FAIRFIELD — Alex Jason and his father, Bill, have dreamed of starting their own museum for years.

Since 2011 the pair has amassed an Apple computer technology collection that fills the basement of their Winslow home and includes more than 200 Apple machines, among them a rare Apple I from 1976 — the first computer released by Apple — that is still in working condition.

But having a place outside their home where they could share their collection with others was something the Jasons considered a pipe dream up until recently, when a family friend and local state senator helped them connect with Good Will-Hinckley, a nonprofit organization that owns a 200-plus acre campus in Fairfield, about renovating a former library into a technology museum that they said would be the first of its kind in Maine.

The Maine Technology Museum is a planned partnership between the Jasons and Good Will-Hinckley that will open in the former Carnegie Library on the Fairfield campus.

“It’s a dream come true,” said Bill Jason, 47, a 1991 Colby College graduate who recently left his job as an account manager at MaineGeneral Medical Center to work full time on planning the museum. “It’s going to be a lot of work, but it’s going to be something really great for the community.”

There is no opening date yet for the museum, and the Jasons said they know they have a lot of work to do over the next few months. The project is estimated to cost $4 million — with $2 million going toward renovations and exhibits — and another $2 million set aside for an endowment.

The Jasons would like to see admission to the museum be free or low.

Alex, a freshman at Winslow High School, started the family’s Apple collection in 2011 when he traded a minibike he had bought with money he earned mowing neighbors’ lawns and a snowblower his grandmother had given him for an iMac he found on Craigslist.

“When we first started out, I never thought a museum would be a reality,” said Alex, now 15. “I’ve talked to my friends about it at school and they love the idea, so I think there are a lot of people who would come see it. People love things that are interactive, that they can do stuff with, and that’s what we plan to do.”

Alex’s collection — which he calls Alex’s Apple Orchard — includes rarities such as the Apple I, of which there are estimated to be fewer than 50 worldwide; the first prototype of a mouse, known as the Cursor III; and an early version of the Lisa computer, named after Steve Jobs’ daughter. In 2014 a working Apple I was reported to have sold for $905,000 at a New York auction.

The collection recently gained national attention after a reporter from Cult of Mac, a news website dedicated to all things Apple, contacted the Jasons for a book he was writing earlier this month and reported on Alex’s Apple I. The New York Times, The Huffington Post, Mashable and other news outlets also came out with stories on Alex’s Apple Orchard.

The largest collection of Apple products and history is at Stanford University, to which the company donated most of its historical records in 1998. Another large collection is at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California, which has more than 3,000 pieces of Apple technology.

Apple itself does not maintain a museum and did not respond to requests for comment for this article, but experts say that in general it has chosen to maintain a future-oriented philosophy rather than hold on to historical artifacts.

While Alex’s Apple Orchard will be an important part of the museum in Fairfield, the Jasons say they also want their museum to be as forward-thinking as possible. Alex’s Apple Orchard will occupy just 15 percent of the floor space in the 4,500-square-foot building.

“This isn’t going to be a building full of dusty old computers,” Bill Jason said, adding that they plan to have lots of interactive exhibits focused on graphic design, renewable energy and virtual technology in keeping with the museum’s motto, “Invent, create, innovate.”

Scott Cyrway, a Republican state senator from Benton and a family friend of the Jasons, first helped them connect with Good Will-Hinckley about a year ago. Cyrway is on the board of directors of the Maine School of Natural Sciences, a charter school that opened in 2012 on the Good Will-Hinckley campus.

The Carnegie Library, which dates to 1906 and is on the National Register of Historic Places, has been vacant since 2010, when the Good Will-Hinckley School for Boys and Girls, a 150-year-old boarding school for orphaned children, closed for financial reasons. When the charter school opened three years later, there was no need for the library — one of two on the campus — since students are increasingly relying on technology, not books, in the classroom, according to Good Will-Hinckley interim President Rob Moody.

He said the organization, which also oversees the L.C. Bates Museum on the same campus, agreed to lease the building to the Jasons at no cost for 10 years with the stipulation that they pay for renovation that would preserve the building’s historic character.

“We’re excited to put the building back to use,” Moody said. “The teachers (at the Maine Academy of Natural Sciences) are already drooling.”

To get help along the way, the Jasons have partnered with the Maine Discovery Museum in Bangor, which will act in an advisory role, and drawn on Silicon Valley connections cultivated through Alex’s Apple Orchard for advice and insight. The museum already is established as a nonprofit organization.

“The museum isn’t just something we’re picturing for the Greater Waterville area,” Bill Jason said. “We want to pull from Aroostook County. We want to pull from Down East Maine. We want everyone to benefit from the Maine Technology Museum because we don’t have anything like this in Maine. We’ve never had anything like this in Maine.”

The Jasons’ goal is to challenge people to think and to innovate. One way they hope the museum will help is through a basement “hacker space,” a giant workshop where people can tinker with computers and other technologies, take them apart and see how they work or are programmed.

Opening the space up to students and inviting school groups to the museum also will be part of their mission, as Alex Jason said he believes area students could get a lot out of a technology museum.

“I did, and I did it on my own,” he said.

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]

Twitter: @rachel_ohm


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.