This year marks the 50th year of operation of the Matthews Museum of Maine Heritage. Opening during the 1965 Union Fair, the Museum has been operating continuously ever since.

The museum, one of the few fair museums in Maine that remains open to visitors during the summer months, has been free to Union Fair visitors since its founding. Each year the museum receives 5,000 or more visitors during Union Fair, in addition to the hundreds who visit during the rest of July and August.

Beginning with about 600 items purchased from Edwards Matthews, the collection has grown to more than 10,000, including the extensive Moxie wing commemorating Union native, Civil War officer and inventor of Moxie, Dr. Augustin Thompson. Organized in broad groupings, the museum houses sections on farm equipment, a cooper shop, carriage house, tools, a kitchen and many more displays.

Matthews, a Searsport native, married Olive Hills at her family's home in Union in 1898. She was a milliner, he a blacksmith.

He was always very interested in local history and preservation of what it was like to live in those days. As a hobby he started to collect Maine antiques; 40 years went by and his collection was still growing. Matthews kept it all in his house, to the point where his house was overflowing with items. He needed better storage, so he used his barn and decided to become an antique dealer.

The older he got, the more he worried about what would happen to his antiques. He wanted to preserve the collection so that future generations could benefit from it and never forget their Maine heritage.

The Knox Agricultural Society of the Union Fair found out about Matthews’ wish and made a deal with him to build a 40- by 150-foot barn-like structure on the fairgrounds to house his collection. In the summer of 1964, for $1,200, the Knox Agricultural Society (Union Fair) also purchased 700 selected pieces from him. The museum was decidated in his honor in 1965.

The museum will be open until Aug. 29, and is free to Union Fair participants from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Aug. 22 through 29. Regular admission is Wednesday through Saturday from noon to 4 p.m. Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for seniors and children.

Visitors who purchase gift items from the gift shop during Union Fair will receive a free gift, while supplies last.