Maine Mineral and Gem Museum

A Chronology of the Museum’s Initial Development in Bethel


Bethel News July 28, 2009            

A Maine Mineralogy Museum in Bethel was the topic of a gathering at the Moses Mason House Saturday afternoon.  The host and symposium leader was Lawrence T.P. Stifler, Ph D, Founder and President of Health Management Resources.  According to the HMR website they are a leading provider of medically based weight management programs.  Dr. Stifler and his associate, Mary McFadden, purchased the Bumpus Mine in Albany in 2005. They plan to make it look like a working mine that gives the appearance workers have just left for the day. 

They also have been gently advocating Bethel as a site for a mineralogy museum that would include mining history. This would be at the Bethel Historical Society. Tours to the Bumpus Mine are already a feature of the Gem-Mineral Dig and Sluice attraction located at Bethel Outdoor Adventure.

Saturday’s discussion followed a luncheon for over 40 people. The symposium was to draw out attendee’s ideas and opinions about a Bethel museum and mineral history center.   Dr. Stifler pointed out that approximately seventy five percent of all Maine mines are located in Oxford County. 

He also introduced a newly published book, edited by Van King, about mining history in Oxford County wherein one character in the story had brought up the idea of an Oxford County location for such a museum nearly 61 years ago.  King has described his book as the story of one of Oxford County’s most famous mineral localities – the Bumpus Quarry in Albany. The book title is, “Maine Feldspar, Families and Feuds: A History of Mining and the Feldspar Industry, Oxford County, Maine”.  Jim Mann from Mt. Mann of Bethel was the co-anchor for the meeting.

Some of the other major points from the audience were:  the Bethel Historical Society would benefit from  such a museum since it would attract a largely different group of people;  donations to the mineralogy museum would have to be segregated from general contributions to the society; security for rare and precious specimens would require an investment above what would normally be given to a history collection; creating this museum would help stop the loss of important gem and mineral specimens that are leaving this country and would also help museum curators in efforts to reclaim Oxford County items held elsewhere in this country.

What was not discussed was the impact on historical society needs for large storage space for historical records.  Right now the museum cannot accept new collections due to lack of storage.  From the point of view of researchers, records collections are about the most valuable contribution the society makes to local history and genealogy.

Following the discussion of a new museum in Bethel, Carl Francis of the Harvard Mineralogy Department gave a talk on the importance to western Maine of preserving its mining history.  There was a standing room only crowd on hand to hear his talk.


May 2010

News from the Maine Mineral Symposium held in May in Augusta reported that Bethel would be the location for a Maine Minerals, Gems and Memorabilia Museum.  The museum will probably be on Main Street in Bethel and a final decision by the founders should be made soon. Dr. Lawrence Stifler and Mary McFadden are the patrons/founders of the museum. 

Last July these parties held a symposium at the Moses Mason House to open the proposal up for public discussion, hear other points of view and consider the possibility of entering into a partnership with the Bethel Historical Society.  Dr. Carl Francis, Curator of Harvard University’s Mineral Museum was guest speaker at the symposium.

 After further consideration of a joint museum, a number of disadvantages were identified that led the Stiflers and Mann to look for a different venue for a mineral museum. 

Dr. Lawrence Stifle opens July 2009 symposium discussion about a mineral and gem museum in Bethel. He introduced Van King’s new book Maine Feldspar, Families and Feuds: A History of Mining and the Feldspar Industry, Oxford County, Maine”. 

Dr. Carl Francis talks to the group about the importance of preserving western Maine’s mineralogy history.




Dr. Stifler, Mary McFadden and James Mann in the Mt. Mann office at the end of June 2010 to talk about their progress in developing a Maine Mineral and Gem Museum in Bethel.

 If the current plan can be carried out, a new museum would hopefully be ready to open within three years, maybe as soon as 2012.  The prospective new owners have already acquired major one of a kind collections that could attract a worldwide audience.

Jim Mann has been working on behalf of Dr. Stifler and Mary McFadden toward establishing a mineral museum in Bethel.  His collections and exhibits of rare species and teaching displays would likely be included in any new Bethel museum.


July 1, 2010

Dr. Stifler, Mary McFadden and James Mann met in Mann’s office to talk about their progress in establishing a Maine museum for mineral and gem exhibits, study, research and history. That evening they hosted a dinner reception at the Sudbury Inn to present the same plans to a group of people interested in such a museum. They have purchased Kennett Realty’s building at 103 Main Street next to the old Odd Fellows Hall. This step has enabled them as the founders to make specific plans for how the museum will be arranged internally. Their goal is to see it open in two years.

As the building’s conversion takes place Kennett Realty will continue to operate from their present offices. Museum remodeling activity will start in the basement. When the museum opens the basement level will contain a mineral and gem work area, a laboratory and a secure vault. Equipment will be installed for actual jewelry making from raw gem stones. Upstairs, the museum proper will consist of display areas and a gift shop which will occupy 3,300 square feet of the main and second stories.

Before any remodeling is started, the Stiflers will be consulting with experienced, successful designers of museums. They want the display areas constructed in a way that gives visitors an optimum presentation of the exhibits. They will also being seeking suggestions from other principal eastern U.S. museums, such as those at Harvard, the American Natural History Museum and the Smithsonian.  Part of the floor design goal is how to best position a gift shop within the museum floor plan. In the overall plan, gift shop sales are looked upon as the main source of income to pay for the museum’s operating expenses.

During the planned 24 months it takes to prepare the building for opening, the owners will also be focusing on locating, acquiring and returning to Maine specimens and collections that have left the state but could be returned.

Their next step  will be to outline plans for academic and general teaching programs to be hosted by the museum and how museum programs will involve use of the Bumpus mine.  The mine’s restoration and use as a field museum will continue.  Additional lots of land along Route 5 have been purchased to preserve approaches to the mine’s entrance.




October 2011


New Director for Maine Mineral and Gem Museum Introduced

Gena Schwam is the new Director, Maine Mineral and Gem Museum in Bethel. This week marks her fourth week on the job. Ms. Schwam moved here from the Queens Borough of New York City. Her office is currently at Mt Mann Jewelers.

The new director has ten years experience working in art galleries and museums including the American Museum of Natural History. She has traveled internationally installing exhibits and working in the fields of art and museum exhibit management. She has degrees in art history and museum studies.

At this time, Ms. Schwam, Jim Mann and two interior designers will be working toward readiness for an opening in November 2012.  Jim Mann is the museum’s curator.  Starting from scratch, the new director is faced with

everything from visual displays and logos to corporate development.  Exhibits that will attract a worldwide audience to the new museum and Bethel are her main goals.

Ms. Schwam’s office is located in the Mt. Mann complex on Main Street.

July 2, 2012


Planning Board Approves  Museum Amendments

2010. Kennett Real Estate Office building on Main Street, Bethel adjacent to the 1890 Odd Fellows Hall which then housed retail business.

 At last week’s planning board meeting, Museum Director Gena Schwam presented the museum’s amended site plan for its now two adjoining installations in Bethel. Ms. Schwam was assisted by architect James Reuter. Key feature of the amendment was the addition of the former Odd Fellows Hall to the museum’s establishment.






5 Oct 2012 Groundbreaking MMGM

Friday evening mineral and gem museum founders, Dr. Lawrence Stifler and Mary McFadden, hosted a reception, celebration and ground breaking to mark the start of construction bringing together the Maine Mineral and Gem Museum’s two buildings. The event drew an unexpectedly large crowd of perhaps two hundred plus including Bethel residents and invited guests from the world of minerals and gems. It was announced that the firm of Davis & Hanscom, Inc. of Steep Falls (from the west Sebago Lake area) would be the general contractor – three of the company’s principals attended.

 As part of the reception the museums two buildings were open for inspection.  Stephen Seames who is the Museum’s Librarian and Archivist had prepared an outstanding display in the former Odd Fellows Hall of artifacts, apparel, documents and a beautiful sword that were once used ceremonially by the Odd Fellows order.  In the main museum building mineral and gem displays were arranged for viewing and historic maps

Gena Schwam, Maine Mineral and Gem Museum Director in her office October 2011

Architectural drawing of the amended museum plan with the addition of the former Odd Fellows Hall to the over museum building plan. Part of presentation to Bethel Planning Board.

Ms Schwam presenting the amended museum plan to Bethel Planning Board.