Tour: Strawbery Banke Museum

By: Emily McMaster, GSA Communications Director

On a sweltering summer day, armed with sunscreen and cold water, a group of GSAs attended a tour of the Strawbery Banke Museum in Portsmouth.  There was a pleasant breeze on the grounds as we began our tour.  We met on the patio of the visitor center, after easily parking in their on-site parking lot.

Our tour guide was Jon Brown, Director of Visitor Services.  He was a wealth of knowledge not only about the museum, but also about the history of the area.

We learned about why the neighborhood where Strawbery Banke is located is called Puddle Dock, and we learned about the history of the area.  People lived in this neighborhood from 1695 to 1954. The neighborhood was slated for urban renewal and the buildings were to be razed in the 1950’s.  The museum was formed in 1958 to preserve the history and 30 buildings. Restoration and preservation efforts are constant, and it is clear how much the staff cares about educating the public through an inclusive lens.

The exhibits in the houses demonstrate different time periods throughout the history of the area.  There are some hands-on and interactive exhibits, and there are houses where people are dressed up as costumed roleplayers. We saw an exhibit from the 1950’s, as well as an exhibit from WWII.  We were even given the opportunity to view a building that was not yet open to the public, which was in the process of being restored.  There was also an exhibit called “Water has a Memory” which explains the rising sea-level in Portsmouth and how it affects the museum.

After our guided tour, some of our GSAs participated in a tour of the many gardens that Strawbery Banke has on the grounds, while other GSAs explored more of the houses.  I explored some of the houses we did not enter, including the Governor’s Mansion.  The gardens at this house are beautiful, and the stately mansion was fun to visit.

Strawbery Banke opens the historic houses from May through October, but they also host a variety of events throughout the year.  This includes Vintage & Vine (September 10th this year), Baby Animals: Heritage Breeds at the Banke, Ghosts on the Banke, Candlelight Stroll, and more.  GSAs are able to volunteer at these events – stay tuned for information on volunteering at Vintage & Vine soon!