New Hampshire: Museums with an Attitude

If you haven’t noticed, New Hampshire folks are obsessed with collecting things.

And I fess up, I have several collections of my own.  New Hampshire artifacts and town histories are the most numerous in my collection, ‘displayed’ in various locations (sometimes piles) in my home, with English royalty mementos coming in second, but only filling a single book shelf.

The state of New Hampshire has countless exhibits and museums dedicated to these intriguing obsessions of ours, some of them having extraordinary themes.

BIVOUAC BLUES. The Museum of Family Camping and Hall of Fame in Allenstown, New Hampshire celebrates ‘everything camping.’  Only 200 years ago, family camping was a way of life to the early NH settlers, not a method of relaxation, vacation, and familial bonding.

Usually the first form of lodging in a new location was a simple lean-to, followed by a rude log hut, and if they were prosperous or talented, perhaps they would eventually have the luxury of building a framed house.

I actually have a little bit of experience with camping.  I have fond memories of Girl Scout trips in New Hampshire–mostly the mosquitoes flying into the scrambled eggs and giving me a little more protein at breakfast time, the damp sleeping bags after a night of rain, and of course digging the latrines.  Honestly, I spent three months in a 2-person tent when I was in my early 20s, camping across Canada to Saskatchewan, then down through Yellowstone National Park, Grand Teton National Park, and Colorado Rockies.  Funny how time changes things.   My idea of camping now is a 5-star hotel which includes massage options, a gourmet chef, and well-groomed horses for an afternoon ride.  A visit to this museum might bring back some interesting memories…

SWEET STUFF.   Apparently the NH Maple Producers received a large collection of maple tools and equipment as a gift, and they are looking for a location in the White Mountains to set up a museum.

Early NH settlers learned how to convert maple tree sap to syrup from the native aborigines. Included in the collection are sap evaporators used hundreds of years ago by these Native Americans. It was one of their few sources of sweetener (some others were honey, vanilla, and molasses).

I remember my grandmother making home-made maple syrup candy.  She would boil a high quality syrup in a metal pan, and drizzle it over fresh snow… yum!

A bit of Trivia: Did you know that it takes approximately forty gallons of sap to make one gallon of pure maple syrup?

DAMM IT.Located in a town dubbed “almost the oldest city in America,” (hmmm) the Woodman Museum in Dover NH is a campus of several buildings including the William Damm Garrison building (built in 1675, considered NH’s oldest intact garrison house, and moved to this location), the Woodman Institute Museum House (a 3-story brick residence built in 1818, known as the Christie home). The collection is varied and eclectic.  Definitely worth a visit if you are bored with the usual or the humdrum.

A SUB TO WHET YOUR APPETITE.If you love everything submarine, then the USS Albacore Museum is the place to go.  There is quite a story about how they managed to engineer the current location of this 205-foot sub.  I’ve personally visited several times (its a “must stop” spot when touring guests in the area).

A WORKING FARM.I have to wonder what a “non-working” farm would look like… possibly the hundreds of farms that were deserted when the population trend was to move to the cities began back in the mid and late 1800’s…

In New Hampshire, the occupations of the earliest settlers were mostly those relating to farming and fishing.  But we’ve grown out of touch with the land.  The Muster Field Farm in North Sutton, New Hampshire, is just the place to get back in touch, and observe the agricultural traditions of rural New Hampshire.

If you have ideas for more “not your vanilla variety” museums or collections that I should comment about, please let me know.


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