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Francestown Heritage Museum doubles size of collection and display space

  • The original wooden eagle that topped Francestown Academy, now the Town Hall. A fiberglass eagle sits outside in its place. The Francestown Heritage Museum is ready to reopen after expanding onto a second floor. July 27, 2020. Staff photo by Abbe Hamilton—

  • Desks from the Francestown Academy. The Francestown Heritage Museum is ready to reopen after expanding onto a second floor. July 27, 2020. Staff photo by Abbe Hamilton—

  • The Francestown Heritage Museum is ready to reopen after expanding onto a second floor. July 27, 2020. Staff photo by Abbe Hamilton—

  • The Francestown Heritage Museum is ready to reopen after expanding onto a second floor. July 27, 2020. Staff photo by Abbe Hamilton—

  • An antique cheese press. The Francestown Heritage Museum is ready to reopen after expanding onto a second floor. July 27, 2020. Staff photo by Abbe Hamilton—

  • The Francestown Heritage Museum is ready to reopen after expanding onto a second floor. July 27, 2020. Staff photo by Abbe Hamilton—

  • The Francestown Heritage Museum is ready to reopen after expanding onto a second floor. July 27, 2020. Staff photo by Abbe Hamilton—

  • Antique milk bottles from local dairies. The Francestown Heritage Museum is ready to reopen after expanding onto a second floor. July 27, 2020. Staff photo by Abbe Hamilton—

  • A photo of an old Francestown haywagon in use, sitting in the haywagon itself. The Francestown Heritage Museum is ready to reopen after expanding onto a second floor. July 27, 2020. Staff photo by Abbe Hamilton—

  • Antique milk bottles from local dairies. The Francestown Heritage Museum is ready to reopen after expanding onto a second floor. July 27, 2020. Staff photo by Abbe Hamilton—

  • Initialed boards from picnic tables at the fomer Pettee property, otherwise known as the Elm Farm, which was frequented by Francestown Academy students. The Francestown Heritage Museum is ready to reopen after expanding onto a second floor. July 27, 2020. Staff photo by Abbe Hamilton—

  • The Francestown Heritage Museum is ready to reopen after expanding onto a second floor. Staff photos by Abbe Hamilton

  • Antique milk bottles from local dairies. The Francestown Heritage Museum is ready to reopen after expanding onto a second floor. July 27, 2020. Staff photo by Abbe Hamilton—

  • Museum curator Bill McAuley and Elly Miles. The Francestown Heritage Museum is ready to reopen after expanding onto a second floor. July 27, 2020. Staff photo by Abbe Hamilton—

  • The Concord stage coach that ferried passengers between Greenfield and Francestown. Francestown Heritage Museum is ready to reopen after expanding onto a second floor. July 27, 2020. Staff photo by Abbe Hamilton—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 7/30/2020 3:48:57 PM

The Francestown Heritage Museum is ready to reopen after completing its second floor addition, curator Bill McAuley said. Visitors will be able to peruse the reorganized collection starting Labor Day weekend, following COVID-19 guidelines.

The Heritage Museum has stored a collection of historic artifacts from town since 2015, after founder O. Alan Thulander enlisted Fire Department members to reassemble a salvaged barn from Weare to house a collection of Francestown’s historic vehicles, McAuley said. Until this year, the town’s collection of domestic, commercial, fire fighting, and agricultural artifacts had been crammed into gaps between the town’s horse-drawn fire wagon, hearses, and Concord stage coach, he said. Other items were stashed away in the loft and totally invisible to visitors, McAuley’s wife Elly Miles said.

Voters agreed to fund the museum’s expansion a couple years ago, and the barn’s basement was paved last October. Miles and McAuley rearranged the inventory by category over the following months, which posed some difficulties unto itself as residents doubled the size of the collection with donated items, McAuley said. Today, bound guidebooks await visitors with a corresponding page and description for each unique piece. Bound books on the history of the 2nd New Hampshire Turnpike are also available by donation at the museum, developed for a February presentation that drew more than 100 people, McAuley said.

“Do you know how to rope a bed?” he asked, gesturing to a recently donated antique bed in the basement floor that stood near less identifiable domestic contraptions, later revealed to be a manual laundry agitator and a sturdy metal and wood cabbage shredder. Other antiques stood out from the collection, including gleaming milk bottles from defunct local dairies, and ice harvesting equipment from Pleasant Pond. If there’s something the museum’s missing, McAuley said, it’s more of a presence from the town’s soapstone industry - but most artifacts are either submerged in the quarry or in the collapsed sawmill building along Route 47.

Heritage Museum typically sees its largest crowds on Labor Day weekend, McAuley said, and has periodically hosted weaving and spinning demonstrations as well as tours for school groups, who walk up from the elementary school. One time, McAuley discussed the potential for maneuvering the museum’s Concord stage coach on sand with a man who claimed to be a prince in his native Saudi Arabia, who stopped in on a whim on his way into Manchester.

Those interested in visiting the museum can contact Bob McAuley at 547-8320 for updates and the latest protocol for preventing COVID-19 during visits.


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