Museums and community connections
When is the last time you visited a museum? According to the American Alliance of Museums, museums average 865 million visits per year or 2.3 million per day. Why? Museums have so much to offer. They are fun, educational, and a great way to spend time with friends and family. Museums make you feel good and can even bring change.
Local museums provide a sense of community. While no museum truly offers a complete picture, it can help one learn lessons from the past in an effective way as well as build bridges and give perspective despite today’s tensions between nations, political parties and cultural groups. Museums are great for all ages and play an important role in educating future generations, while providing a place for our older adults to interact socially and reminisce.
It is estimated that there are more than 35,000 museums in the U.S. alone. In fact, there are six museums right here in Presque Isle: Northern Maine Museum of Science (Folsom Hall, UMPI); the Aroostook Band of Micmacs Museum; the James School (a restored one-room schoolhouse); Presque Isle Air Museum (in the south end of the Presque Isle International Airport’s passenger terminal); the 1875 Vera Estey House (a small, two-story Victorian house museum at 16 Third St.); and the Maysville Museum at 165 Caribou Rd.
Two of these museums are owned and operated by Presque Isle Historical Society: the Estey and Maysville museums. The Maysville Museum was renovated and opened to the public in 2017. The site of the museum, on the corner of U.S. Route 1 (Caribou Road) and the Brewer Road, served simultaneously as the Maysville Town Hall, the Maysville Grange and the Maysville School.
Maysville was officially incorporated as a town in 1859 and sat between Presque Isle and Caribou. It was annexed by Presque Isle in 1883.
The site itself is historically significant and has a rich history to tell. In 1865, a two-story school and town hall building was built on the site. Maysville Grange No. 153 was established in 1875 and began meeting at the site as well. (The Grange was an important farmers’ organization.) In 1916, the building was lost to fire. Although a new two-story building was built on the site to replace it, that too was lost to fire in 1939. As the town hall was no longer needed by that time, a smaller building was built (the same footprint we see today).
With the opening of Presque Isle High School in 1949, virtually all one-room schoolhouses were closed by that time, Maysville being no exception. By the late 1980s, the Maysville Grange was disbanded due to lack of membership and the building was sold to the City of Presque Isle. The City sold the property to an individual in 1996. In 2004, yet another fire damaged the property. Although the building was not a total loss, it fell into a state of disrepair. In an effort to save a local historic landmark, Presque Isle Historical Society purchased the property in 2011 and spent the next six years raising funds and renovating the building.
The museum has four cornerstone exhibits: Presque Isle & the Civil War featuring wonderful Civil War artifacts, The Aroostook War explaining Maysville’s ties to this bloodless war that finally established the border between Maine and Canada, Agri-CULTURE, and Presque Isle’s 22 one-rom schoolhouses. Other smaller yet equally fascinating exhibits include a working antique switchboard, “What is it?”, and more.
The Maysville Museum opens for the 2021 summer season on Saturday, June 5 at 10:00 a.m. On opening day, a brief presentation will be given around 10:15 a.m. introducing the three new exhibits for the season: The Nathan Perry Steamboat (which launched from Presque Isle and traveled between Presque Isle and Caribou along the Aroostook River), the 1959 National Christmas Tree (the first time the nation’s tree came from east of the Mississippi and from private land), and Susan Mitchell Duff (Maysville’s first teacher).
Admission is free. Providing that there are volunteers to “man” the museum, it is open daily Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Anyone interested in volunteering at the museum should contact Presque Isle Historical Society by email at email@example.com or call 762-1151. Training will be provided. Shifts are four hours in length.
The mission of Presque Isle Historical Society is to study, preserve and promote the history, culture, heritage and physical artifacts of Presque Isle for present and future generations. For more information on the Society’s programs and tours, please visit the website at www.pihistory.org.
Kimberly R. Smith is the secretary/treasurer of the Presque Isle Historical Society.