On July 4th, 1998 during a visit to John Serkin
on Long Island we saw a drawing of an elaborate roof mounted camera
obscura at the Children's Museum of Maine. We were surprised to
see such a full-function camera obscura that we had never learned
about, although it has been in operation for several years. In the
next year we found a few mentions in publications and began an e-mail
correspondence with John McNeil, a volunteer at the museum and camera
obscura enthusiast. We made contact with the museum and in September
1999 drove from Baltimore to Portland, Maine.
Lucky us! We picked the week and route that hurricane Floyd
also chose. We drove up Highway 95 in a blinding rain storm just
hours ahead of the unwelcome visitor. We grumbled all the way,
"We should have canceled the trip. We will drive over 500 miles
and see nothing."
The first day in Portland was rainy and dark but we visited the
museum, met the friendly and helpful staff and looked around the
facility. Jack even got to see the lens assembly in the cupola
on top of the building. We were impressed with the image. Even
on a wet and gloomy day it was very clear and well defined. This
is very serious optical equipment!
With more luck than we had any right to hope for Floyd made a
right turn before it got to Portland and Saturday was clear and
We returned to the museum and were able to attend a presentation
to a group of children. It was delightful to watch the contemporary
children greet the camera images with wonder and enthusiasm. One
young person kept shouting "cool!" every time a new
We were told that Fred Thompson, a board member, visited the
camera obscura in Edinburgh and became enthusiastic about bringing
one to the museum. He convinced Eastman Kodak to donate the optical
elements. Richard Albretch of Eastman Kodak engineered the optics
and mechanism. The camera obscura opened in 1993.