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January 10, 2023

Owls Head Transportation Museum moves ahead with new director, $9.7M expansion

person in tie and suit with antique car COURTESY / OWLS HEAD TRANSPORTATION MUSEUM Former Operations Manager John Bottero will oversee a redesign and expansion project designed to accommodate a growing world-class collection at Owls Head Transportation Museum.
Founded in 1974, the mission of the nonprofit educational organization is to collect, preserve, exhibit and operate pre-1940 aircraft, ground vehicles and engines that were significant to the evolution of transportation. The museum also hosts the annual New England Auto Auction, which draws consignors and bidders from around the world.
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New leadership at the Owl's Head Transportation Museum will shepherd the public phase of a $9.75 million capital campaign to create new education spaces, restoration workshops and enhanced visitor experiences.

John Bottero, who was recently named executive director by the museum’s board of directors, brings a technical and business background as well as three decades of experience in the arena of fine art and antiques.

Bottero only joined the museum in 2021, when he was hired as operations director, but said in a press release, “The Owls Head Transportation Museum has been a place of inspiration for me since my youth.”

Bottero said the museum provides examples of innovation from that the past that have the power to inspire and educate.

The new director began his career in the Navy, after which he earned technical and business degrees, then worked at the aerospace and defense company Raytheon. 

He also served as vice president, appraiser and auctioneer at Thomaston Place Auction Galleries in Thomaston.

The outgoing director, Kevin Bedford, had the role since late 2016. He will act as the major donation director of the capital campaign through June.

The goal is to finalize the campaign in the next two years. Hired for the project are Stephen G. Smith Architects and contractor Maine Coast Construction Corp., both in Camden.

Work on the museum’s restoration annex broke ground in August, with hopes of completing the project by early spring 2024.

Founded in 1974, the museum is a nonprofit educational organization. Its mission is to collect, preserve, exhibit, and operate pre-1940 aircraft, ground vehicles, engines and related technologies significant to the evolution of transportation for the purpose of education. The museum also hosts the annual New England Auto Auction, which draws consignors and bidders from around the world.

The facility’s redesign and expansion is designed to accommodate an expanding, world-class collection and new programming, Bedford told Mainebiz earlier this year.

rendering of museum and grounds
A $9.75 million redesign and expansion of the Owls Head Transportation Museum, shown here in a rendering, will accommodate growing collections and programming.

For the past 40 years, the museum has built a collection of historical aircraft and automobiles at the site in Owls Head, next to the Knox County Regional Airport. The museum has also come to serve as an educational learning center focused on transportation pioneers, inventors and entrepreneurs.

On average, 85% to 90% of the collection is operable and, during the season, a good portion is brought out and demonstrated to the public, primarily during the museum’s busy summer event schedule.

Now space is running out for the growing collection and for new educational programs. The museum now hosts over 30,000 visitors per year. It has over 1,800 members and more than 200 volunteers and provides 5,000 free admissions for children. At summer events, 2,000 exhibitors display vehicles.

In order to meet present and future needs, plans are in the works to expand the facilities, consisting of 117,000 square feet that include exhibit, storage, workshop and office areas, as well as a separate building across the airfield.

The separate building will be sold and the funds will be used for expanding and redesigning the primary facility. The total square footage will be about the same, but the workshops will more than double in size. State-of-the-art environmental controls will be installed throughout.

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