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Arts & Culture

Special Interest Museums

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Got a hankering to learn about bird carving? Hoping to climb a lighthouse tower? Think it would be really cool to spend the night in a living history museum constructed by Civil War veterans? Eager to learn more about Maine's skiing or snowmobiling heritage? Maine has a museum (or two, or three) for you.

Maine's special interest museums are scattered throughout the state, on highways and byways, in downtowns and rural locations. Some are professionally operated, others run on personal passion. Most are accessible by car, although some require bumping over back roads, a few require access to a boat or ferry, one to a snowmobile. Each is a treasure chest: Open the door and discover collections ranging from pleasingly mundane to downright quirky.

For stumble-upon thrills, nose about one of the small town cabinets of curiosities, eccentric collections usually assembled by real or amateur anthropologists. In these, each room, each case, each shelf, reveals surprises: perhaps shrunken heads, a double-wattled cassowary, rare butterflies, taxidermy mounts, even Balinese masks.

Poke around a museum dedicated to natural history, whales or puffins, politicians or scientists; admire the rugged life of lumberjacks in a logging museum; touch slimy critters at an aquarium. Consider an immersion into local history or Maine's Shaker, Irish, or Franco-American communities. Indulge a passion for tools, music boxes, African culture, opera, or telephones. You might even walk through a museum in the streets.

Prefer quirky? You betcha: Maine has museums dedicated to umbrella covers, dolls and stoves, sardines, mustard-making, even cryptozoology.