Most of us sort of missed Maine’s big birthday.

The state’s 200th anniversary was March 15, 2020. That was just about the time that the whole world shut down because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and all the big bicentennial plans were canceled or postponed by years.

So maybe this is the year to stage your own personal birthday party for your favorite state. It was on March 15, 1820, that Maine became an independent U.S. state, after being a district of Massachusetts since the country’s beginnings.

While a 203rd birthday is not considered a milestone, it is pretty impressive. And there are plenty of ways you can celebrate by learning more about the state’s history, culture, people and places, including books, author talks, museum exhibits and tours of historic landmarks.

Here are some ideas for celebrating Maine’s birthday on your own this year.



Anyone can take a free guided tour of the Maine State House and the Blaine House, the governor’s official residence, in Augusta. You don’t need to be part of a school group, you can just book a tour spot as an individual. The tours are usually on weekday mornings, and you have to sign up in advance.

The State House has an official tour guide, Crystal Dow, to guide visitors through the capitol building. The tours are about 60 minutes long and include information on the history of the State House, which was built in 1832, as well as the functions of the building. Where visitors go depends on what’s happening that day and whether the Legislature in in session. But generally groups see the Hall of the Flags, the rotunda, the galleries above the Legislative chambers and the chambers themselves. If the Legislature is not in session, tour goers might get to go on to the floor of each chamber and see where their legislators sit, up close.

Learn about the Blaine House, the governor’s official residence in Augusta, by taking a guided tour. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

The Blaine House tours, given by house staff, are about 25 minutes long, mostly confined to the public rooms on the first floor. Since it’s a private residence, bedrooms and other private spaces are off limits. Tour groups sometimes see Gov. Janet Mills passing through on her way to work or on her way home. The mansion, built in the 1830s, was the home James G. Blaine, a U.S. senator and speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, who was the Republican candidate for president in 1884. The house was donated to the state of Maine in 1919 by his family. So the tour guides talk about him and his legacy, too.

For more information on both tours and to reserve a spot, go to

Photo courtesy of University of Massachusetts Press


Some of the reasons Maine residents wanted to become an independent state are explored in a book called “Making Maine: Statehood and the War of 1812.” The book’s author, Joshua Smith, will be at the Louis T. Graves Memorial Public Library in Kennebunkport on March 18 at 2 p.m. to discuss the book and sign copies. According to the book’s publisher, University of Massachusetts Press, the book explores how the war influenced the statehood movement. “War’s inherent miseries, along with a changing relationship between regional and national identities, gave rise to a statehood movement that rejected a Boston-centric worldview in favor of a broadly American identity,” reads the publisher’s description of the book.


Smith is currently the director of the American Merchant Marine Museum in Kings Point, New York. For more information about the talk, call 207-967-2778 or go to

Photo courtesy of Islandport Press


How does one make sense of more than 200 years of Maine history, from the dramatic statewide events to the smaller individual efforts that helped make the state what it is today? Well, one day at a time might be a good way to look at it. And you can do just that by reading the book “This Day in Maine” by longtime Maine newspaperman Joseph Owen, a former copy desk chief at the Morning Sentinel and Kennebec Journal newspapers.

Owen’s chronicles of interesting Maine happenings ran in the Press Herald and other Maine newspapers during 2020, the state’s bicentennial year. The book, from Islandport Press, came out in 2020 but sold out quickly. It was updated and reprinted in the spring of 2021. A few examples of the kind of things Owens wrote about include the Maine Turnpike opening on Dec. 13, 1947, singer-songwriter Dan Fogelberg, 56, dying of prostate cancer at his home in Deer Isle on Dec. 16, 2007, and the premiere of the film “Peyton Place,” filmed in Camden, on Dec. 11, 1957. For more information or to order the book, which sells for $18.95, go to


Maine’s birthday, fittingly enough, is also the start of Cultural Heritage Week, happening March 15-22. The Cultural Alliance of Maine is organizing the event to shine a light on arts and cultural activities in Maine. One way people can participate is by submitting photos, videos or text documents of a dance performance, poem, essay, art or anything that “makes you proud of culture in Maine” to The Cultural Alliance of Maine by March 15. The submissions will be part of a virtual showcase online, which people can see all week.


The week will end with Cultural Advocacy Day from 1-4 p.m. March 22 in the Hall of Flags at the State House in Augusta. There will be poetry readings, coffee and refreshments, workshops on cultural advocacy, art-making, speeches, networking, and more. Participants from across the state will be encouraged to visit their legislators’ offices to share their community culture impact stories. For more information, to submit works or to register for Cultural Advocacy Day, go to

Joshua Chamberlain’s former home, now a museum, in Brunswick. Steve Collins/Sun Journal


Joshua Chamberlain is one of the most compelling figures in Maine history. He was a Civil War hero, a president of Bowdoin College in Brunswick and governor of the state. You can learn more about him at the Joshua L. Chamberlain Museum, located in his former home in Brunswick. Tour guides talk about the house and its history, as well as Chamberlain’s career and family. His wife, Fanny, was an artist who went blind later in life.

Tours are by appointment only and reservations must be made at least four business days in advance. The cost is $25 per person, $15 for children. For more information about the museum, which is operated by the Pejepscot History Center, go to

Mounted birds and butterfly collections displayed at the Portland Society of Natural History around 1965. Photo by Ed Richardson. Maine Historical Society / MaineMemory.Net #135726


A new exhibit at the Maine Historical Society in Portland, opening March 17, shines a light on the collection of one of the earliest natural history museums in the United States. Beginning as the Maine Institute of Science in 1836 and changing its name to the Portland Society of Natural History in 1843, the institution collected and exhibited taxidermy, shells, fossils, minerals and other artifacts until it closed in 1970. When it closed, its collection was dispersed. But in this new exhibit – “Code Red: Climate, Justice & Natural History Collections” – many items are being brought back to Portland. The exhibit explores topics related to the current climate crisis and how humans can impact biodiversity. The exhibit will be on view through Dec. 30 and admission is $15, $5 for children 6-17 and free for children 5 and under. For more information, go to

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