ROCKLAND, Maine — Back in May, it seemed likely that the lights would have to be turned out at the ailing Maine Lighthouse Museum if $50,000 couldn’t be raised in a hurry.
But dollars, and support, have been trickling in over the summer, and the museum’s interim director happily reported that the lights were lit and business was booming over Labor Day weekend.
“Most of our bills are paid up, and I’m really excited,” Dot Black said Sunday between ringing up visitor purchases at the museum’s gift shop.
The museum had gotten behind on bills for its new waterfront digs, including a $3,500-a-month mortgage and an electricity bill that had spiked to $1,800 a month. For income, the lighthouse museum had depended on membership dues, admission fees, contributions and fundraising, all of which had been lagging in the spring, Black said.
But since undergoing a massive public relations campaign and fundraising drive to keep the lights on at the museum, membership is up, costs are down and many in-kind donations have been made.
Many of the donations came from outside Maine, driven by the support of Lighthouse Digest — a Maine-published magazine with an international circulation. Editor Tim Harrison stepped up in May to offer $10 from each new paid subscription to help the museum. Another good fundraiser has been a photograph of the Rock-land Breakwater Light, on sale at several local stores, with profits benefiting the museum.
All of the help really added up, Black said.
“I’m paying off the last of the big bill,” she said. “I can’t tell you how good that feels.”
The strange summer weather didn’t hurt, either, she said. The museum “was packed” during the rainy months of June and July, and there was a record-setting day during the lobster festival when 600 visitors came in.
“August was great,” Black said. “It was warm, so people came in here to cool off.”
In hopes of avoiding future financial crises, Black said she and other museum officials are diversifying its income sources. She has been applying for grants and hopes to unveil a campaign to recruit more business members.
“I think the museum is a draw [to Rockland],” Black said. “Our visitors stay in the motels, eat in the restaurants and attend a lot of entertainment.”
Lighthouses, and the Maine Lighthouse Museum, have many fans, including Harold and Linda Corson of Old Town.
The couple, who said they had visited the Rockland Breakwater Light early in their courtship, said that they had often enjoyed the Maine Lighthouse Museum.
“I like the crystals, the lights, the written history, the uniforms, everything,” Linda Corson said.
Black said that to her, the most hopeful sign for the future is the fact that 40 new members have joined since the plea for help began. A simple membership is $25.
“It doesn’t sound like a lot of money, but boy, it’s helpful,” Black said. “Every bit helps … and it isn’t all about money. It’s a lot about the time you can donate, too.”
For information about the Maine Lighthouse Museum, call 594-3301 or visit the Web site www.mainelighthousemuseum.org.