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New Hampshire Heritage Museum Trail Puts Spotlight on “the Village”

Tours at the Village. Photo by Ellen Friedlander

Located on a country road in rural Canterbury just 20 minutes outside New Hampshire’s state capital in Concord, Canterbury Shaker Village ( the Village) sits on nearly 700 acres, delighting visitors from across the world.

“Our campus is expansive, providing visitors with the chance to experience nature on groomed trails just minutes outside of fairly urban settings,” noted Education Manager Kyle Sandler. “These trails are free and open to the public.”

Founded in 1969 as a nonprofit, the Village has developed an international reputation as one of the oldest, most representative, and best preserved of all the Shaker villages. During its 200-year history, more than 2,000 Shakers called the Village home.

“At its height in the 1850s, 300 people lived, worked, and worshiped among more than 100 buildings laid out in a practical, functional grid,” added Sandler.

The Shakers’ way of life, according to Shirley Wajda, Ph.D., Curator of Collections, offers relevant lessons for today’s visitors.

“The Shakers embraced the values of gender and racial equity, pacifism, simplicity, innovation, resourcefulness, and enterprise,” she said. “Their values and ability to thrive as a self-sufficient community for 200 years offers insight into how we may live better today.”

In talking about their membership in the New Hampshire Heritage Trail, Sandler said he hopes Canterbury Shaker Village inspires visitors to explore other member institutions.

“The Trail is an amazing asset for the state,” he said. “Each member museum works hard to not only preserve history but also to actively interpret and present it to people of all ages and interests.”

Volunteers Make a Difference on New Hampshire Heritage Museum Trail

Castle in the Clouds Volunteers. Photo by Colleen Crowley

Volunteering is a fun and enriching experience on the New Hampshire Heritage Museum Trail, which features nearly two dozen member institutions across the Granite State.

“It’s wonderful to welcome people as a greeter at the Folsom Tavern,” said Dawn Jelley, who volunteers at the American Independence Museum (AIM). “I’ve been volunteering for the past six years, and I love it.”

Home to 3,000 historic artifacts, including an original copy of the Dunlap Broadside (Declaration of Independence), AIM develops programs, events, and exhibits that engage people of all ages in the ongoing struggle for freedom and self-governance. “Without volunteers, AIM cannot engage anyone with this mission,” said Dr. Robert Levey, Interim Executive Director at AIM. “Volunteers like Dawn are invaluable.”

To learn more about the volunteer opportunities at AIM, visit independencemuseum.org or email volunteer@independencemuseum.org.

At Castle in the Clouds in Moultonborough, Paula said she enjoys the human connection she experiences as a volunteer. “I know that I will meet at least one guest who makes me smile each day,” she said. “I encourage all who have the time and interest to volunteer at Castle in the Clouds.”

A 6,300-acre property built in 1913-1914, Castle in the Clouds welcomes visitors from across the world. To learn more about the volunteer opportunities at Castle in the Clouds, visit castleintheclouds.org or email volunteers@castleintheclouds.org.

According to Jeff Barraclough, Executive Director of the Millyard Museum in Manchester, volunteers are the “unsung heroes” of their operation. “We operate on tight margins, so the in-kind contributions by volunteers in the form of time and energy are priceless,” he said.

Operated by the Manchester Historic Association, the Millyard Museum features rotating exhibitions and the Discovery Gallery, which is a multi-purpose space used for school groups, family programs, lectures, temporary exhibits, and other activities. To learn more about the volunteer opportunities at the Millyard Museum, visit manchesterhistoric.org or email history@manchesterhistoric.org.

For Barraclough, however, the main takeaway is the impact volunteers have on the visitor experience across The Trail. “Volunteers make a huge difference in our respective abilities to educate and inspire people of all ages,” he said. “We are so grateful for volunteers.”

For Jelley, though, her personal takeaway is the fun she experiences as a volunteer, especially at AIM’s Folsom Tavern (1775). “It is wonderful to welcome people back to 1775 and to visit the tavern like they would have back when it opened its doors,” she said.

Mt. Kearsarge Indian Museum Joins the New Hampshire Heritage Museum Trail

With its extensive Medicine Wood Trail and world-class collection, Mt. Kearsarge Indian Museum (MKIM) has joined the New Hampshire Heritage Museum Trail.

Founded in 1991, MKIM is located on a 12-acre museum campus that educates visitors about the natural environment and how Natives historically used it. Offering a variety of experiential outdoor learning opportunities, MKIM additionally features the Betsy Janeway Arboretum.

According to Executive Director Andrew Bullock, MKIM is more than a collection of artifacts. “Our mission is to provide a venue to facilitate greater understanding between guests and members of the Native community,” he said. “We value the preservation of Native American history and educating our members and the public through tours, workshops, lectures, and special events.”

The museum also features exhibit galleries that explore the rich diversity of art, housing, food, environments, and transportation of the region’s Native Americans. “Once thought of as a quaint community organization, MKIM has become an important voice, educating the public, and partnering with Native people of New Hampshire and beyond,” stated Bullock.

Regarding why MKIM joined The Trail, he cited it as an industry leader. “The Trail will provide ideas, support, and networking opportunities that will help us continue to grow and thrive,” he added.

The Mt. Kearsarge Indian Museum is one of 21 members of the NH Heritage Museum Trail, formed in 2014 to share resources and better promote their respective collections, programs, and events. Member institutions are located in Canterbury, Concord, Dover, Exeter, Laconia, Manchester, Moultonborough, Plymouth, Portsmouth, Tamworth, Warner, and Wolfeboro.

New Hampshire Heritage Museum Trail Preparing for Busy 2024

In 2023, 100,000 people visited the New Hampshire Heritage Museum Trail—a number President Jeff Barraclough expects to surpass this year.

“New Hampshire is filled with fascinating history and some incredible museums that share that history with the public,” he said. “From museums that share the heritage of a specific region to specialized museums focusing on one subject, there is something to interest everyone on The Trail.”

He said The Trail is excited this year to welcome the Mt. Kearsarge Indian Museum in Warner as a new member. “Mt. Kearsarge plays an important role in sharing the history and culture of the Indigenous People of this region,” he added.

Regarding the increasing popularity of The Trail, Barraclough said it is not restricted to New Hampshire. “People travel here from across the country and globe to visit us,” he said. “We are a gateway to New Hampshire.”

Member institutions on The Trail are located in Canterbury, Concord, Dover, Exeter, Laconia, Loudon, Manchester, Moultonborough, Plymouth, Portsmouth, Tamworth, Warner, and Wolfeboro. To learn more about The Trail, or the Trail Passport program, which provides access to all member institutions at a significantly reduced rate, click here.

New Hampshire Heritage Museum Trail Brings History to Life Through Education

Field Trip at Millyard Museum

While not the official motto of the New Hampshire Heritage Museum Trail, “bringing history to life” is one of the most important objectives behind field trips and education programs offered by many member institutions.

“Field trips and on-site education programs provide highly entertaining, interactive educational experiences that enhance classroom learning,” said Jeff Barraclough, President of the New Hampshire Heritage Museum Trail and Executive Director of member Millyard Museum in Manchester. “The Trail’s educational programs are relevant for any subject—from science, literature, and language to social studies, mathematics, and art.”

Noting the Millyard Museum’s programs are adaptable for grades K-12, Barraclough said they explore a wide variety of topics, some of which include Native People, early European settlement, waterpower, and immigration. “Each museum on The Trail provides unique perspectives and insights on New Hampshire’s history,” he added.

New Hampshire Heritage Museum Trail Brings History to Life Through Education

Field Trip at Castle in the Clouds

In addition to their longstanding field trip options, Charles Clark, Executive Director of Castle in the Clouds in Moultonborough, said they recently developed Castle in the Classroom in which staff will visit schools.

“Students can learn about bias and perspectives, leading to either a classroom debate or the creation of a newspaper-style article with one program,” he explained. “In another program, students engage in a STEM activity and learn about innovation and the design process.”

Kid learning at AIM

Child in a Homeschool Program at AIM

According to Jennifer Carr, Executive Director of the American Independence Museum (AIM) in Exeter, critical thinking is the primary takeaway for students who engage in their field trips and educational programs. She cited AIM’s 3-year We Are One organizational theme as a conceptual guidepost in their current educational offerings.

“Given the divisiveness of today’s political climate, we encourage kids of all ages to think critically and to hopefully recognize that what makes each of us different also makes us the same,” she said. “Diversity is a complicated subject—and the earlier we start, the better.”

In reflecting on the educational role of The Trail in New Hampshire, Barraclough said member institutions collectively interpret more than 300 years of New Hampshire history.

“We have hundreds of thousands of artifacts in our collections and welcome more than 200,000 visitors annually,” he said. “Whether people realize it or not, The Trail is largely responsible for not just preserving history in the state, but bringing it to life for young people of all ages.”

Totaling nearly 2-dozen, member institutions on the New Hampshire Heritage Museum Trail are located in New Hampshire’s Lakes Region, Merrimack Valley, and Seacoast