Attracting more than 200,000 visitors each year, the 17 institutions that make up the New Hampshire Heritage Museum Trail are using “strength in numbers” to promote the Granite State’s cultural and historical legacy.
However, while the Trail’s mission might be a shared one, its biggest draw lies in the distinctive offerings of the museums themselves, including some peculiar—even quirky—objects and artifacts.
Voted America’s Best Small Eclectic Museum in 2014, the Libby Museum of Natural History in Wolfeboro has a pair of mummified hands that were first discovered in a Queen’s tomb in the Upper Nile Valley of Egypt.
“The Libby is the home of quirky things,” said museum director Alana Albee. “We have a polar bear, a Chinese fingernail, a female human skeleton, a dinosaur vertebrae, and an albino crow—and that’s just to name a few.”
At the Aviation Museum of New Hampshire in Londonderry, visitors might notice the numbered runways painted on the floor, just as they’re marked at airports across the world.
“Many guests have no idea what the numbers mean,” said the museum’s director of operations, Wendell Berthelsen. “It’s basically a compass heading. Just add a zero to the number. So 12 would be 120 degrees, and 180 degrees away from that would be 300, or 30.”
At Wolfeboro’s Wright Museum of World War II, a lieutenant’s scarf includes a colorful backstory. According to the donor, Lt. “Dippy Wilkinson” of Fordyce Arkansas flew a P-38 known as the “Flying Red Ass,” which explains the bucking donkey on the left side of the scarf.
In Tamworth, the Remick Country Doctor Museum and Farm offers visitors a unique look at how medicine has evolved from colonial times today. In some cases, however, medical methods have remained very much the same—like, say, snake venom.
“We have a cobra venom solution that was used by Tamworth’s country doctors in or around the 1930s to treat patients with chronic pain without the risks of withdrawal and dependence associated with opiate medications,” said Curator Faithe McCreery. “While it sounds intimidating, snake venom is still incorporated into a variety of medical remedies today.”
Founded in 1991, Exeter’s American Independence Museum features a number of artifacts from the Revolutionary period. One of the museum’s stranger items is a pistol that, having since become obsolete, was retrofitted into something a bit more practical.
“Tinderpistols were originally used to test gun powder to make sure the powder from the barrel was good,” explained Collections and Member Services Manager Rachel Passannante. “The theory behind these oddities is that with the improvement of gun powder there was an excess of these once-useful tools, so a small plate was soldered onto the powder tester for a candle to sit and they became candle holders.”
With numerous events, exhibits and programs for all ages this summer, the NH Heritage Museum Trail expects close to 250,000 visitors in 2017. Search for ‘New Hampshire Heritage Trail’ and find it on Facebook.