10 THINGS WE WOULD LIKE YOU TO KNOW ABOUT THE FRANCESTOWN HERITAGE MUSEUM
WHY THE HERITAGE MUSEUM
As the name implies, the Francestown Heritage Museum is dedicated to our past, which made us what we are today. We can ignore our past and repeat our failures or we can embrace our past and build on it for our future. The museum provides the opportunity to see how our ancestors took on the challenges they faced and the artifacts they made, to make life easier and more productive. Some good, some not so good. The museum exhibits focus on five main areas of life in our past: agriculture, commerce, fire protection, household and transportation.
On a broader scale, the Heritage Museum is part of the over-all Town Historic Common area that includes the Francestown Improvement and Historical Society “Beehive”, the Town Hall and Horse Sheds and the Fairbanks Scale. The goal is to have this common area included on the National Register of Historic Places.
WHAT IS THE MISSION OF THE MUSEUM
Simply put – “education”. To instill an appreciation of the difficulties faced by our ancestors and what they did to improve their lives and thus ours. Only by understanding where we’ve been can we continue to move forward. While we want everyone, young and old, to be amazed (and possibly amused) by the relics of the past, our primary focus is on our youth. They are the future and a firm understanding of the challenges faced by their forbears will help them face their challenges in the future.
WHAT ARE THE EDUCATIONAL PROGRAMS
In one sense the theme would be “constant flux”. We are relatively new and trying to best identify opportunities and build programs to meet them. We are currently working with both the “home schoolers” and the Conval Francestown Elementary School to create a program that would be a part of the New Hampshire Heritage syllabus. The Bixby Library children’s program is also involved in this effort. We are fortunate to have the support of the Francestown Academy who generously supports our efforts in this area. We have prepared an educational binder for each student that highlights our core exhibits and details their use. We are also actively soliciting the Television Channel Nine Chronicle staff for a segment that would hopefully include
the school program. While the above efforts have focused on Francestown youth we want to make it clear to all that any town, any program, who expresses an interest will be accommodated. There has been some interest from scouting groups including those in other towns that we will continue to pursue.
HOW DID THE MUSEUM COME TO BE
The Town of Francestown has, over the years, acquired some truly remarkable artifacts for a town of this size. With no dedicated place to keep these, they languished for years in various spots in town, none of which was suitable to properly protect and exhibit these artifacts. A resident of Francestown, O. Alan Thulander, did what he could to see that they were cared for, kept under cover and saw to some restoration of the items. It was his hope that we would someday have a permanent home for these artifacts where they could be made available to the public. It was Alan Thulander who guided the effort to get the museum built. Unfortunately he passed away shortly before the building was completed and never got to see the completed museum as it is today.
WHEN DID THE MUSEUM OPEN
Several years ago, Alan Thulander was able to obtain a standing, 100+ years old barn located in Weare. Members of the Francestown Volunteer Fire Department went to Weare and dismantled this barn, carefully labeling every component so it could be re-erected in Francestown. Concurrent with this effort we entered into an agreement with the Francestown Improvement and Historical Society for a portion of their land where the museum now stands. Over the next couple of years the building was slowly re-erected on its new site where it stands today. Again, the Fire Department volunteers provided the labor for this construction to succeed. In the fall of 2014 the museum was dedicated and donated to the town. The Francestown Board of Selectmen then appointed two volunteer
citizens to be the curators of the museum. Since that time the number of donated exhibits has increased dramatically and there are now some 142 artifacts/exhibits. 2016 will mark the second full year of operation.
Most all our exhibits can trace their origin back to Francestown and the area. They represent items indigenous to our area. While several exhibits are on long term loan, most have been donated to the museum through the generosity of Francestown citizens. Most are in their original condition, while others have had some restoration work. We strive to avoid any unnecessary restoration in order to preserve an item as it was when in use. Our aim is more preservation than restoration. If any restoration is necessary, it is only to ensure the integrity of the items or to replace/replicate a missing component. While this means that some items are not particularly pretty, they are true to their origin and appear as they were when last used.
DO THE EXHIBITS CHANGE
The answer is yes, no and not as often as we would like. There are a number of constraints. One being the museum is not heated and thus not open in the winter which limits our activity to only part of the year. In the course of cataloging the initial collection, people visiting the museum recalled the old “what-is-it” languishing in their attic or barn and asked if they could donate it. Thus we continue to amass an ever greater number of artifacts. These are not yet all on display – in some cases the item truly is a “what-is-it” and we have to research what it is and what it was used for before we can put it on display. We are thus in a constant state of catch up trying to catalog, organize and display items. Finally, due to the
extraordinary generosity of our citizens, we are quite literally out of room to display everything. So while we have a core exhibit that never changes, new items are constantly being added and some older ones stored. Some items are stored awaiting repair and cleaning up. So:
- Yes, new things are constantly being added and some older ones temporarily retired.
- No, in that some items form our core exhibits and are always on display.
- Not as often as we would like, because we just do not have the space.
ARE THERE PLANS TO EXPAND
Emphatically yes! When the museum was erected, a full lower level was included but never finished. We desperately need the space and have been getting plans as to how best to utilize this space. Essentially it needs a floor as that is presently only sand which is entirely unsuitable for our use. It also needs to be provided with lights. Alan Thulander generously left us a trust to get us started on this. This past fall we had an electric service installed, so the electric part is on its way.
HOW IS THE MUSEUM FUNDED
The museum’s goal is be self-sustaining and not a burden to the tax payers. The museum is town owned and we do benefit from that ownership. The Board of Selectmen is supportive in including the museum in the town building contracts for the alarm system, the exterminator and a $500 line item in the budget for routine annual expenses. The curator positions are volunteer. All else has been donated – exhibits, personal time and money.
CAN I BECOME INVOLVED WITH THE MUSEUM
You most certainly can.
We recognize that building maintenance and maintenance of the exhibits is going to require continuing expenditures. We are looking into program(s) to obtain sponsors and/or benefactors to assist with these expenses.
The barn that was relocated here and became our museum was essentially rebuilt on this site using the previous materials. However, grant organizations do not recognize the museum building itself as historic making us ineligible for any grants in that regard. Some may be interested in granting funds for restoration of a particular exhibit and we are pursuing that.
The curators are:
Bob Abbott Bill McAuley
If you are having a family gathering or other event and would like to take your guest to the museum, please call one of the curators and we will make every effort to open the museum for you.