This year, my family and I went to Portland, Maine, on our summer vacation for the National Puzzlers’ League Convention.
My brother is an avid crossword puzzle solver/maker, and so he was definitely in his element at the convention, spending the majority of his time in the hospitality suite with every sort of puzzle you could imagine.
I, on the other hand, was a bit lost. I usually struggle with a Tuesday crossword and Double Jeopardy – never mind vowelless crosswords, cryptics, analinks, and meta puzzles. However, everyone at the convention was extremely friendly and helpful, and though it was pretty clear I was a stroller (as opposed to a runner/competitive puzzler), I had a great time attempting to solve some of these masterpieces. I’ve brought a few home, so in my spare time I’ll try to conquer them.
But of course, it wouldn’t be a vacation for me if I didn’t go to a museum! While in Portland, I made sure to take in some of the city’s most interesting collections:
Cryptozoology Museum: This is certainly one of the more unique museums I have ever been to. Cryptozoology is a pseudoscience – the study of hidden animals that have not yet been proven to exist. Yes – the majority of the creatures discussed in the museums are the stuff of legends – Bigfoot, Yeti, Loch Ness Monster, Mothman, and so on. But cryptozoology does have a point – creatures like the giant squid, mountain gorilla, and the okapi were all once considered unreal until their discovery. Loren Coleman, who seems to be the leading expert in the field, collected all of the items in the museum for display.
Portland Museum of Art: I did this one on my own once I saw the museum had an entire floor of impressionism (my favorite!) And while the impressionist section was great, I also loved the modern art floor. I even got to see the Richard Estes’s Realism, which was a special exhibit. One thing I learned was that most of the time, galleries are arranged so that all the paintings are at the same level. In salon-style, however, the wall will be covered with paintings at various heights, in order to present connections and stories among the art. After watching Sarah Urist Green’s “The Art Assignment,” I’ve been learning to see art with a different perspective – being able to apply it while in Portland and being able to notice why curators and artists present work in this way.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow House: With my family and a very enthusiastic docent, I toured the first brick home in Portland (and the oldest structure on the Portland peninsula.) The home is almost entirely intact – thanks to Henry’s sister, Anne, she passed the home right onto the Maine Historical Society with all of the furniture and contents from the time of her death. Four generations of families lived in the home, and I highly recommend it for not only the history of the famous poet but for the history of 18th and 19th architecture and home life.