The Hippo


Feb 20, 2020








An 1816 Carrigain map and 500-year-old Abenaki dug-out canoe, part of the Discovering New Hampshire exhibit. Courtesy photo.

NH Historical Society’s new exhibits

Where: New Hampshire Historical Society, 30 Park St., Concord
When: Exhibits are open to the public Tuesday through Saturday, 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. See website for information on guided tours.
Cost: Admission costs $7 per person, or free for active-duty military, full-time students and persons age 17 and under.

A new look at the past
New exhibits explore NH history

By Angie Sykeny

The Abenaki tribe, an election upset and a bizarre occurrence in the White Mountains are just a few pieces of Granite State history covered in two recently opened exhibits at the New Hampshire Historical Society in Concord. The exhibits offer a glimpse of the defining moments of New Hampshire’s past with photographs, documents, artifacts and artwork.

Discovering New Hampshire
Director of collections and exhibitions Wes Balla said the first new exhibit, Discovering New Hampshire, is three years in the making and serves as a replacement for the New Hampshire Through Many Eyes exhibit, which closed last year when the Historical Society closed its supplementary location in Eagle Square.
“The goal [of both exhibits] was to create an overview with a very broad history exhibit for New Hampshire using iconic objects from our collection and telling stories about New Hampshire,” Balla said.
Discovering New Hampshire is structured around five themes, each touching on a different aspect of New Hampshire history.
“A Place Called New Hampshire” explores how New Hampshire’s emblematic people, places and events, such as the Old Man of the Mountain, have shaped its state identity.
The second theme, “Ties That Bind,” focuses on the connections between community, family, industry, ethnicity and religion throughout New Hampshire’s history. Everyday items dating from hundreds of years ago through modern times show not only how society has changed, but also how it maintains its ties to the past.
New Hampshire’s political heritage is studied in “All Politics is Local,” which covers the history of local politics, such as town meetings, as well as New Hampshire’s role in national politics like the presidential primary. The state’s most influential presidential primary, in 1952, which resulted in Dwight D. Eisenhower’s upset victory over Robert A. Taft, will be highlighted in the exhibit.
“Citizen Soldiers” recounts the personal stories of Granite Staters who served in the Revolutionary War, Civil War and World War II, and shows how war has affected New Hampshire families throughout history. Weapons, uniforms and other war paraphernalia will be on display.
The final theme, “Second Nature,” examines the history of New Hampshire’s landscape. From a 500-year-old Abenaki dugout canoe to a 1972 Ski-Doo snowmobile, artifacts on display show how the land sustained the native people, yielded a thriving tourist and recreation industry, inspired writers and artists and fostered interest in forest and land conservation.
Remembrance and Reality
The other new exhibit, Remembrance and Reality, contains 17 19th-century paintings of New Hampshire landscapes.
While some of the artists were state residents, most were nonresidents who sought out the Granite State for its natural beauty.
“New Hampshire has become a mecca for artists, especially the White Mountains,” said Elizabeth Dubrulle, director of education and public programs. “In the 19th century, people came from all over the world to paint our state’s scenery.”
Painted scenes include Harmon Farm in Madison, Portsmouth harbor and the Presidential Range of the White Mountains as seen from the Waumbeck Hotel in Jefferson.
One of the better-known works in the collection, Dubrulle said, is Thomas Hills’ “Crawford Notch.” It’s of the aftermath of an 1826 landslide, including the Willey family home in the notch, which was untouched amidst the destruction. The family was found dead beneath the rubble, seemingly on their way to their emergency shelter. 
The Museum educators share this story and other interesting tidbits about the paintings on guided tours.
A new feature to be implemented in 2016 will also allow visitors to learn more about the exhibits.
“People will be able to scan the QR codes on the labels and access all sorts of additional information about the item and related items [on display],” Dubrulle said. “There will also be iPads located around the gallery that will allow essentially the same thing.”
The feature will be included in the Discovering New Hampshire exhibit and other select displays.
Special programs and activities related to the new exhibits are in the planning for next year as well.  
“It’s important to have an understanding of where we came from and know about the people and ideas that went into making our state.” Dubrulle said. “It helps us look outside ourselves and our narrow everyday lives to a broader view of who we are collectively and where we are going.” 

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