Speaking of the Museum of Old Newbury

Following up on my recent blog, ???????????? History????????????????; I wanted to talk about the Historical Society of Old Newbury now recently renamed, The Museum of Old Newbury.      I was a member for a while, until I found out a very disturbing situation.

You see, if you look at the mission statement of the Museum, you will see a very distinctive line, advocating historic preservation:

“The Museum of Old Newbury preserves and interprets the history of “Old Newbury, “which includes Newbury, Newburyport, and West Newbury, from settlement to the present.

The Museum carries out its mission in part through the ownership and operation of the Cushing House Museum, the Perkins Engraving Plant, and other historic structures on the Cushing House grounds. The Museum furthers its purpose through lectures, exhibitions, educational programs, school tours, publications, a research library, and cooperation with area groups interested in local history.

The Museum of Old Newbury seeks to share historical information to broaden knowledge and appreciation of the past, address historic preservation in the present, and provide a foundation for the future.”

And they certainly did!     The Society formed a powerful subcommittee and were at the forefront of preserving our downtown and were largely responsible for moving the entire city into its enviable affluent position today.        They resisted the Daily News, the dark siders and their allies as they pushed for the destruction of the downtown; and we can all be thankful today for what they achieved.

But one of the most effective ways to destroy an organization is to infiltrate it, neutralize its effect and hopefully strangle it out of existence.          Developers joined the organization in the hopes of cancelling out their effectiveness knowing that a cash-strapped non-profit couldn’t resist the lure of filthy lucre.         The developers became so infiltrated, they took over powerful positions in the Museum.

But these weren’t good developers who want to renovate/restore historic structures to enhance our historic city; these were quick profit-driven developers who tend to trash old houses, demolish them, gut them, with the aim of turning Newburyport into a faux history tourist trap with overpriced new housing with a fake antique petina.

To accomplish this, they began to instill the idea that Newburyport is not an historically significant town.     The theme, “There is nothing especially unique about our city” has been repeatedly highlighted in the paper of record, therefore justifying the destruction of our historic architecture and our historic neighborhoods.        For those developers who had infiltrated the museum; the job was clear.      Make sure significant events about Newburyport are buried, real deep; and bring out the melancholy of history; and celebrate ‘history’ that in the long run doesn’t really have anything to do with today’s challenges, the future or anything significant about Newburyport.

Well, this worked for a while but they forgot to send a memo to the Custom House Maritime Museum and to the P.Preservationist and to the Preservation Trust.     They even forgot to send the memo to Ghlee Woodworth (Clipper Heritage Trail fame); though the Chamber and the City have been largely very accommodating.

Now the Custom House is growing like gangbusters and the Cushing Museum is shrinking.    I wonder why? (sarc.)     This isn’t about money – it’s about people getting frustrated and getting wise to the policy.    It isn’t the funds:  the Custom House has a joke for an endowment and the Museum of Old Newbury has a huge endowment.

I’m keeping a close eye on the Cushing House – will the new director, Susan Edwards, resist the developers influence and rebuild the museum or will they win out and continue to be a hindrance, yes, even an obstacle to saving our city?       Will the museum begin to show the uniqueness of Newburyport or will they have events that continue to point away from our past.     Will they take back up the mantle of historic preservation, or will they take their cues from the gutting experts who trash our priceless architecture?

I am watching them closely and I do see some positive signs; though it is not being herald on their main website, a new exhibit that actually talks about Newburyport, called,  “From High Seas to Safe Harbors,” whcih chronicles Newburyport’s seafaring past.        Maybe this will be a good start – they might talk about great men and women who lived in Newburyport and achieved great things.      They might even talk about our houses and the history behind them. (I know. I’m pushing things.)

Until the developers on their board, rear their vindictive heads and veto the effort; I invite you to come and visit this new exhbit.      Tours run from 10-4 Wednesdays-Fridays and 12-4 Saturdays and Sundays; last tour begins at 4pm.

It is a great organization and the city needs them to do well.    I will be re-joining the organization and will promote them when they officially chase out or at least neutralize the evil influence of the ‘infiltrators’.

-P. Preservationist

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