PEAKS ISLAND — Esoteric.

That’s probably the kindest, most generous descriptor for the Umbrella Cover Museum.

The museum, a mainstay on Peaks Island’s main drag, is exactly what it sounds like. Inside its cramped, 200-square-foot space are umbrella covers. Hundreds of them. From floor to ceiling – and including the ceiling – museum curator Nancy 3. Hoffman has hung 750 umbrella covers in what she calls a celebration of the mundane.

Next month, the museum will temporarily leave its home of nearly 20 years for Bristol, England. There, from Sept. 15-27, Hoffman will set up an abridged version of her collection at the Centrespace Gallery in what Hoffman has billed the museum’s “first international tour.”

Hoffman, who already has a display case of U.K.-themed umbrella sleeves and bric-a-brac, said the British are the perfect audience – partly for their sense of humor, but also their country’s persistent drizzly weather.

“They get it,” she said.


To defray the costs, Hoffman has set up a gofundme account that had raised $1,015 of its $5,500 goal as of Friday evening.

Hoffman, who began “inadvertently” collecting umbrella covers in the early 1990s, isn’t an Anglophile, per se. She’s more a lover of international culture in all its forms. Her vast collection – which holds a Guinness world record, by the way – boasts umbrella sleeves from 65 nations, she says. She is multilingual, speaking fluent French, Italian and a little Spanish. Hoffman, who works as a professional musician at her winter home in Key West, Florida, also has memorized songs in 25 languages.

Even her middle name – which she legally changed to the numeral 3 followed by a period – has an international bent.

“It translates,” she said. “I can be ‘Nancy Trois’ (in French); I can be ‘Nancy Tres’ (in Spanish); in Hebrew I’m ‘Nancy Sholosh’; in Turkish I’m ‘Nancy Uc’ – that’s my favorite one.”

While taking guests on a guided tour of her museum, Hoffman alternates between American, French, British and Irish accents and frequently punctuates sentences by singing the melody from the Indiana Jones theme in a full-throated, soaring soprano. For some reason.

Eccentric, is probably the most apt description for Hoffman. But that’s part of the museum’s appeal. Or, as some say, Hoffman is the totality of the museum’s appeal.


“It was only interesting because she made it interesting,” said Brooke Williams, a St. Louis resident who was touring coastal Maine with his family.

That’s not faint praise, according to Williams. In his estimation, Hoffman carries the show through her offbeat jokes, puns, quizzes, prizes and songs, including a group singalong of the museum’s theme song that Hoffman plays on accordion at the conclusion of each tour.

“It was honestly the highlight of the day,” Williams said. “Mainly because it was so unexpected.”

His wife, Leah Williams, agreed. “She makes something out of nothing,” she said.

Ben McCanna can be contacted at 791-6434 or at:

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