts borrowed from other institutions. In handling loans from museums in the United States, Canada, and Australia.

Back to Nature provides a stunning walk through Maine’s seasons and environments, each filled with animals, birds, and plants. Back to Nature concludes with Maine Gems, a look at beautiful mineral specimens such as smoky quartz, tourmaline, rose quartz, and amethyst exhibited in both their original and faceted forms.

There is also the CAbinet of Curiosities which show the natural science speciments where you can explore the collections and discover the important data preserved about Maine’s past and present plant life, animals, lands, and water.

Maine Bounty: The People and Resources that Shaped Maine greets visitors with the Lion, its signature 1846 steam locomotive. Maine Bounty features tools and equipment, large and small, that harvested, transported, and sold trees, granite, fish, ice, and agricultural products to establish the state’s resource-based economy.

Made in Maine, an award-winning exhibition, features a working three-story water-powered woodworking mill. A long ramp gradually winds around the mill, enabling close-up views of its moving parts. On the ramp’s opposite side, historical settings, such as a sewing room, blacksmith shop, wool carding mill, and shops for making furniture, shoes, and fishing rods reveal stories of Maine people at work and the amazing variety of products they created.

Struggle for Identity takes visitors back to clashes among French, English, and Native Americans for lands and resources in what is now Maine. As shown in the exhibit’s maps, objects, and artwork from the Revolutionary War, War of 1812, and Maine’s boundary disputes, conflict defined both the shape and character of Maine from the 1600s through the 1840s.

12,000 Years in Maine takes visitors back to the retreat of the last glacier and Clovis or Paleo-Indian culture. At the exhibit’s entrance is a stone meat cache, which may be the oldest surviving human-built structure in North America. The extensive and richly-detailed exhibit that follows shows more than 2,000 stone tools and weapons, animal bones, and clay pottery fragments that illuminate what archaeologists have learned about Native American people living in Maine for millennia before Europeans arrived in the 1500s.

The museum manages the historical collections housed in Maine’s capitol, known as the State House, and in the Blaine House, the home of Maine governors and their families.

In the State House, these collections include the four Klir Beck wildlife dioramas (the “Spring” diorama is pictured here), the State House portrait collection, and Maine’s historic flag collection. The State House is open Monday through Friday from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm. Tours may be scheduled by contacting the museum at 207-287-2301.  Tours of the Blaine House may be scheduled by contacting the museum at 207-287-2301.

Maine State Museum
83 State House Station
Augusta, Maine 04333-0083
All museum staff may also be contacted through the museum’s main phone number, 207-287-2301, by e-mail at Maine.Museum@Maine.gov