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Peterborough Historical Society adopts new name

  • Gordon Peery, Michelle Stahl, Peterborough HIstorical Society<br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)

    Gordon Peery, Michelle Stahl, Peterborough HIstorical Society
    (Staff photo by Dave Anderson)

  • Michelle Stahl, executive director of the Peterborough Historical Society, and Gordon Peery, the society's president, look at a plaque on the building that recognizes the contributions of Clara Foster Bass, who donated the funds to erect the society's building. This month, the society is adopting a new name -- The Monadnock Center for History and Culture.<br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)

    Michelle Stahl, executive director of the Peterborough Historical Society, and Gordon Peery, the society's president, look at a plaque on the building that recognizes the contributions of Clara Foster Bass, who donated the funds to erect the society's building. This month, the society is adopting a new name -- The Monadnock Center for History and Culture.
    (Staff photo by Dave Anderson)

  • A plaque honoring the contributions of Clara Foster Bass, who donated the money to erect the Peterborough Historical Society's building on Grove Street, describes the three-fold mission of the society, which is changing its name to the Monadnock Center for History and Culture.<br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)

    A plaque honoring the contributions of Clara Foster Bass, who donated the money to erect the Peterborough Historical Society's building on Grove Street, describes the three-fold mission of the society, which is changing its name to the Monadnock Center for History and Culture.
    (Staff photo by Dave Anderson)

  • Portraits of Clara Foster Bass and her mother, Nancy Smith Foster, hang in the balcony of Bass Hall, which still looks much as it did in the 1920s.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)

    Portraits of Clara Foster Bass and her mother, Nancy Smith Foster, hang in the balcony of Bass Hall, which still looks much as it did in the 1920s.

    (Staff photo by Dave Anderson)

  • Peterborough Historical Society<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)

    Peterborough Historical Society

    (Staff photo by Dave Anderson)

  • Bass Hall as it looked in the late 1920's, when it was the setting of the Women's Club meetings. The photo is from the Women's Club scrapbook in the archives of the Peterborough Historical Society.<br/>

    Bass Hall as it looked in the late 1920's, when it was the setting of the Women's Club meetings. The photo is from the Women's Club scrapbook in the archives of the Peterborough Historical Society.

  • Gordon Peery, Michelle Stahl, Peterborough HIstorical Society<br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)
  • Michelle Stahl, executive director of the Peterborough Historical Society, and Gordon Peery, the society's president, look at a plaque on the building that recognizes the contributions of Clara Foster Bass, who donated the funds to erect the society's building. This month, the society is adopting a new name -- The Monadnock Center for History and Culture.<br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)
  • A plaque honoring the contributions of Clara Foster Bass, who donated the money to erect the Peterborough Historical Society's building on Grove Street, describes the three-fold mission of the society, which is changing its name to the Monadnock Center for History and Culture.<br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)
  • Portraits of Clara Foster Bass and her mother, Nancy Smith Foster, hang in the balcony of Bass Hall, which still looks much as it did in the 1920s.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)
  • Peterborough Historical Society<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)
  • Bass Hall as it looked in the late 1920's, when it was the setting of the Women's Club meetings. The photo is from the Women's Club scrapbook in the archives of the Peterborough Historical Society.<br/>

In an effort to broaden awareness in the community and highlight new programs being planned, the Peterborough Historical Society announced last week that it is changing its name.

Beginning this month , the organization will be known as the Monadnock Center for History and Culture, a name that President Gordon Peery and Executive Director Michelle Stahl say more accurately describes what the organization is about.

“The old name doesn’t speak to exactly the kind of things we do,” Stahl said in an interview at the center’s Grove Street building on Jan. 17. “Our programming is becoming more regional and more cultural. We’ve been evolving in this direction for some time.”

She said the old name had, for many people, a connotation of being exclusive.

“We wanted to remove that barrier,” Stahl said. “We are inclusive and open.”

She cited the recent exhibits as examples of programming that went beyond the Peterborough community. A show about the history of the Folkway, the Peterborough restaurant that once featured top folk music performers from around the country, drew music lovers from all over New England, not just for the exhibit but also for a series of well-attended concerts in Bass Hall in the society’s Grove Street headquarters. An exhibit on New Hampshire glassmaking focused on all of southern New Hampshire, including items crafted in Temple, Lyndeborough and Stoddard.

“Our school programs have been regional,” Stahl said. “We have students visit here, but we also do programs in classrooms.”

Peery said a key factor in the decision to change the name is the organization’s effort to expand its cultural program, including bringing more events to Bass Hall.

“It frees us to have a broader focus,” Peery said on Thursday. “We have Bass Hall, such a beautiful small performance space. We hope this will encourage other organizations to rent the hall. We’re eager to see it used more.”

In a letter sent recently to Peterborough Historical Society’s 284 members, Peery and Stahl wrote that the Board of Directors and the staff started looking at the society’s business model in May 2012, studying a number of museums and historical societies across the country and how they had adapted to changes in the economics of small, nonprofit institutions.

“Our conclusion was that in order to move forward in a financially sustainable manner, we needed to expand our community outreach both geographically and in the breadth of what we offer,” they wrote. “This transition will allow us to become a much stronger institution, committed as ever to preserving Peterborough’s history and placing it within the larger context of life in the Monadnock region.”

Peery said the study showed that thriving organizations were those that developed engaging, interactive programming and built solid relationships with both other nonprofits and the business community.

“The word ‘Center’ is significant,” Peery said. “We have been doing a lot of collaboration with local organizations. This will provide a place for that to continue.”

Peery said the Monadnock Center intends to work closely with the historical societies in towns throughout the region.

“They are all-volunteer organizations and do great work,” he said. “We can help raise the level of interest for all the region. Maybe we can give them more visibility.”

“Our intent is to enhance their efforts and work in collaboration with them,” Stahl said. “We won’t be collecting stuff [from other towns].”

The legal name of the organization will continue to be the Peterborough Historical Society, according to the letter to members. The Monadnock Center for History and Culture will be the trade name under which the organization will do business.

“At some point, we’ll have a new sign and a new logo,” Peery said. “That’s still in the works.”

He said the first exhibit under the new name will be called Monadnock Treasures and will open in May.

No major changes to the Grove Street building are planned, and the commercial space in the main building and the nearby Brick Ends House will continue to be rented.

Peery and Stahl said response to the new direction from historical society members has been encouraging, a viewpoint confirmed by two longtime members in recent phone conversations.

“It’s a very active board and they’re doing some very innovative things to make the society more meaningful to the community,” said Dorothy Peterson of Peterborough on Friday “I certainly think it will boost interest and they have some very intriguing plans. I congratulate them.”

“The new name gives a much more dynamic picture of what the society is and should be,” said Kitty Bass Cloud of Peterborough, whose great-grandmother, Clara Foster Bass, donated the money to erect the society’s building in 1917. “I’m excited. The more we move out into the community, the better. Peterborough has one of the oldest historical societies in the state. We have a fascinating collection of things and the history of the town is very well-recorded. We need to package it and present it in a way that’s attractive to the next generation.”

A plaque on the outside wall of the building recognizes the contributions and priorities of Clara Foster Bass. It reads, “She dedicated this building to house records of the history of this town and of the Monadnock region.... and to provide a meeting place for the intellectual and social advancement of future generations.”

Peery and Stahl said those words match well with the new emphasis of the Monadnock Center for History and Culture.

“This is a place to foster civic life,” Peery said. “It’s a place where you can bring people together.”

“It was literally written in stone,” said Stahl.

Dave Anderson can be reached at 924-7172, ext. 233 or danderson@ledgertranscript.com. He’s on Twitter at @DaveAndersonMLT.

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