The Boothbay Railway Village is hoping to expand its educational programming to teach children about what life was like for the average Mainer a century ago. Photo courtesy of Kate Steed

With Maine’s bicentennial approaching, the Boothbay Railway Village is looking for donations to expand its educational programming and increase foot traffic in the new year.

A statement from the nonprofit outlines its long-term goal to expand its educational programs, which it describes as a “living museum” that allows visitors to explore what daily life was like for Mainers in the mid-19th through mid-20th centuries.

“We aspire to transform the way we view and relate to Maine’s rural past through interactive visitation, education opportunism, and a variety of dynamic programs to enrich our daily lives,” the statement reads.

According to Charles Bamberg, president of the board of directors, the museum is the brainchild of George Macavoy, who, “had a love of vehicles and trains, so (the museum) started as a way to stockpile his collection.”

The museum has 50 to 60 cars from 1902 through 1962 as well as a number of buildings brought in from across the state, including the Boothbay town hall, which was built in 1847.

“People voted for Abraham Lincoln in that town hall and the town still holds meetings in that building,” said Bamberg.

The museum also has a one-room schoolhouse and barn that date back to the state’s infancy, as well as a model narrow gauge railroad, which played an instrumental role in Maine’s logging industry, and an exhibit of nearly 200 outboard motors, essential to navigating the state’s thousands of lakes and rivers.

“The state of Maine relied on the technology we have in the museum,” said Bamberg. “That type of technology helped Maine grow.”

“Our museum takes people back to the times when Maine really became a powerhouse,” said Kate Steed, the museum’s director of marketing and development.

According to a 2019 report from the Boothbay Railway Village, 68 percent of the museum’s funding comes from grants and donations whereas the other 32 percent comes from admissions, special events, and rentals.

“We worked really hard this year to break even, and now we’re looking forward to investing in our future,” said Steed. “We’re in the investigative stage of seeing what we can create, but we need to do our homework.”

While the museum has always hosted school field trips and youth groups Bamberg said he’d like to partner with schools throughout the Midcoast to teach students about trades and skills the average Mainer would have done a century ago such as blacksmithing, weaving and woodcarving.

“Once you teach people how to do things with their hands, they can do anything, and that’s our thinking,” said Steed. “We have what we have and we know it’s valuable, and if we only did that for the next 20 years, we’d be good, but we see the potential for more. Our challenge now is figuring out how can we make a good thing better without ruining it.”

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