Bridgton’s Rufus Porter Museum begins expansion plan


Bridgton’s Rufus Porter Museum of Art and Ingenuity is in the early stages of adding a third building to display 22 murals and serve as a community gathering space. Kristen McNerney / Lake District Weekly

As Bridgton’s Rufus Porter Museum of Art and Ingenuity wraps up its season next month, Executive Director Karla Leandri Rider will be busy planning next summer’s expansion.

Plans call for a third building to be added to the museum site at the intersection of Main and Church streets. The museum hopes to inaugurate the new building next summer, which will house 19th-century murals attributed to Porter’s nephew, Jonathan Poor. The murals are from the home of 19th-century Boston physician James Norton, said Leandri Rider.

The two existing museum buildings feature miniature portraits, murals and 19th-century inventions by Porter, as well as a gift shop and an exhibition currently on display on women’s suffrage as it relates to art and innovation. .

Rufus Porter, approx. 1872, photographic print by an unidentified photographer. To file

“We are very fortunate to have these two historic homes,” said Leandri Rider of the adjoining buildings – one of which was transported from North High Street in 2016. “That being said, we don’t have much to do with it. ‘space.”

The new building will also provide community space, she said, much like what’s planned for Nathaniel Hawthorne’s renovated home in Raymond.

“It is well known in Bridgton that there is very little public space,” said Leandri Rider. “We want to have something that the audience can come in and do their own thing. “

The timing of the addition will depend on private fundraising, with everything to be determined by construction costs, Leandri Rider said. The building must also be approved by the Maine Historic Preservation Commission.

The 16-year-old museum offers a glimpse into the life of Porter, a self-taught 19th-century muralist and folk art inventor who lived in Bridgton as a child. Porter is known for creating Scientific American magazine, New England-themed landscapes, and a number of inventions, including the spinning rifle, an idea sold to Samuel Colt for $ 100.

“Porter was instrumental in the modernization of American society in the pre-war era through his strenuous efforts in various fields,” independent museum curator Laura Sprague said ahead of a 2020 Bowdoin College exhibit on Porter.

While struggling with space issues, especially during the pandemic when social distancing is encouraged, engagement in the museum has remained.

Porter invented and marketed this plumb-and-level indicator in the mid-1840s. Luc Demers

This summer, the museum oversaw more programs with children, said Leandri Rider. On the lawn, children were taught how to make invisible ink, which Rufus Porter wrote in his 1820s publication “Curious Arts,” which taught readers how to reproduce anything he discovered.

“Nothing he ever did was secret,” she said of Porter, who wanted to share his artistic and scientific inclinations with the world of his time.

The museum aims to carry on Porter’s legacy, said Leandri Rider, while instilling creativity in contemporary minds.

This was the fourth year that the museum had sponsored a scholarship for Camp Invention, a week-long program for children at Stevens Brook Elementary School.

“Rufus Porter would like no one to be left out of this process,” said Leandri Rider of universal access to the arts and sciences.

Porter was also a nature lover, seen in his Portland landscapes, she said. Connections to nature were made by the museum this year in a Secret Gardens Tour, where attendees were given a map of a number of the city’s private gardens that they could visit by car. Usually the program is a ‘house of mysterious history tour’, but the museum has had to move away from indoor activities in light of the pandemic.

Before the end of the season, residents of the Lake District can take advantage of Smithsonian Magazine’s annual Museum Day this Saturday, September 18, during which a number of arts and cultural institutions are offering free admission. The Rufus Porter Museum participates and is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Usually the museum charges $ 8 for admission.

For more information on the museum and Rufus Porter’s legacy, visit the museum’s website.

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