Claremont Historical Society reopens museum

Andy, left, and Lois Buchan, both of Charlestown, N.H., look through a copy of Lois’ Stevens High School yearbook during a fundraiser for the Claremont Historical Society at the Claremont History Museum in Claremont, N.H., on Saturday, May 27, 2023. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Andy, left, and Lois Buchan, both of Charlestown, N.H., look through a copy of Lois’ Stevens High School yearbook during a fundraiser for the Claremont Historical Society at the Claremont History Museum in Claremont, N.H., on Saturday, May 27, 2023. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. valley news / report for america photographs — Alex Driehaus

Sandi St Pierre looks through genealogical records for information about her family members during a fundraiser for the Claremont Historical Society at the Claremont History Museum in Claremont, N.H., on Saturday, May 27, 2023. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Sandi St Pierre looks through genealogical records for information about her family members during a fundraiser for the Claremont Historical Society at the Claremont History Museum in Claremont, N.H., on Saturday, May 27, 2023. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Alex Driehaus

From left, Maysen St Peter, 13, and Jaclyn Moore, both of Unity, N.H., look at historical artifacts with Noah Swanson, 7, and Jonah Degrenier, 8, both of Concord, N.H., during a fundraiser for the Claremont Historical Society at the Claremont History Museum in Claremont, N.H., on Saturday, May 27, 2023. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

From left, Maysen St Peter, 13, and Jaclyn Moore, both of Unity, N.H., look at historical artifacts with Noah Swanson, 7, and Jonah Degrenier, 8, both of Concord, N.H., during a fundraiser for the Claremont Historical Society at the Claremont History Museum in Claremont, N.H., on Saturday, May 27, 2023. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. valley news / report for america — Alex Driehaus

BY RAY COUTURE

Valley News Correspondent

Published: 05-29-2023 5:40 PM

CLAREMONT — Over-hunting and loss-of-habitat doomed the Passenger Pigeon to extinction in 1914, but you can still see what one looked like — auburn-chested, beady, red eyes and massive in size compared to today’s pigeons — in a glass display case on the second floor of the Claremont Historical Society museum.

The taxidermied bird is just one of many compelling artifacts, and just one of many taxidermied animals, displayed inside the two-story, 10-room house at 26 Mulberry St. that has doubled as the historical society’s headquarters since 1977 (the organization itself came into existence in 1963). The museum, which had been closed to the public throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, hosted an open house and free BBQ fundraiser Saturday afternoon to invite Claremont residents to check out the relics and history of their town.

“Just so people can see that it’s here,” Historical Society President Dakin Burdick said with a chuckle. “Every person I’ve talked to has said, ‘Oh, we have a museum?’ ”

In an email, Historical Society Secretary Dana McGrath said the museum, barring volunteer shortages, will be open Saturdays from 1-4 p.m. from now through September.

The aroma of grilled sausages from North Country Smokehouse, one of the event’s sponsors, and retro hits like “September” by Earth, Wind & Fire filled the air outside and helped buoy a robust turnout that had Burdick spinning on his heels showcasing each of the spaces and their respective collections inside the museum.

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There was the presentation room on the first floor, which exhibited taxidermied birds of prey from the collection of William Jarvis, a 19th century financier and trader who spent his final years in Weathersfield, as well as a Clementi piano, which had been owned by a Claremont family in the 1800s before being donated to the historical society in 1965.

Muzio Clementi “was a famous piano-maker and composer,” Burdick said. “He also competed with Mozart, though he claimed he let Mozart win.”

Upstairs, there’s a room housing a collection of items solely from Claremont, a “children’s room” that has antique dolls and toys that Burdick said will eventually be turned into an area visiting kids can play in, and a backroom stuffed with dusty display cases filled with taxidermied birds, turtle shells and boxes of more antiques.

Burdick, who is also the director of the Teaching Enrichment Center at Colby-Sawyer College, said he and his family moved to Claremont in 2021. He became president of the historical society in 2022 and “has been cleaning ever since.”

“Most of the exhibits are the original exhibits, we haven’t had the time to change them,” Burdick said. “What was happening was we kept accepting materials when we didn’t have room, so there were just stacks of stuff.”

The organization wants to repaint the museum’s porch and exterior, install railings around the porch and build a new storage shed to help store its overflowing collections, Burdick said.

Donations and membership fees will help with that, but Burdick said the historical society also currently has a proposal before Claremont’s city council requesting $10,000 annually for maintenance, which he expects will be voted on by the end of June.

Claremont residents Sharon and Steve Wood have lived in the town since moving from Connecticut to the Granite State in 1977. Sharon, who said she was on the historical society’s board of directors “years ago,” said Claremont residents have been anticipating the museum’s reopening because it’s been closed for so long.

Having lived in Claremont for nearly a half-century, Steve Wood, whose wiry beard, rounded eyeglasses and lanky, thin frame make him look somewhat like a modern-day Abraham Lincoln, appreciates that the museum lets him take glimpses into his family’s past.

“I’ve always been fascinated by ‘before-and-now’ pictures,” Steve Wood said. “They’ve got quite the collection in different places.”

Ray Couture can be reached with questions at 1994rbc@gmail.com.