Cryptozoologist Loren Coleman (left) chats with visiting teacher Skipper Geanangel of Bar Mills Wednesday (September 21, 2011) at Coleman’s museum on Congress Street. (David Carkhuff Photo)
Crypto collection ready for big move
By David Carkhuff
Sep 24, 2011 Portland Daily Sun
A bigger footprint for Bigfoot, that’s what Loren Coleman wanted.
At 11 Avon St., Portland’s premiere cryptozoologist will get it.
Coleman’s quirky International Cryptozoology Museum — a collection of mysterious-creature artifacts including a highly visible stuffed replica of Bigfoot — is moving this fall from the back of the Green Hand bookstore at 661 Congress St. to a larger location nearby.
“What’s happened is we wanted to see if we could have a footprint downtown,” Coleman said. “We wanted to see if we could succeed; obviously in this economy we had to be careful, so that’s why we rented the space at the back of the Green Hand. We’re coming up to our second anniversary. It became clear that we were successful enough, but not too successful, so we could definitely move.”
Two addresses over, on 11 Avon St., is the new home for Coleman’s curious collection.
“It’s probably five or six times as large as this space,” Coleman said, standing in his museum on Wednesday. “We’re going to have it recurated, redesigned so all of the cabinets are together, I have lots of evidence that I haven’t put out, like 150 Bigfoot casts that will all be displayed for the first time.”
Evidence and “fakes” will be better organized, Coleman said. A movie prop of the Feejee Mermaid — a hybrid monkey-fish attraction popularized by famed circus operator and promoter, P.T. Barnum — needs special placement for preservation purposes, he said.
Michelle Souliere, proprietor of the Green Hand bookstore, said her business is humming along after a strong summer, and she could appreciate Coleman’s desire to expand.
“I think it’s awesome,” she said. “He clearly needs the room.”
A year ago during an inventory of the museum’s artifacts, a docent counted 2,500 items, and today there’s probably over 3,000 items, “so those are all going into the new museum,” Coleman said.
The move really just involves a quick jaunt around a corner, on the same block.
“We’re still branded for this end of Congress Street, and we want to stay here. That was a real important part of my planning for the expansion, I did not want to move from the outer Arts District,” Coleman said.
Coleman said he expected to raise his $5 admission for adults, while trying to keep prices level for seniors and children, “because the rent’s going to triple for us, and we’re looking into, we’re actually filing for a nonprofit status.”
Coleman said he enjoys the chance to educate the public and practice the role of professional skeptic while researching mysterious-creature sightings. The museum has never been meant as a money-making venture, he noted.
“Donations are appreciated to support our educational and scientific missions,” Coleman writes on his museum blog, where he lists Wednesday-through-Sunday hours of operation. The museum will be closed for one week before the reopening in late October.
After 50 years of researching hidden and as-yet undiscovered animals, Coleman, an author and speaker, accumulated diverse artifacts but was forced to store them in his Portland home. In fall of 2009, he moved the collection into the back of the Green Hand, opening the museum at the same time as Souliere launched her equally idiosyncratic bookstore.
In fact, it was a day after Halloween in 2009 that the International Cryptozoology Museum opened in its current location. Coleman has acknowledged a somewhat tongue-in-cheek approach to the subject matter of undiscovered creatures, keeping a healthy dose of humor mixed into his pursuits. Still, he treats the field with respect, noting its rampant following today.
“Cryptozoology, the study of hidden animals, has been conceptualized since the 1940s, but the last few years have seen Bigfoot museums and cryptid exhibitions developed in a more organized fashion,” Coleman reported on his research blog, www.cryptomundo.com. Cryptomundo, as of Sept. 20, had received 70,000 comments from what Coleman affectionately calls “Cryptomundians.”
According to Coleman’s museum blog, http://cryptozoologymuseum.com, the “Grand Monster Reopening” of the International Cryptozoology Museum will be from noon to 6 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 30. The public can come celebrate Halloween early, Coleman says, calling his attraction the “World’s First and Only Cryptozoology Museum!”
“It’s a very exciting time,” Coleman said.
Local media attention is important, and David Carkhuff’s Portland article is greatly appreciated. My sincere thanks to the PDS for this kind of write-up. Only one small footnote, pun intended: While I often say during my talks with museum visitors that “I have to keep a sense of humor during my investigations” and I do use humor in discussing the FeeJee Mermaid, Jackalope, and Fur-bearing Trout, I never note that I employ a “tongue-in-cheek approach” to cryptozoology. ~ Loren
Update: Another article on the move.
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