We are now in the full swing of our summer season and hope that you, our visitors, have been enjoying our special events, programs and exhibits so far this year whether it was one of our lectures, our German Festival, or maybe a Behind-the-Scenes tour or exhibit opening. We never tire of hearing exclamations from visitors who are pleasantly surprised and pleased with what BNHV has to offer in terms of educational opportunities, research resources, historic architecture and just plain family fun! We are always working to try to make the museum and our outdoor village more visitor-friendly and our most current project stemmed from feedback we have gotten over the past couple of years regarding the accessibility of our historic buildings.
Started in 2012, our historic interpretation program got off to a great start, with historic interpreters in almost every building demonstrating a craft such as cooking, spinning or blacksmithing. This allowed almost every one of our houses to be open to the public with the supervision of a trained historic interpreter. It was a wonderful season and we had high hopes moving forward that this was the model with which we could work from in the coming years. However, with budget constraints looming and an already daunting list of projects that had to take first priority, our plan for interpreters in each of the houses took a serious hit. We have scaled back in the recent years to only two or three historic interpreters out in the village, meaning that not all of the historic houses can be left open to visitors. The houses with the heaviest concentration of museum artifacts and furnishings – our Elliott House, Hoover House, Bigelow Saltbox House and Smith Log House – had to remain closed unless a docent was available to take visitors on a tour and maintain the security of the artifacts and furnishings. This meant that those visitors who preferred touring the village themselves, without a docent, would miss out on seeing those houses entirely. We know this was, and can be, disappointing to visitors and we want you to know that we hear you!
Work began last year to rectify this, with gates being added to Smith Log House and to the Sweet Home Schoolhouse which would allow visitors inside these structures without compromising the security of the artifacts within. Interpretive labels were also added so that visitors without a docent would still be able to learn the history of these structures and other tidbits relevant to the stories surrounding them. This season, we have continued the momentum gained last year by adding gates to our Elliott House, Saltbox House and Lavocat House (which had previously been completely closed to the public!). Dann Road House has also been opened and is being used as the home base for our historic interpreters and historic woodworking shop. This means that, when coming to the museum and not desiring a guided tour, visitors can still access ten of our eleven historic buildings as opposed to previously only being able to enter five of them! We are still working on figuring out how to make our fan favorite, the Hoover House, accessible to visitors without a docent. This is our largest house with the largest collection of artifacts so bear with us as we attempt this in the next year or two.
All of the work has been done by our Facilities and Exhibit Technician, Lee. By breaking down an unused movable exhibit wall just taking up space in our Main Room, Lee repurposed the lumber to be made into these gates, thereby reducing costs and freeing up some much needed space in the process! Lee will be adding some finishing touches in the coming weeks and interpretive labels will be added to the space as funding allows. If you or your business are interested in sponsoring this project or one of our historic structures, please see more information on our Adopt-A-House program. This month’s house up for adoption is indeed the Lavocat House!
By finding frugal, cost-effective ways to address accessibility issues in our village, we hope to heighten and improve our visitors’ experiences when they come to BNHV. We are by no means finished with these improvements and we hope you will stick with us while we make these adjustments in the village.
In addition to being able to gain access to more of our historic buildings, there is also so much to see and do around the village! Our crops are starting to grow and our historic interpreters are hard at work. Stop by the woodworking shop at Dann Road, see our rye sheaves, visit our new chickens and their coop, or check out the work being done to the Sweet Home Schoolhouse roof. There has never been a better time than now to come visit us or finally purchase that membership you’ve been thinking about. You would be able to enjoy all that we have to offer year round for free along with discounts on many of our special events, lectures and programs!