A Somerset County Gem

A Somerset County Gem

The L.C. Bates Museum. Photo from their website.

The L.C. Bates Museum. Photo from their website.

Libraries are always looking for inexpensive, but information rich programs to enhance their summer offerings. At the Hartland Public Library, we’ve had the outreach staff at the L.C. Bates Museum, located on the Goodwill Hinkley Campus, do two programs each summer for the past three years. They are a screaming bargain and kids love the interactive and hands-on aspects. If you remember the post I did about our joint outdoor event at Hathorn Park, you saw pictures of the rocks and minerals table the Bates Museum had there.

That's the LAST time I read one of James Hayman's books during a thunder shower!

That’s the LAST time I read one of James Hayman’s books during a thunder shower!

Beth and I have been meaning to go over to Hinkley and visit the museum all summer. On Sunday, we combined it with a stop at the Fairfield Antiques Mall (another really interesting place here in Somerset County). The Goodwill campus, comprising 2400 acres overlooking the Kennebec River a couple miles south of the big paper plant, has undergone a renaissance in the past couple years. There was a time when it looked pretty sad and abandoned, but thanks in part to the Alfond Foundation, there’s a new charter school dedicated to agricultural technology and a new second campus for Kennebec Valley Community College.

Mineral and fossil lovers are going to have a blast here.

Mineral and fossil lovers are going to have a blast here.

The museum itself occupies three floors in an old brick building easily accessed from Rt. 201. Admission is $3.00 for adults, $1.00 for kids. The staff are friendly, eager to answer questions and extremely knowledgeable about the exhibits. (More about these in a bit). In addition to the outreach programs like the ones we have had them present at the library, they offer in-house programs for schools, again at extremely reasonable rates. Classes can choose from Maine Habitat Programs, Pond Explorations, Insects Everywhere, Maine Native Americans, Rocks, Minerals and Fossils, Maine’s Beautiful Birds, Maine Mammals and a new one this summer– Explore Maine Habitats Outdoors.

The museum also offers programs to the public. In September, you can take advantage of weekly sun viewings courtesy of their small outdoor observatory which will be available on sunny days between 1-3 pm (Wed-Fri). Bring a camera and try your hand at taking a photo of the sun. Saturday, September 6th at 1 pm, join the staff for Passenger Pigeon Day, to honor the 100th anniversary of their extinction and learn how it happened. That same day, you can join them at 7 pm for International Moon Night. Sunday, September 13th at 1, you can join them for How to Use a Printing Press and try your hand at setting type on an 1850’s Acorn Printing Press as well as learning about the newest printing phenomena, 3-D printing. On September 20th at 1, you can join the staff for a Fall Celebration walk to discover leaf changes that have just started, animal habits this time of year and the incredible story of migration.

Saturday mornings at ten are reserved for kids programs. Upcoming ones include Make Your Own Print on September 6th, Shell Pictures on the 13th, Why Do Leaves Change on the 20th, Migration on the 27th and Insects of the Forest on October 4th.

When you visit the museum, start by watching the video that tells the history of how Goodwill Hinkley began. Rev. Hinkley, a Baptist minister, had been profoundly affected by what happened to a childhood friend. He never forgot watching as the boy was sentenced to prison for stealing a half-eaten sandwich when he was starving. With the help of many compassionate people, he was able to create a place where troubled and parentless kids could have a safe place to live and a chance to become happy, productive people.

Reverend Hinkley, founder of Goodwill Hinkley. Photo courtesy od their website.

Reverend Hinkley, founder of Goodwill Hinkley. Photo courtesy od their website.

Take time to look over the amazing array of exhibits. The museum really does offer something for everyone. Kids (and adults) who love rocks and minerals will be thrilled by the room full of specimens from all over the world that occupies half of the basement. Bird lovers will be equally thrilled by the exhibit on the main floor (just a portion of some 600 specimens donated to the museum) and don’t hesitate to try the electronic bird call device. Downstairs you can see pretty much every animal in the Maine woods, as well as a few you aren’t likely to, unless global warming really speeds up. (No two toed sloths here yet, I hope). Most of them are in realistic dioramas. Keep an eye out for the really neat Fairy Bottles scattered throughout the exhibits. Fairy-loving kids (and adults) will get a kick out of the stories about the inhabitants).

Who needs Cable. I've got an awesome place to explore right here.

Who needs Cable. I’ve got an awesome place to explore right here.

Other exhibits include insects, art, fish, fossils, pottery and sculpture., in short, something for everyone. Cameras are not permitted, but the gift shop has postcards, souvenirs and tons of rock samples for every mineral lover. The museum is open as follows: April to mid-November, Wednesday to Saturday 10 AM to 4:30 PM and Sunday 1 to 4:30 PM and other times by appointment. Winter hours are Wednesday through Saturday 10AM to 4:30PM and other times by appointment or chance, please call 238-4250 to be sure we are here to greet you in winter. Closed if the roads are snowy. Please note that we are not heated in winter! Dress warmly if you come for a visit.

You can get a lot more information and see what is happening by friending them on Facebook (www.facebook.com/lcbates) or by checking out their website at http://www.gwh.org/lcbates/LCBatesMuseum.aspx There are also several easy hiking trails of less than a mile and maps are available at the museum. Bring a lunch and make a day of it. If you want to see more about the museum in pictures, check them out on the fantastic Maine Memory Network at www.MaineMemory.net

Bernard Langlais, 1976. Photograph by David Hiser, courtesy of the Colby College Museum of Art.

Bernard Langlais, 1976. Photograph by David Hiser, courtesy of the Colby College Museum of Art.

If you want to take advantage of another unique artistic opportunity in Maine, consider following the recently created Langlais Art Trail. You can learn about this amazing new cultural phenomenon here at www.langlaisarttrail.org

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One Response to A Somerset County Gem

  1. MCWriTers says:


    I hope this brings people flocking to the museum.

    Who knew what gem this place is?



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