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A Museum For Umbrella Covers?

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
August 7, 2023 3:01 am

A Museum For Umbrella Covers?

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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August 7, 2023 3:01 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, meet Nancy 3 (that's the numeral '3' not the word 'three') Hoffman, an accordionist, world traveler, and owner of the world's only Umbrella Cover Museum in Peak's Island, Maine. That's umbrella covers, not umbrellas. Nancy shares the story of how she came to open such a specific museum, what her museum is like, and how her museum taught her to find joy in the mundane aspects of life. 

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Order yours in the Starbucks app. This is Lee Habib and this is Our American Stories. And we tell stories about everything here on this show, including your stories.

Send them to for some of our favorites. And now a story about a lady who curates a very specific kind of museum. Nancy Three Hoffman, yes, her middle name is the numeral three, not the word three, the numeral. And she lives in Maine and is the founder and curator of the world's only umbrella cover museum. Here is Nancy's story on how she came to open such a unique place.

Hi, I'm Nancy Three Hoffman. I am the founder, director, and curator of the world's only umbrella cover museum. Now we're just talking about the sleeves, the sheaths that come on umbrellas when you buy a new umbrella. Because they fascinate me. So what happens to most umbrella covers when they're first purchased?

That's the big question. The answer I have found over many years of doing the umbrella cover museum is that most people don't know what to do with them. So they put them in the closet, drop them in the car, stick them in a pocket, lose them.

And it's that particular phenomenon that they are underappreciated and sort of enigmatic that fascinated me. So one day I was cleaning out my house, I found a few umbrella covers, I looked at them and said, hmm, why did I keep these and what do other people do with them? So I started asking people and right away they gave me their umbrella covers.

Not only that, but they would tell me the story. Like the first one I collected was from an umbrella my friend Becky had. She used to have a duck handled umbrella because she's an Audubon bird fanatic. So she said, well, I took this umbrella with me to NASA. I left the cover at home and then I forgot the duck at the dock and the cover was still at home. So here it is.

You can have it. So that was the first one I actually collected. My family gave me their umbrella covers. I asked them for a story. So I would put them up on my kitchen wall with a sticky note telling me the history, the anecdote, what we say, the provenance of the umbrella cover itself. And then one day, maybe a year later, I walked into a department store in Portland, saw a display of umbrellas.

There was a really, really pretty one with flowers on it. I slipped the cover off the umbrella, put it in my pocket and walked out to the store. It was really the catalyst for the umbrella cover museum, because honestly, I'm a very truthful, honest person and I don't normally steal things. But I did that day.

I call it my crime of passion. And I didn't want to keep doing that. So the umbrella cover museum is my penance. I didn't think of it as a museum at first. I just thought, oh, I'm collecting umbrella covers. They're kind of cute.

That's kind of a funny thing. So I put them on my kitchen wall. People came to my house.

They would look, they would say, what are you doing? And it was just, I guess I'm collecting umbrella covers at first. Then when I had enough, I was amusing people.

I like to amuse people. They were curious about the whole idea of collecting them. I decided to open it up as a museum. And then the following year, I got interviewed by NPR and BBC radio.

So I was pretty chuffed about that. And I thought, wow, I must really have something here. So the collection, meanwhile, kept growing and growing.

And I had to put it in my living room on my porch, you know, so I was kind of outgrowing the space in my house. And eventually I was able to rent a space on the main street of Peaks Island. So I give tours of the umbrella cover museum. There are exhibits that are all organized. I play the theme song on my accordion.

So it's always been a really fun and OK, quirky place to visit. I have a really great international exhibit. There are now covers from 74 different countries. So if someone comes in from Romania, I can point to the Romanian umbrella cover.

And I can also sing a song in Romanian, which not everybody could do. The game Mad for Plaid is also on the wall this year where you have to guess which two covers are really from Scotland. And you win a prize. If you do guess, the prizes are Drink Parasols, the art and umbrella covers exhibit, which has famous paintings like The Girl with a Pearl Earring or The Kiss by Gustav Klimt on umbrella covers. There are a lot of really good umbrella cover stories. One of my favorites is that a young woman from Peaks Island, Eleanor, was living in Germany. And she found a black umbrella cover on the side of the road next to the Berlin Wall. And she wrote a great story about how it was a gray, grisly day by this symbol of communism and of repression.

There were two people kissing by the side of the wall who were ignoring the whole history. And here was this umbrella cover that she had just found. The other thing that I realized about the Umbrella Cover Museum after having it open for a few years was that it has a deeper purpose. The mission of the Umbrella Cover Museum is the appreciation of the mundane in everyday life. It's also about finding wonder and beauty in the simplest of things and about knowing that there is always a story behind the cover. And if you keep that in mind, it's hard to get bored. It's hard to not find some joy and beauty in just about any activity or anything in the world.

And that's really why I keep going with it. And that's really, I hope, what grabs people when they come to see the Umbrella Cover Museum. And a great job by Chrissy and a special thanks to Nancy 3 Hoffman.

And that's the number 3, not the word. And if you want to learn more about the Umbrella Cover Museum or want to donate your umbrella covers to Nancy's collection, go to The museum is only open in the summer, so if you're in Maine, be sure to visit. The story of the Umbrella Cover Museum, here on Our American Stories. Here at Our American Stories, we bring you inspiring stories of history, sports, business, faith, and love. Stories from a great and beautiful country that need to be told.

But we can't do it without you. Our stories are free to listen to but they're not free to make. If you love our stories in America like we do, please go to and click the donate button. Give a little. Give a lot. Help us keep the great American stories coming.

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Whisper: medium.en / 2023-08-07 04:09:49 / 2023-08-07 04:14:03 / 4

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