The Owls Head Transportation Museum has launched a $9.7 million capital campaign to expand museum space and educational programs.
OWLS HEAD, Maine — “Simply put, we’re running out of room.”
That, says Kevin Bedford, executive director of the Owls Head Transportation Museum, is the main reason the popular museum is launching a $9.7 million capital campaign.
The money will pay for a major expansion of the museum’s buildings and allow it to add more educational programs for local elementary school students.
The museum held a ceremonial groundbreaking Wednesday to announce the public portion of the campaign. Bedford says they’ve raised $4.6 million in pledges so far and are cautiously confident they’ll be able to meet the full amount “within two years.”
The museum says it attracts about 30,000 visitors each year, attracted by events and the extensive collection of vintage cars and trucks, as well as the collection of historic aircraft.
It showcases 20th century transportation, from the era of the Wright brothers and early automobiles, through the sleek cars of the 1930s and the rapid development of the 1950s and 1960s.
The expansion will provide more space for museum volunteers to carry out restoration work on vehicles and aircraft, such as the recently completed reconstruction of their World War I Fokker triplane replica. The changes will also allow more space for displays.
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Bedford says expanding the technical area for restoration work will also allow OHTM to expand its work with local schools, providing hands-on technical and STEM classes to help youth better understand technology and invention.
“I meet people every day whose kids don’t know how to use a screwdriver or don’t know a flat-blade screwdriver,” Bedford said.
Learning from the museum’s skilled volunteers, he says, can help fill in those gaps and help students understand how things work.
“Of that rudimentary [knowledge] right down to the operation of a gearbox or petrol or piston engine.’
He says the museum has always taught adults, but began reaching out to schools during the COVID-19 pandemic when they needed new ideas to help students learn.
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The expansion, Bedford says, will help students learn STEM skills of invention, teamwork and experimentation — and that even failure can teach lessons.
“What we’ve found during the pandemic is that every week, working with young people in school systems and teachers in local school systems, we’ve had nothing but positive results, engagement and requests for more.”
Fundraising work continues, but with nearly half of the target amount raised in pledges, the museum is not waiting to begin the expansion.
They have begun work on the restoration annex and plan to begin the expanded restoration workshop this fall. Completing those areas first, Bedford says, will help develop the curriculum.
Other parts of the project, including exhibit space, a new HVAC system at the museum entrance and other details, will follow if fundraising allows.
The museum is open most days during the summer and has several big events coming up, including the Wings and Wheels Air Show this Saturday and Sunday, August 6th and 7th, and the annual New England Car Auction from August 25th to the 27th.
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