A view down Back River, refreshments and conversations about two recently donated 19th century bayonets, Fort McDonough, and the current History Center exhibit started off the Aug. 29 annual meeting of Friends of Westport Island History. The river view frames the back deck of Wright Landing House which has been transformed over the past year and a half into a new History Center atop the ground-level Helping Hands Food Pantry.
The Friends elected Susie Stedman as a new trustee and re-elected the current officers for the coming year: Mary Ellen Barnes, chair; Jean Wilhelmsen-Exter, vice chair; Jeff Tarbox, treasurer; and Gaye Wagner, secretary. Tarbox summarized year-end finances, including preliminary revenue estimates from the previous week’s successful fundraiser “Squam Creek History – Alive!” graciously hosted by Trustee Louana Frois and her husband Ted.
Jean Wilhelmsen-Exter reviewed programming highlights of the past year including the recently closed exhibit at the History Center, “Westport Island In Times of Pandemic, Epidemics & Outbreaks,” and the current exhibit, “My Island Home: Recollections of Verlie Colby Greenleaf of Westport Island.” Other programs were COVID-friendly outdoor activities that allow the self-guided discovery of Island history: a scavenger hunt in May at KELT’s Segerstrom Preserve and the inauguration of a Westport Island History Trail funded by a Bicentennial Grant. The history trail includes 11 interpretive signs installed around town at historic sites including the Town Hall, the Community Church, mill sites, and historic features of Island preserves. New interpretive signs were added to Segerstrom Preserve to bring the history of four remaining Dunton and Hodgdon homesites alive.
Officers of the Friends reviewed improvements that will make history more accessible to residents and improve the Friends’ capacity to protect the collection and facilitate volunteer work on developing the collection including: a new digital cataloging system, “Catalogit,” and work- and display-space improvements at the History Center. Goals for the coming year include UV window film to protect exhibit materials; additional lighting, signage and cloud storage; and possibly an internship to assist with collections cataloging and/or the engagement of an archaeological consultant.
The event was topped off by drawing the winner of a summer-long quilt raffle made and donated by longtime History Committee member Debbie Williams. Tarbox won and will happily give the beautiful “east side” quilt a new home on the west side of the island!
Barnes concluded the annual meeting with a call to “everyone to join the fun” by becoming members of the Friends to support Westport History and/or volunteering as History Center docents, Collections or Program volunteers. For more information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or text: 207-380-5926.