by GSA Kelly Bryer, Museum of NH History Class of 2003
On February 25th, 15 Granite State Ambassadors traveled to beautiful Warner NH to experience the Mount Kearsarge Indian Museum and the New Hampshire Telephone Museum. Our day started at the Mount Kearsarge Indian Museum where we were met by their director, office manager and educator. After a truly informative video about the museum in their contemporary art gallery, we started our guided tour led by a very welcoming and knowledgeable docent. The galleries were filled with artifacts from prehistoric to contemporary Native American tribes divided into geographical regions of North America. Our journey through the museum was in the shape of a circle which holds special meaning to Native Americans. The guided tours are designed to tell the story and philosophy behind the artifacts, giving the museum a voice.
In addition to the museum, we learned about their medicine woods nature trail which showcases over 100 plants used by Native Peoples for food, medicine, tools and dyes. The entire museum campus encompasses 12 acres and hosts numerous seasonal events from Maple Weekends, Founder’s Day, Plant Sale and their wildly popular Pow Wow. The museum offers a lot of educational program as well. Throughout the year, they hold events which include teaching various Native American crafts, demonstrations, lectures, workshops and classes. Their heritage garden which grows indigenous foods is used to demonstrate traditional methods of planting and make their library of seeds available to those who are interested in growing heritage food crops. www.indianmuseum.org
Our group then went into the beautiful town of Warner to poke around and have some lunch. There were multiple places to choose from and I heard stellar reports from all! I know my own lunch was pretty spectacular.
The next stop was the New Hampshire Telephone Museum which houses a tangible history of telecommunications which can be viewed via guided or self-guided tours. We were lucky to have an entertaining docent with an in-depth knowledge of the museum’s 1000+ artifacts. The timeline of the museum starts with the invention of the telephone and continues with the changes the technology underwent via the independent telephone companies, the Bell System and on to today. Like the Mount Kearsarge Indian Museum, the New Hampshire Telephone Museum began as one person’s extensive, private collection.
The quality and sheer number of telephones and communication devices is staggering and the collection is quite handsome. Many of them we all recognized from our youth or from our grandparent’s homes. It was a fun trip down memory lane too.
The Telephone Museum hosts special events and unique seasonal exhibits as well. In 2020, May through October, you can see the exhibit, All…Aboard! A Look at Railroad Communications. This exhibit will explore the history of railroad communications as it evolved from a system of simple signs to the use of the telegraph and then the telephone. In addition, the exhibit will delve into the use of the railroad to carry another form of communication, the US Mail system.
Another fun event is Storytelling in the Digital Age which will be held in June and a personal narrative, Beyond the ‘I’: When Memoir Meets History in July. You can find a listing of all their events on their website. www.nhtelephonemuseum.org
What our GSAs had to say when asked what most impressed them about the Mount Kearsarge Museum’s collection:
- Nice Southwest collection of pottery and Kachina dolls depicting spirit beings.
- Intricate beading on clothing, basket weaving designs; the incorporation of designs in their clothing related to the area of the U.S the tribe was located; the 2 types of canoes–dugout that gets sunk each winter, birch bark that used the interior of the bark on the outside/underside because it is waterproof; the way they used every part of the animal or plant in a purposeful way. The different headdresses and how the gold eagle feathers were prestigious and had to be earned; animal hides their uses and designs.
- I thought the artwork in the conference room was fascinating, as well as the canoe that would be “sunk” and preserved like driftwood. Some other artifacts that left an impression on me were the rattle made out of the moose knuckles, the original sized corn, the pottery, the humane to the horse saddles. The all-around layout of the museum was very nice. I can’t wait to return over the summer and explore the medicine woods.
- I really liked how there were things to touch to keep children engaged. And the guide telling us how Indians looked at the world, keeping animals and trees alive. Living in harmony with the world. Also, the addition of medicine gardens, trails.
What our GSAs had to say when asked about what impressed them about the information our guide at the Mt. Kearsarge Indian Museum provided:
- How the native American used every part of the animal to survive.
- Use of the interior of bark from the tree (birch) on the outside of canoes, shelters etc. because it is waterproof. Use of the brain of animals to soften the raw hide to make it soft and breathable. The adaptability of the tribes to the environment where they lived. and much more–some I referred to above.
- I came home with so many little things that I learned. A few highlights were that all turtles have 13 “moons” on their backs, that the southwest Indians always weave a mistake into their weavings because the only one who is perfect is the creator (I found this one very interesting as my mom was a very crafty woman and I can remember her tearing out almost entire sweaters because there was a mistake only she could see), and that an animal’s brain is big enough to use to tan the entire hide of the animal.
- You could tell how much the guide knew. How much she cared about the museum and Indians she has met. Just such a labor of love.
- How much the canoes actually weighed, the courage it took to go whaling in those! That the brain of an animal was used to tan its hide … that using blow pipes and darts were a part of local tribes hunting tools. I always thought them to be more Amazonian native tools.
- How democratic the Indian society actually is and their respect for ALL living things.
What our GSAs had to say when asked what most impressed them about the NH Telephone Museum’s collection:
- A great sampling of telephones from its first invention to the present.
- I liked seeing the development of the physical telephone from a wet battery with a voice box to a wooden box with voice receptor and listening receptor to the Candle stick phone all the way to our present day “tiny” cell phones. The way an old-fashioned switchboard worked.
- The wall-mount phone with the large jar of acid inside it and the working switchboard.
- I was not sure how interesting a telephone museum would be, but I found it fascinating.
- The various stages as to the development of the phones and how competitive it actually was… and how far the tech. has advanced in such a relatively short time!
What our GSAs had to say when asked about what impressed them about the information our guide at the NH Telephone Museum provided:
- The whole transition and stages the telephone progressed through the ages.
- Bell invented flying, not the Wright Bros.
- Graham got our minds to thinking! She is very knowledgeable and engaging. “Necessity is the mother of invention” was proven by the development of the different shapes and types of phones over the years.
- What most stuck with me was how busy the switchboard operator’s job would have been with all the multi-tasking. Also, I had never given much thought to how rugged a lineman would have to be prior to the invention of the bucket truck.
- The amount of knowledge she had – you could tell she loved the museum.
- The actual ages of Bell & Watson in how young they were – makes me wonder as to why they tend to be shown so much older than they were.