The museum plans a celebration this Sunday from 1 to 3 p.m.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The Williamstown House of Local History will make a little history of its own on Sunday, June 25.
The museum plans a celebration from 1 to 3 p.m. to mark the grand opening of its new location at the historic Five Corners junction of Routes 7 and 43 in South Williamstown.
The museum began its life as the town's House of Local History in 1941 in a once and future private Main Street residence known as the Botsford House. In more recent years, it was housed in the rear of the David and Joyce Milne Public Library.
In May 2015, the town voted to enter into a 50-year lease with the museum for use of the then-vacant South Center School.
And after renovations to the the site last year, the museum's staff, interns and volunteers used this spring to move the collection south and re-establish exhibits in the "cozier" confines of one of the school's former classrooms.
"I think the exhibit room is only a third of the size [of the space at the library]," Executive Director Sarah Currie said on a recent tour of the new digs.
What organizers found is that less can be more.
"That's the amazing thing," Currie said. "I think what happened at the [library] is we had so much space that you could really do anything in there. But here, we were forced to make a lot of decisions about how the space was used in the most efficient way possible.
"[WHM Board member] Andy Burr, who is an architect in town, walked through the space with me, walked through the old space and laid out what he thought might work. I wasn't sure if it would, but I trusted him, and it totally did."
The South Center School, which dates back to the 19th century, spent the latter half of the 20th century as the home of the former Williamstown Cooperative Nursery School, which closed in 2012. Families with ties to the former "Little Red School House" will know the museum's exhibit space as the "Bears Room," where older preschoolers learned their ABCs. The former "Cubs Room" is now storage space for the museum's collection.
"All of the lighting, we changed to LED, which should save us money in the long run, but they're also much brighter," Currie said. "The blackout shades help with heat and insulation but also help protect the collection."
The repurposing of a historic school to show off items ranging from farm implements to military memorabilia is in line with the museum's mission to " to preserve and to promote knowledge of the town's history."
"I was heart-broken when the school wasn't here," said Currie, who enrolled both her children at Little Red. "To have it turned into something where I can work is, for me, selfishly, amazing."
The former teachers' office is being repurposed as the children's room, with popular hands-on exhibits like period games and costumes. The building's third-largest room, toward the front of the building, is now a meeting space where the museum plans to hold small programs and maintain a rotating exhibit for items not in the permanent exhibit.
After Sunday's grand opening celebration, which will include music by acoustic group Rosin the Beaux, the museum will be open Wednesday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and weekends from noon to 4 p.m. Currie said anyone with a love of local history who is interested in volunteering as a docent can contact her at 413-458-2160 or email@example.com.
Updated with the correct day; iBerkshires regrets the error.
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