June 17, 2010

Our View: Two museums join forces in rough economic seas

The merger of the Maine Maritime and Portland Harbor museums is something to celebrate.

Nonprofit arts and cultural institutions have had to weather rough seas during the recession and its aftermath and have had to be creative to survive.

Two area institutions with similar missions have found that they would be better off together than on their own. With the merger of the Maine Maritime Museum and the Portland Harbor Museum this month, so will people who are interested in Maine's maritime history.

The Maine Maritime Museum in Bath has long been established as the premier facility for visitors to experience the history of Maine shipbuilding and seafaring.

The Portland Harbor Museum was established in 1987, with its early focus the recovery of the Snow Squall, the last Maine-built clipper ship.

Located in an old machine shop at what is now Southern Maine Community College, the Portland Harbor Museum received few visitors. The museum did excel in reaching out to the community and conducting programs on the history of Casco Bay and the Liberty Ship construction program.

coming together the two institutions will be able to build on each other's strengths.

The Portland Harbor Museum's collection will be stored in a climate-controlled facility in Bath when items are not on display. Although there will not be a physical home for the museum, its staff will continue delivering progams in the Portland area and will use public display areas, such as at the new Portland library, for special exhibitions.

The Maine Maritime Museum will gain a presence in Maine's biggest city, allowing it to grow.

This may have been a merger born of tough economic times, but patrons of both institutions could find that it is a union that makes both partners stronger in the future.


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