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The Lighthouse News and History Magazine

Lights Could Go Out At Maine Lighthouse Museum

America's largest lighthouse museum, The Maine Lighthouse Museum, in Rockland, Maine, is in financial trouble and may have to close its doors unless immediate financial help is received.

Dot Black, a Board member of the Maine Lighthouse Museum and the widow of the museum's founder, Ken Black, reported that "unless more financial help is forthcoming soon, the lights may go out in the largest and most important lighthouse museum in the nation.

The museum has its roots to Maritime Exhibit at the Rockland Coast Guard Station created by CWO Kenneth Black in 1972. Black, was appointed curator for First Coast Guard District and when the exhibit outgrew its location it was moved into the Shore Village Museum building owned by the City of Rockland. Finally in 2005 thanks to the concerted efforts of many community businesses and friends the growing collection moved to the old and restored Courier Newspaper building on the city's waterfront. At that time it had the largest collection of rare lighthouse lenses of any museum in the nation. In 2007 the Museum of Lighthouse History in Wells, merged its impressive collection with the Maine Lighthouse Museum making it the largest lighthouse museum in the United States.

As with any museum, the educational, operational and curatorial aspects require capital. The museum relies primarily on membership dues, admission fees, individual contributions, and fund-raising events, all of which have been lagging lately. Moreover, the museum is not supported by any grants.

Although the museum directors and volunteers have already taken initial steps to reduce its budget and seek additional sources of revenue, an immediate influx of cash donations is needed at once to keep the doors of the facility open. A special committee of local citizens has been formed to help in this effort. Committee member, Ed Komolsky, pointed out that "unless the community and those nationally that have an interest in lighthouses and maritime history rally to save this gem, we may lose it." Nearly two decades ago, Komolsky and a number of others in the local area rallied to save and reinvigorate the Maine Lobster Festival to the leading event it is today. According to Dot Black and others, a similar effort, both locally and nationally, is needed to preserve and grow the Maine Lighthouse Museum today.

Tim Harrison, cofounder of the American Lighthouse Foundation and editor of Lighthouse Digest Magazine said, "If the museum should close its doors it would be a travesty to the lifetime dedication that its founder and others put into saving some of the most rare and invaluable artifacts in America's glorious lighthouse history, something that we must not allow to happen."

Committee member Becky Gamage stated, "Because, the history of the museum is so closely linked to the U.S. Coast Guard, it's imperative that this valuable historical and cultural institution remain open -- especially since Rockland recently received the coveted designation as a ‘Coast Guard City,' one of the only nine communities in the nation to receive such a recognition."

Paul Dilger, chairman of the Maine Lighthouse Museum Board and also a retired Coastguardsman, reiterated that "the museum showcases the nation's most significant collection of priceless Fresnel lighthouse lenses as well as numerous historical artifacts from the United States Lifesaving Service and the United States Coast Guard. This irreplaceable collection of maritime artifacts and memorabilia is an inspiration to all who visit the museum. These items and displays represent the men and women who guarded our shores, kept the lights bright and burning for all mariners, and saved the lives of countless fishermen and sailors in distress. Now it's our turn to help preserve the memories of this heritage."

Tim Harrison went on to say, "Many of the artifacts on display are one of a kind and a collection like this can not be viewed anywhere else in the nation. In fact, one can learn more about early American history by studying lighthouses than from any other single source and a good place to start learning is at the Maine Lighthouse Museum. If the museum should close, the collection would most likely be split up and disseminated all over the nation, perhaps some of the artifacts would fall into the hands of private collectors and never again be viewed by the general public, which must not be allowed to happen."

Currently, the museum has only one part time employee and a small group of talented and loyal volunteers who keep it operating, but ongoing expenses of a mortgage, utilities, upkeep and lagging donations and other rising costs are placing the collection in jeopardy and according to officials the museum barely paid its last electric bills, before the power was about to be shut off.

According committee member Joanne Billington, "area individuals and businesses can help by becoming members, making tax-deductible donations and supporting up-coming fund-raising events. The community did it for the Maine Lobster Festival, let's do it for the Maine Lighthouse Museum in its time of need."

The Maine Lighthouse Museum is a non-profit historical and educational organization and much needed donations and offers of help can be sent to them at: One Park Drive, P.O. Box 1116, Rockland, ME 04841. 207-594-3301. For more information about the museum, you can call them at 207-594-3302 or visit their website at

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