Maine State legislature voted on and appropriated the funds to start a cabinet or museum of mineral specimens.. in 1836.1 This was one of the first times that the concept of a state museum was approved by a state legislature. Maine's first state cabinet or museum was to be showcased at the State House located in the capitol. Dr. Charles T. Jackson, a Boston geologist, controlled the initial Geological Survey of Maine. He discovered a variety of specimens on his first survey, and displayed his selection in the State House in 1837. However, few people showed interest in the collection and the items were eventually discarded due to their lack of proper care. Despite the initial backslide, a second survey of the area was conducted in 1861. During this attempt a similar selection of various specimens were collected and showcased at the State House. Again, their displays were not cared for properly, and in a short time the majority of the collection disappeared. Any remaining specimen were sent to Colby University on a long-term loan.
At the turn of the century, a third, successful attempt was made. A collection of mounted fish, birds, and other animals were displayed in the basement of the State House as a way to represent Maine's fauna. The museum room had growing popularity, and within a year it was said that nearly 10,000 people had visited. Expansion of the State House in 1910-12 opened up new space for the museum. The collection of specimen on loan at Colby University was brought back and showcased alongside the animal displays. Additionally, historical artifacts were acquired, such as pieces from colonial America and Japan. As the museum's collections and popularity grew, they began to put more of an emphasis on education, and in 1931 the museum was given to the new Department of Education.
The state museum was lost again in 1945 due to overcrowding at the State House. However, it was brought back under the Department of Economic Development's control in 1957 following public demand. Two years after another department transfer in 1963, the Legislative Museum Study Committee was formed to develop plans for a modern state museum. Then in 1965, the construction began on a permanent building for the Maine State Museum, the Maine State Library, and the Maine State Archives. Additionally, the museum became a semi-independent state agency.
After six years of development, the Maine State Cultural Building opened in 1971. The museum's educational programs and exhibits grew it's popularity and credibility. Therefore, in 1975 gained accreditation form the American Association of Museums. Today, the museum's collections number in the thousands, and the institution offers a variety of educational programs.