Community education at the core of Owls Head Transportation Museum’s expansion

On Aug. 3, a groundbreaking ceremony at the Owls Head Transportation Museum marked the public phase of a $9.75 million capital campaign to expand and enhance the facility. At the forefront of the project are flexible educational spaces and larger, more specialized restoration shops.

The Board of Trustees and Executive Director, Kevin Bedford, symbolically broke ground, marking a spot on the property where a new, sweeping glass entryway will be built. Founded in 1974, the museum’s new expansion will be the first major construction that has taken place at the museum in over 20 years.

“We need more room for our growing collection, we need more room to bring up the quality and size of our restoration workshops, and we need more room so we can expand the educational offerings – which we’ve been dedicated to for almost 50 years —to younger, K-8 audiences,” said Bedford.

Attended by local politicians, educators and business owners, the event featured architectural renderings by project architect Stephen G. Smith and words by Bedford and trustees of the museum. Smith’s designs will be executed by local firm Maine Coast Construction, who have already started work on site.

The most significant expansion of the museum’s education programs will focus on developing a professionally led program for kindergarten through eighth grade students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM.) The program will connect the museum’s historic collection with student activities in the newly expanded Energy Room and complement existing adult education programs.

Ruth Kermish-Allen, Ph.D., Executive Director of the Maine Mathematics and Science Alliance (MMSA) spoke to the importance of STEM-based learning and the programming at the museum.

“What [the museum] offers is a magnificent network of problem solvers and engineers, a stellar collection of highlights of transportation which show all the problems past inventors and innovators had to overcome to shape what the future would look like today. In Maine there are a wide variety of opportunities in environmental and biological education sciences, but there are just a few museums that are focusing on the physical sciences,” said Kermish-Allen, who also sits on the museum’s Board of Trustees.

The capital campaign, aptly namedInspiring Tomorrow’s Pioneers,” has already raised in excess of $4.5 million, said Board Chairman Tom Rudder.

A nonprofit, the Owls Head Transportation Museum already has one of the largest public facilities on the midcoast which is open year-round, and regularly brings school groups and students together to learn about the development of transportation, energy, and their impacts on society. The expansion calls for the creation of a multi-use auditorium, a Founder’s Hall and dramatically larger library and research center.

Additional proposed enhancements include a dramatic glass entry with a “space wing” roof, a year-round dining facility, a canopied pavilion and expanded restoration workshops. Expanding the restoration workshops will create more productive spaces for maintaining the historic collection of working automobiles and aircraft while allowing visitors to observe projects ranging from metal to woodworking.

Promoting and expanding volunteer education is another cornerstone of the campaign. Each year over 100 volunteers learn and practice a variety of skills while caring for the operational ground vehicles and aircraft in the collection.

Enhanced programming and workspaces would train volunteers to care for diverse collections such as leather upholstery, woodwork on carriage bodies or the technique of covering antique plane wings with fabric.

The mission of Owls Head Transportation Museum is to collect, preserve, exhibit, and operate pre-1940 aircraft, ground vehicles, engines and related technologies significant to the evolution of transportation for the purpose of education. The museum has become a nationally recognized venue which hosts more than 30,000 visitors per year.

For more information about the museum’s capital campaign, visit:

Louis Bettcher is in the Marketing Department at the Owls Head Transportation Museum.


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