Bath museum to exhibit Cape Elizabeth lighthouse lens

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BATH — Maine Maritime Museum on June 17 will debut an exhibit that features a lighthouse lens that guided ships past Cape Elizabeth and into Portland Harbor in the late 19th century.

“Into the Lantern: A Lighthouse Experience” displays a full-scale replica of the lighthouse tower at Two Lights in Cape Elizabeth, and uses video to simulate the sights and sounds of being at the top of the lighthouse and looking over Casco Bay.

The opening will take place at the 243 Washington St. museum from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Admission will be reduced to $6 for adults, and children younger than 12 will get in for free. The celebration will offer games, crafts and discounted cruises on the museum’s cruise boat, Merrymeeting, from which other lighthouses can be viewed.

The event launches a summer series of lighthouse-themed activities, including trips to the Seguin Island Lighthouse, lectures, cruises, and a Portland Head Light tour. Log onto mainemaritimemuseum.org for more information.

The museum broke ground last December on an expansion, near the building’s main entrance, that houses the 600-square-foot exhibit.

A capital campaign to raise the $980,000 required for design and construction is complete, and the project is under budget, Curator of Exhibits Chris Hall said in an interview Tuesday.

“This is … the only exhibit we have run across that recreates the ability to be at the top of a lighthouse,” Hall said. “… We’ve created the exact full-size lantern structure that is currently on the Cape Elizabeth light.”

The video will show a 180-degree panoramic time lapse of the four seasons, from the view of the lighthouse, using footage filmed by True Life Media at the Cape light.

“I’ve seen rough cuts of it; it’s pretty amazing, actually,” Hall said. “We’re quite pleased with the result.”

The single-level exhibit allows people physically unable to ascend the steps of an actual lighthouse to still experience what it is like to go up into the tower.

“Lighthouses are one of the icons of maritime Maine, and visitors come from all over the world to see them,” Amy Lent, the museum’s executive director, said in a May 30 press release. “However, many people never have the opportunity to be at the top of a lighthouse, and the Cape Elizabeth Light is not open to the public. So this new exhibit gives people an idea of what that might be like while also explaining the technology and history of these amazing structures.”

The Fresnel lens was made around 1874 in Paris, France, and operated in the east Cape Elizabeth Lighthouse until 1995. The dismantled lens has been stored since 2013 in crates in the museum’s climate-controlled storage area.

The lens had been displayed in the Cape Elizabeth Town Hall lobby for 18 years. It was due four years ago to be returned to the U.S. Coast Guard, and sent to a U.S. government warehouse in Boston after Cape Elizabeth decided it could no longer afford to keep it.

Soon after the Town Council voted in April 2013 to return the lens, Coast Guard Curator Arlyn Danielson – who had helped Maine Maritime install a Coast Guard exhibit – asked the Bath institution if it might adopt the lens.

Nathan Lipfert, senior curator at the time, said the museum was “very interested.”

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

This Fresnel lens was made around 1874 in Paris, France, and operated until 1995 in the east Cape Elizabeth Lighthouse tower at Two Lights. It will be part of an exhibit opening June 17 at Maine Maritime Museum in Bath.

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A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.