Since the Revolutionary war, despite not being among the original “13 colonies” as Maine was actually part of Massachusetts, the state has had a strong military heritage. That helps explain why the state’s motto is “Dirigo,” or Latin for “I lead.” It is also why the Maine Military Museum, a privately run 501 C 3 non-profit installation in South Portland, represents soldiers and their service in every conflict from the Revolutionary war to the Gulf War, and even beyond to current day actions.
“Maine proportionately sent more off to war than any other state,” says museum founder, director and curator Lee Humiston.
The majority of pieces in the museum are authentic, often donated by veterans, families and others who came into possession of uniforms, headgear, armaments and other items. Due to the rarity, not to mention the costs, some of the Civil War and Revolutionary War uniforms are re-enactor reproductions.
Humiston, who said that he has a special interest in POW items, didn’t want to just focus on displays of the “shiny” items, and wanted to show visitors moments that some would like to forget. He went so far as to build a replica of a prison cell from Vietnam-era Hanoi with exact measurements, and even later added rats after a veteran made a comment.
The museum currently houses a great deal of historical military artifacts in a small space, with displays thoughtfully constructed. Humiston and a group of hand-selected volunteers are on hand to walk visitors through the museum to provide history to just about any item or mannequin dressed in gear.
Every piece of history from a field dug cannon ball to flight suit and a U.S. flag that flew on D-Day is astounding in itself. However reading the accompanying plaques or hearing about the history from the museum’s crew makes each piece significant.
While not every piece in the museum and learning center has a connection to Maine, the collection is representative of U.S. and state history that makes a visit to the museum in the historic state of Maine a destination worth your time.
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