Founded in 1822, the Maine Historical Society is the third oldest state historical society in the nation, and curates museums, programs, and events to celebrate the state's long history. The MHS Museum features a collection of more than 15,000 artifacts, including pieces of Native American archaeological material, political memorabilia, and pictures of the first governor with his head caught in a lobster trap. The society's 1-acre campus is also home to the the Wadsworth-Longfellow House, the childhood home of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, the poet best known for penning "Paul Revere's Ride" and The Song of Hiawatha. Membership to the society includes invitations to exhibit openings, member parties, lectures, trips, access to the Brown Research library, a subscription to the Maine History Journal, and a 10% discount at the museum store, web store, and all vintage Maine image purchases.
The Narrow Gauge Railroad train ride takes guests on a 35- to 40-minute adventure in an antique 1846 railcar scooting along the restored 2-foot track. From the plush, velvety seats, visitors can peer at the abundance of sights, such as the 1875 Portland breakwater lighthouse and the elusive Frankenmoose, while listening to factual orations by the conductor or guest docent. After ingesting the panoramic Casco Bay from the tassel-framed glass windows, riders can peruse the past in the museum, which collects informative displays, historic railcars and interactive conductors.
Since Portland Museum of Art opened in 1882, its collection has blossomed to include more than 17,000 pieces of art from the 18th century to the present day. Amid works of sculpture, ceramics, and furniture, the museum sports paintings by European luminaries, such as Claude Monet and Pablo Picasso. At its core, however, are works by Maine artists.
Roughly 10 changing exhibitions round out the museum’s displays, which are spread throughout three buildings: the L.D.M. Sweat Memorial Galleries, the Charles Shipman Payson Building, and the 1801-built McMellan House. Besides artwork, these spaces house the museum’s events, which range from lectures to film screenings.
Built between 1858 and 1860 as a summer home for hotelier Ruggles Sylvester Moore, the Victoria Mansion continues to dazzle visitors more than 150 years later with its Italian villa-style low-pitched roofs and soaring architecture made from locally sourced Connecticut brownstone. After a hurricane swept through the region in 1938 and badly damaged the mansion, it was scheduled to be demolished and rebuilt as a gas station until a retired educator, Dr. William Holmes, rescued the property. He turned it over to the Society of Maine Women of Achievement, which now operates it as an historic house museum and National Historic Landmark.
Conservation efforts have gradually restored the mansion’s brownstone front steps, balusters, and decorative carved finials; the Islamic-inspired paintings in its Turkish Room; and the Pompeian-style painted walls of its preserved mid-19th-century water closet. Elsewhere, palatial gilded surfaces and stained glass add color to the interior, juxtaposed by modern conveniences such as hot and cold running water, central heating, and robot janitors.
Roughly 100 billion stars twinkle in our galaxy, and upward of 400 billion galaxies exist in the universe. For more than 40 years, Southworth Planetarium has kept an eye on them from its University of Southern Maine home. Visitors to the facility can explore exhibits and attend lectures to learn about planets such as Venus, which rains down sulfuric acid, and Saturn, which is fed up with Venus's negative attitude. The planetarium also hosts impressive omni-dome shows with picturesque space narratives and laser lights set to music.
With an extensive collection of nautical artifacts and memorabilia curated over the course of 50 years, Maine Maritime Museum immerses visitors in the history of Maine's storied relationship with the sea. The museum's sizeable permanent collection of more than 20,000 objects is housed in converted buildings scattered across a 20-acre former shipyard and includes the world's largest display of historic shipbuilding tools, hundreds of ship models and paintings, and Redbeard's hair dye. The library protects millions of rare manuscripts and documents in its climate-controlled interior, offering researchers glimpses of historical maps, charts, and ship plans. Members also receive advance notice of the constantly rotating temporary exhibits, such as the currently running Port of Portland: A Ship-Shaped History and Boats Rock, Literally.