Cabinets Full of Curiosities
No animatronics or plasma displays here. L.C. Bates Museum is a delightfully low-tech learning expo, purposely frozen in time.
Stepping inside the door of L. C. Bates Museum feels a bit like entering Hogwarts School in the Harry Potter books. Its dimly lit rooms are filled with cabinets and cases, twists and turns, and eyes watching you at every corner.
The eyes belong to the beautifully preserved birds and animals—moose, caribou, wolf, pine martin—and zoos’ worth more. They were collected a century ago by a visionary named George W. Hinckley, a preacher, professor, social progressive, and founder of the Good Will Farm School for Needy Children, now known as the Goodwill-Hinckley School.
Starting with a few rocks he had collected as a boy, Hinckley decided to create a museum at the school, and began encouraging donations. Soon taxidermy specimens, minerals, and other natural goodies began arriving. By 1904, the
museum owned 225 birds, 40 quadrupeds, and 650 specimens of minerals.
Today the museum has changed little from when it was set up in a Romanesque building with the help of Maine businessman Lewis Carlton Bates—so little, in fact, that its director, Deborah Staber, calls it “a museum of a museum.”
Inside, rock hounds will find an entire room filled with stones, minerals and gems. Marine life fans will discover hundreds of beautiful shells from all over the world, plus an 800-pound tuna and a trophy marlin caught by Ernest Hemingway. Fledgling entomologists will find butterflies, moths, and bugs by the caseful.
Outside, wooded trails give naturalists the chance to spot live creatures, too.
• Take I-95 to Exit 133, Fairfield, to Route 201.
• Drive north 5 miles toward Skowhegan.
• L.C. Bates Museum is the large red building on the left, on the Goodwill-Hinckley school campus.
Admission is $2.50 adults,
$1 for youth under 18. Closed Mondays and Tuesdays. Visit gwh.org or call 207-238-4250 for more information.