Maine Lighthouse Museum
The Maine Lighthouse Museum (MLM) is the proud home of the largest collection of Fresnel lighthouse lenses and the most important landmark collection of lighthouse artifacts and Coast Guard memorabilia in the United States. Many of the items in the museum’s collection are there on loan from the United States Coast Guard. The institution was originally founded as the Shore Village Museum in 1972 by a former U.S. Coast Guard Commander, C.W.O. Ken Black.
Backstory and Context
Ken Black, a retired U.S. Coast Guard Commander, founded the Shore Village Museum in 1972. This museum, a precursor to the current Maine Lighthouse Museum, intended to preserve the area’s rich maritime history. During his years with the Coast Guard, Black gathered quite the collection of nautical artifacts. He asked the Coast Guard for permission to display his collection at their station in Rockland, Maine. Eventually, his collection outgrew that space, so he moved the items to the Shore Village Museum. The contents of the museum were moved out in 2004 when the Shore Village Museum outgrew its original home and closed. Black managed the collection as the Maine Lighthouse Museum, which merged with the American Lighthouse Foundation in 2007. Now, the museum is the largest exhibit of lighthouse artifacts and lenses in the country.
Black spent a major part of his life dedicated to the study and preservation of America’s lighthouse history. According to the museum’s Facebook page, Black “rose to become a commander in the United States Coast Guard (USCG), Ken was responsible for the actual operation of many lighthouses as he watched over our nation's coastlines. He was an active Chief Warrant Officer in the Coast Guard, serving as the Officer in Charge of Coast Guard Station Rockland. He assembled the collection by obtaining permission from his district admiral, and then visiting Coast Guard stations and bases throughout the First Coast Guard District (ME, MA, NH, CT, VT, NY).”
The Maine Lighthouse Museum has one of the largest collections of Fresnel lenses in the country. The U.S. Coast Guard places strict requirements upon any museum who intends to place these lenses in their collections due to their value and historical importance. The Fresnel lens was first developed in 1822 by a French physicist named Augustin Jean Fresnel. It looks like an enormous beehive. There is an intricate system of multi-faceted glass prisms mounted in the device’s brass framework. The light hits the prisms on each of its multiple sides, and then reflects and bends into a single beam of light rather than scattering in several directions. This innovative technology made the lens more efficient and therefore made the waterways safer for nautical travelers.
In addition to the extensive collection of lighthouse lenses, there are exhibits devoted to the stories of the men and women who served with the United States Coast Guard and the U.S. Life-Saving Services. There are photographs of former lighthouse keepers, detailed lighthouse models, buoys, foghorns, and fog bells among the items in the museum’s collection. The museum is currently closed for the winter and scheduled to reopen in Spring 2018. Generally, the summer hours are Mondays through Fridays from 9:00 AM to 4:30 PM, and Saturdays and Sundays from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM.
Consolidation Will Create America's Largest Lighthouse Museum. Maine Lighthouse Museum. Accessed January 07, 2018. http://www.mainelighthousemuseum.com/consolidation.html.
The Fresnel Lens. National Park Service. April 14, 2015. Accessed January 07, 2018. https://www.nps.gov/caha/learn/historyculture/fresnellens.htm.
Maine Lighthouse Museum - exhibiting the largest collection of lighthouse artifacts in the country. Take Me 2 Camden, Maine. Accessed January 07, 2018. http://www.camdenmainevacation.com/maine-lighthouse-museum.php.