Digest>Archives> Mar/Apr 2015

Wickie’s Wisdom

One Step Away From Success Or One Step Away From Failure: An Urgent Appeal

By Timothy Harrison

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The Maine Lighthouse Museum, a place that houses one of the most important collections of lighthouse artifacts in the nation, is in big financial trouble and it now needs the help of every single person. Time is running out.

At an immense financial cost, and with the help of many dedicated volunteers, the Maine Lighthouse Museum in Rockland officially opened in the summer of 2005. The thousands of artifacts and rare lighthouse lenses at the Maine Lighthouse Museum came from the Shore Village Museum, which was a collection almost single-handedly gathered by the late Ken Black, a retired Coast Guard officer known by most as "Mr. Lighthouse."

Ken Black started to save lighthouse artifacts back in the 1960s when he realized that if they weren't saved, many would be lost forever. As time went on, a small museum was started at the Coast Guard base in Rockland, Maine that evolved into the Shore Village Museum, which then evolved into the Maine Lighthouse Museum. In the early stages of planning the Maine Lighthouse Museum, there were many, including myself, who thought the name should be America's Lighthouse Museum, because the museum had artifacts from all over the nation and included many lightship artifacts as well as artifacts from the U.S. Life Saving Service and the Coast Guard. When the Museum of Lighthouse History, which had hundreds of artifacts from all over the nation, was merged into the Maine Lighthouse Museum, the scope of the Maine Lighthouse Museum expanded.

But it is the rare Fresnel lenses that were collected by Ken Black that are the jewel and the backbone of the museum, which must be preserved at this location to effectively tell the story of America's lighthouses for future generations. The mortgage is past due, its condo fees are past due, and the severe water damage from a broken pipe has worsened the current financial condition. For all practical purposes, considering that the Maine Lighthouse Museum is not located at a "real" lighthouse, the museum has been quite a success. Attendance has been decent, programs have been well attended, tour buses have included it on their visits, school groups show up on a regular basis, its research library is first class, the actual educational design and layout of the museum is top notch, and it has dedicated volunteers. But the Maine Lighthouse Museum was underfunded from its very beginning, and it started with an array of problems that created debt that it has not been able to overcome. The facts are clear - the Maine Lighthouse Museum is one step away from failure, or it is one step away from success.

It would be a mortal sin if 50 years of lighthouse artifact collecting, so that future generations can learn and benefit from, were to come to a screeching halt and be dissolved because the lighthouse community did not step forward in the Maine Lighthouse Museum's greatest hour of need. Surely, if you had a family member in need, you'd step forward to save them. Well, the Maine Lighthouse Museum is part of your lighthouse family and they need your help now.

The Maine Lighthouse Museum is one step away from its continuing success or one step away from closure. The direction that it goes in is up to each and every one of us.

Donations can be made on-line to the Maine Lighthouse Museum at: www.GoFundMe.com/SaveTheMLM

or by mail to:

The Maine Lighthouse Museum

P.O. Box 1116, Rockland, ME 04841

Timothy Harrison

Editor & Publisher

This story appeared in the Mar/Apr 2015 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.

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