Writers’ Day Off Part II: Maine Mineral Museum

After breakfast, we got on to the fun part of the day.

We had decided to visit the Maine Mineral Museum in Bethel, Maine on the recommendation of Steve’s brother, who did not steer us wrong.

The museum’s webpage urges you to plan for 90 minutes to tour the facility.

We took more than twice as long.

Allow me to explain.

My very first Museum Happy Place was the Hall of Minerals in the Smithsonian in Washington DC.  Since I grew up in Baltimore, DC was an easy day-trip, even back in Olden Times, and — this was key — there is No Charge to tour the Smithsonian Institutions.  Any of them.

So, it’s fair to say that I’d been all over the Smithsonian when I was a kid, and a lot of the Halls were interesting; some were even worth revisiting.  But the Hall of Minerals was MINE. Honestly, if it was up to me, I’d’ve moved in and be living there still.

Happily, it wasn’t up to me, and I had a far different, and, probably, far more exciting life because of it.

We decided to approach Bethel from Route 2, which was a nice ride through the autumnal countryside.  We arrived at the museum just after 11, got ourselves checked in, and started the tour.

Maine has a rich history of gems and minerals, and the museum has many accessible, clearly labeled, and just plain fascinating exhibits.  Steve and I were taking our time even before we met a gentleman in the Hall of Gems and Jewelry, who engaged us in a wide-ranging and fascinating discussion of the museum, and (some of) its holdings.  We arranged to meet later in the Space Rocks room, and he went off to do some work, while we continued our tour.

Even if you don’t like gems and minerals (which, I’m finding this hard to imagine, understand, but — the Goddess made us all different so we could support each other), you must see the Space Rocks.

We had the advantage of meeting our friend of the gem room — who turned out to be Larry Stifler, one of the founders of the museum — who got Patrick Leverone, the meteor specialist, involved, and we learned about the camera arrays tracking meteors across the Maine skies, and the fact that every meteor found and analyzed adds to our understanding, resonating backward to the Big Bang.

We learned that the museum has just received a Federal grant, that will enable it to buy the equipment to date their own finds.

Also, we learned that the asteroid that hit upcountry earlier this year, and which the museum put a bounty on, is still unfound.  The museum is training teams, who will soon be traveling to the 1 mile by 11/12 mile swath identified as the landing zone, and there is some optimism that this rock will be found.

We did get to hold a piece of the moon, which was beyond awesome, and we probably could have stayed even longer — we barely scratched the Discovery Gallery — but Adulting won out, and we (reluctantly) left to find lunch.

In case it was in doubt — yes, we’re planning on going back.  For one thing, we got so involved inside, that we didn’t manage to tour the Rock Garden at the front of the museum.

If you’re ever in Bethel — heck, if you’re ever within driving distance of Bethel — make sure you visit this place.  And, really, 90 minutes isn’t nearly long enough.



5 thoughts on “Writers’ Day Off Part II: Maine Mineral Museum”

  1. By your own testimony, 180 minutes is *also* not nearly long enough.
    I believe it: I adore minerals, though I admit to favoring the pretty ones. Why I pursued Gemologist rather than Minerologist.

  2. Substitute the old Rochester Museum of Arts and Sciences in Rochester, NY for me. I still remember spending time in the room with the fluorescent rocks, pushing the switch to change to UV light to see the rocks glow in the dark.
    But Sharon and Steve, if you enjoy driving through the Maine countryside to see Maine minerals and gems, please make time for a trip back north to visit the collection available at Leighton’s of West Paris. These folks purchased displays that had been collected at the same site years (and years) ago by Perham’s, and they now offer minerals but also a lot of Maine tourmaline jewelry. Careful! It’s awfully tempting!

  3. I believe we have been there — it’s been a few years, though. Ought to check back in and see what they’ve been doing with the palce.

  4. Perham’s closed between my visit in 2008 and the next one in 2013. It had been a family tradition, so the loss was felt. More than 12 years after Perham’s closed, we were thrilled to find Leighton’s in 2022. All that to say, if it’s been a “few” years for you and Steve, then the current owners are new to you (although the old Perham’s displays won’t be).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.