June 18, 2018
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Fun, informative or just plain strange: 8 museums in Maine worth a road trip

By Emily Burnham, BDN Staff

Musical Wonderhouse, 16 High St., Wiscasset

There are more than 5,000 chiming, singing mechanical music machines at the Musical Wonderhouse in Wiscasset — boxes, player pianos and organs, spring-powered phonographs, musical birds, porcelains, furniture, clocks, steins, whistlers, and a musical painting. It is housed in an opulent 19th century sea captain’s mansion, full of period decor, and it was founded by mechanical music mastermind Danilo Konvalinka. It’s now run by musicians and educators Joseph Villani and Paulo Carvalho. Starting Memorial Day weekend, the museum is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Saturday, and noon-5 p.m. Sundays. There’s also an extensive collection of items for sale.

Telephone Museum, 166 Winkumpaugh Road, Ellsworth

Yes, teenagers: as recently as 15 years ago, your phone would have been plugged into a wall. It did not have a screen. It did not send text messages. The Telephone Museum in Ellsworth displays the history of the revolutionary technology in interactive form. From Strowger Automatic Systems, which were the gold standard switchboard from the 1880s, to a Crossbar model that was in use in Maine as recently as the 1980s — there’s lots of other hardware, as well as some cool antique telephones. The friendly staff also has lots of information to share. The museum is open by appointment (call 667-9491), and 1-4 p.m. on Saturdays, July through September.

International Cryptozoology Museum, 11 Avon St., Portland

While perusing the shops and restaurants of downtown Portland, any fan of the strange, the mysterious or unknown must visit the International Cryptozoology Museum, showcasing the works and collection of renowned cryptid expert Loren Coleman. From a full-sized Bigfoot replica to the jackalope; from yeti footprints to a fiberglass coelacanth; from cryptozoology-inspired art to Loch Ness Monster action figures, the ICM is wildly entertaining and informative. It recently moved to much larger digs, so there’s now even more room to explore. Admission is $7 for adults, $5 for kids; hours are 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, and 12-3:30 p.m. Sundays and Mondays.

Fawcett’s Toy Museum, 3506 Atlantic Highway, Waldoboro

The thousands of toys, books, paintings, film cells and pop culture ephemera that John Fawcett has collected over the decades isn’t a kid-centric showcase (though kids might like it) — it’s a loving, carefully curated tribute to the movies, radio, television and books from the pre-digital days of the 20th century. Where else can you see an original Mickey Mouse? A kid’s bedroom, complete with “Star Wars” bedding? A Daisy Red Ryder BB Gun? One of the world’s finest collections of “Lone Ranger” items? It would take hours to look at everything on display in Fawcett’s Toy Museum, which is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Thursday, Friday and Monday, and noon to 4 p.m. on weekends, Memorial Day through Christmas. There is a small admission fee.

The Stanley Museum, 40 School St., Kingfield

There are transportation museums, such as those in Owls Head or Bangor’s Cole Museum in Bangor. Then there’s the Stanley Museum in Kingfield, which focuses on just one mode of transportation — the Stanley Steamer, a steam-powered car from the early 20th century. Though the cars were built in Massachusetts, they were invented by twin brothers F.E. and F.O. Stanley of Kingfield. The museum, established in 1981, has a showcase of Steamer cars for the antique auto enthusiast, but there’s also a collection of violins made by the Stanley twins, and an archive of photographs taken by the twin’s sister, Chansonetta Stanley. Starting in June, the museum is open 1-4 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday.

Umbrella Cover Museum, 62 Island Ave., Peaks Island

Now here’s a true original: Peaks Island resident Nancy Hoffman holds the Guinness World Record for largest collection of umbrella covers, and she’s opened a museum showing off her finds, which she’s accumulated over the past 17 years. Umbrella covers — you know, the little sheath that covers a new umbrella — are, in Hoffman’s estimation, just as worthy of a museum as anything else. As she says on her website, her museum is about “the appreciation of the mundane in everyday life,” and “knowing that there is always a story behind the cover.” It’s open from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2 to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, through Labor Day, as well as 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Sundays and Mondays.

Bryant Stove Shop & Museum, 27 Stovepipe Alley, Thorndike

The phrase “all stoved up” is a Mainer-ism that means something’s messed up — though in the case of Bryant Stove in the Waldo County town of Thorndike, it can be taken literally. Joe Bryant, owner of the Bryant Stove Shop & Museum, sells antique wood and gas stoves, but also maintains a museum on site that showcases his collection of antique stoves, antique cars, toys, player pianos and music boxes. The museum is open year-round, though on the website it claims that Bryant might just sing for you while his player piano plays if you visit in the summer. Hours are 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday-Saturday.

Matthews Museum of Maine Heritage, Fairground Road, off Route 17, Union

Chances are, if you’re a Mainer, you know a Moxie fanatic — even if you yourself don’t care for it. Take that Moxie lover to the Moxie Bottle House in Union, which holds what is billed as the world’s largest collection of Moxie memorabilia. There’s a 33-foot tall wooden Moxie bottle, along with countless other items. The bottle house is contained within the Matthews Museum of Maine Heritage, which houses over 10,000 artifacts covering lifestyles in the 18th century, including carriages, agricultural tools, musical instruments, books, photo prints and a research library. It’s open from noon to 4 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays in July and August.

Did we miss your favorite Maine museum with a slightly strange collection? Be sure to let us know by emailing eburnham@bangordailynews.com.

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