Portland gets venue for major-market traveling exhibits

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PORTLAND — Joe Gold thinks “people will be amazed” by what he’s creating in the Old Port.

His Salem, Massachusetts-based entertainment marketing and promotion company is creating the Portland Science Center. It’s billed as the state’s first exhibition hall and science center, a 15,000-square-foot space to showcase traveling exhibits of the type that typically spend weeks or months at a time in the cities they visit.

“(The Gold Group) has been in the business of marketing museum attractions for over 10 years,” Gold said, including the King Tut and the Titanic exhibits, Body Worlds, the Dead Sea scrolls, and more than a dozen others. “There were some places in the U.S. that a lot of these exhibits couldn’t go because there was no venue to host them.”

Portland was one such location, which Gold said he discovered while visiting the city last winter, looking for things to do.

“There was an art museum, but no science or history museum,” Gold said.

So Gold set out to find space for a venue, and after a few months of searching settled on the top two floors at 68 Commercial St., on Maine Wharf. He said he has an arrangement for a lease from the building’s owner, Stephen Goodrich, that will last “for a long time.”

“This is not what people refer to as a pop-up museum,” Gold said. “We have long-term commitment to the space.”

That commitment will bring in “the world’s most popular traveling exhibits,” Gold said, exhibits usually reserved for larger, major markets like New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago.

Gold said he is aiming for a late-June opening, so the pace from inception to completion has been fairly rapid. Gold said he is in negotiations for the Science Center’s first exhibit.

“The first exhibit we do will be important because it will help establish the location,” Gold said. “It’s important that the exhibits we do are educational in nature.”

Gold said he and his partners looked at several other locations before settling on 68 Commercial St. He said it was important the venue be a place “where people already go,” instead of creating a destination.

He cited the availability of public parking, numerous nearby restaurants, and overall accessibility as important factors in the decision.

“We’re coming in with attractions that will bring even more people to the downtown area,” Gold said.

On June 5, the still-under-construction space near the Maine State Pier hosted a job fair for the center. Gold said they had already hired a general manager, still needed to fill about 20 positions, including ticket takers, assistant managers and customer service representatives.

Each exhibition will have its own entry charge; Gold said visitors can expect as average cost of $20 for adults, $15 for kids, and lower prices for students.

“These are top-quality exhibits with the greatest objects and story lines you’ll get anywhere in the world,” Gold said. “I think people will be amazed by what they see.”

Colin Ellis can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @colinoellis.

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The Portland Science Center, at 68 Commercial St. on Maine Wharf, is slated to open at the end of June. It could host exhibits usually reserved for much larger markets.

Reporter covering the Portland Public School District as well as the town of Falmouth for The Forecaster. Can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net.