Saturday, December 7, 2013
By Ray Routhier email@example.com
Who among us still has our umbrella cover?
Director and curator Nancy 3. Hoffman accompanies herself on the accordion while singing the museum theme song, “Let a Smile Be Your Umbrella.”
Photo by Hans Manshoven
UMBRELLA COVER RECORD ATTEMPT
WHEN: 11 a.m. Saturday
WHERE: Umbrella Cover Museum, 62-B Island Ave., Peaks Island
HOW MUCH: Free/donation
WHAT ELSE: The last Casco Bay Lines ferry departing for Peaks Island leaves at 10:15 a.m. Saturday. Round-trip tickets are $7.70 for adults and $3.85 for children and seniors. The ferry terminal is at 56 Commercial St., Portland. For more information, go to cascobaylines.com.
You know, the little fabric sleeve that comes on an umbrella when you buy it? Some folks might save those things for years, but for most of us, the cover is just packaging to be removed and discarded.
Not so for Nancy 3. Hoffman of Peaks Island. She thinks the mundane nature of umbrella covers should be celebrated and that their stories be told. That's what she tries to do at her Umbrella Cover Museum on Peaks Island, where she has been carefully preserving, cataloging and displaying discarded umbrella covers since 1996.
Having hundreds of umbrella covers displayed in one place serves as both a reminder of our throwaway culture and a symbol of the hope of renewal. For working so hard to preserve something few others seem to appreciate, Hoffman probably deserves some recognition.
Maybe a world record or something?
Well, Hoffman has been trying for the last few years to get the Guinness World Records folks to create a category for the most umbrella covers. This year, they've finally agreed.
So at 11 a.m. Saturday, Hoffman is inviting the public to come to the museum and help her count the covers for the official application to Guinness. For Hoffman, the Guinness submission helps bring the umbrella cover conundrum into sharper focus.
"Despite their mundanity, umbrella covers deserve their own category," said Hoffman, who changed her middle name from Arlene to 3. a few years ago because she liked the numeral better. "They are kind of cute and they seem to be purposeful, but to me, the great attraction is the stories."
Are there really good stories about umbrella covers?
"I've got one that a woman found a few years ago at the remains of the Berlin Wall. She had to shoo away two young lovers who were flirting near it," said Hoffman. "I just got one from Italy. I got another one sent to me by a man who runs a toilet paper museum in Amherst, Mass., and he found it at the Amherst landfill."
To qualify for an entry in the Guinness record book, Hoffman has to have at least 500 individual covers, no duplicates. She also has to take pictures and videotape the counting process. Guinness is not sending a judge, as that costs a significant sum of money.
Hoffman doesn't like to talk about money, as in whether or not her museum makes any. The museum used to be housed in her home on Peaks Island. She started it because she had a few old covers that interested her, and once word got out, she got so many donated covers, she had to expand the museum. It's located in commercial space on Island Avenue not far from the ferry landing.
Besides being curator of the umbrella cover museum, Hoffman plays accordion in the Maine Squeeze Accordion Ensemble and in the Casco Bay Tummlers klezmer band. In fact, there's a popular YouTube video of Hoffman playing her accordion and singing the museum's theme song, "Let a Smile Be Your Umbrella."
Hoffman thinks umbrella covers can help people remember that the most mundane things in life are often worth celebrating. And that everyone and everything has a story worth hearing.
She conveys that message in the official mission statement of the museum:
"The Umbrella Cover Museum is dedicated to the appreciation of the mundane in everyday life. It is about finding wonder and beauty in the simplest of things, and about knowing that there is always a story behind the cover."
Now there's something to think about on a rainy day.
Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at: