Past Exhibits, 1999-2014
Stitched Together in Time and Place: Valentine Family Quilts
July 5 through August 30, 2014
Held in conjunction with the dedication of the “Mary E. Valentine Collections Wing” at the Society’s Robinson House, this colorful display featured a variety of quilts that were once owned or made by members of the Valentine family of Bethel. During the exhibit run, selected portions of the documentary film “Why Quilts Matter: History, Art & Politics” were shown (acquisition of this film was made possible by the Florence Bickford Hastings Traditional Crafts Fund).
The Bethel Inn: A Century of Hospitality
April 16 through October 15, 2013
Designed in the Colonial Revival style by the Boston architectural firm of Coolidge and Carlson, the Bethel Inn opened to the public one hundred years ago, on July 12, 1913. The Inn’s construction was financed primarily by William Bingham 2nd and built under the close supervision of a six-man corporation led by Dr. John George Gehring. Standing on the site of the former Prospect Hotel (begun in 1861), which was largely destroyed by fire in 1911, the new hotel met with immediate success. By the time the Inn celebrated its seventy-fifth anniversary in 1988, its facilities had grown to include several once-private dwellings near the Bethel Hill common. This modest display will include vintage Bethel Inn brochures, menus, maps, photographs, and building plans.
Pictures Serene and Sublime: Traditional White Mountain Art Recaptured
July 6 through August 31, 2013
During the nineteenth and early twtieth centuries, numerous artists (including many from the so-called Hudson River School) captured the awe-inspiring summits and verdant glens in the White Mountain region of northern New Hampshire and western Maine. Including many of these early landscapes, this exhibit highlighted the work of Erik Koeppel and Lauren Sansaricq, nationally-recognized plein air artists who create masterful works in the Hudson River style based on their love for the expressive potentials of traditional representation. The eight-week exhibition featured a variety of White Mountain landscapes, including several from the collection of the Jackson (NH) Historical Society. The contemporary works by artists Koeppel and Sansaricq were available for purchase.
Treasures Concealed & Now Revealed!
October 18, 2012 through May 17, 2013
The Bethel Historical Society’s on-going effort to re-examine, refine and re-catalog the thousands of objects, documents, photographs and books in its custody has revealed some fascinating and unexpected discoveries. Demonstrating the breadth and depth of the Society’s museum, library and archival holdings, this exhibition featured seldom- or never-before displayed items that have been collected and preserved by the Society since its formation in 1966. Hidden away for decades, they not only assist in an understanding of the local and regional past, but reveal much about the collecting habits of the Bethel Historical Society over the past half-century.
The White Mountain Club of Portland:
Exploration and Adventure in the “Crystal Hills” 1873-1884
August 13, 2011 through May 15, 2013
Founded in 1873 as the second mountaineering organization in North America (pre-dating the Appalachian Mountain Club by three years), the “White Mountain Club of Portland” was instrumental in exploring and describing many hitherto unfamiliar sections of the White Mountain region of northern New Hampshire and western Maine. Among the significant accomplishments of this important but short-lived group was the first recorded exploration of famed Mahoosuc Notch, northwest of Bethel. In 1999, the Bethel Historical Society received an extensive collection of the Club’s records, which made the first-ever exhibition devoted to this important but relatively unknown organization possible.
“Full of Memory and Sentiment”
Autograph Quilts from the Bethel Historical Society Collection
July 3 through October 5, 2012
Autograph or “friendship” quilts came into fashion in the 1840s in an era devoted to the cultivation of sentiment. As documents of remembrance, these “scraps of calico” emerged from an earlier nineteenth century practice in New England of keeping bound albums where women collected favorite quotations, expressions of love and concern, and—most importantly—the signatures of close friends and relatives. Typically, patchwork blocks of similar size and design were signed by friends and relatives of the quilt’s recipient. At other times, as demonstrated by several quilts in this short-term exhibition, these “precious reliquaries” were assembled as neighborhood or church fundraisers, with contributors’ names recorded by someone with handwriting skill and a steady hand.
A Rich and Vibrant Legacy: The Traditional Crafts of Florence Bickford Hastings
September 17, 2011 through May 17, 2012
A long-time member of the Bethel Historical Society, Florence Bickford Hastings (1904-2008) was a talented craftswoman especially interested in the teaching, exhibition and preservation of traditional crafts. In conjunction with the recent establishment of the “Florence Bickford Hastings Traditional Crafts Fund” at the Bethel Historical Society, a generous sampling of her work—including hooked and braided rugs, primitive reverse painting, stenciling, tole painting, cross-stitch, knitting, theorem painting, hand and machine sewing, embroidery, handmade furniture, and chair-caning—was featured in this exhibit.
A River’s Journey: The Story of the Androscoggin
June 2, 2007, through September 9, 2011
One of the largest rivers in New England, the Androscoggin drains an area of over 3,400 square miles in New Hampshire and Maine. The 170-mile waterway begins its journey near Errol, New Hampshire, and, punctuated with numerous rapids and impressive waterfalls, eventually mingles with the waters of the Kennebec River in Merrymeeting Bay below Brunswick, Maine, before flowing into the Atlantic. Due mainly to the dumping of tons of industrial and municipal wastes into its water over a period of several decades, the Androscoggin was one of the ten most polluted rivers in the United States by the 1960s. However, thanks to the Federal Clean Water Restoration Act of 1966 and other similar legislation, the river has gradually made a comeback and is becoming a significant recreational resource for communities along its banks. Through the use of selected images, artifacts and text, “A River’s Journey” presented a vivid picture of the Androscoggin’s past—as a transportation route for Native Americans and, more recently, for logs destined for lumber and paper mills; as a source of nutrients for agricultural production and waterpower for industry; and as a popular destination for artists, photographers, nature enthusiasts, boaters, and fishermen. Click here for the online version of this exhibit.
“Glorious Ridges and Princely Peaks”: Artistic Visions of the White Mountains
July 2 through August 31, 2011
Held in conjunction with the Society’s exhibit on the White Mountain Club of Portland, this display presents 19th and 20th century paintings of the highlands of northern New Hampshire and western Maine. With its outstanding combination of superb scenery, important historical associations, and easy accessibility to millions of people in the northeastern United States and Atlantic Canada, the White Mountain region has long occupied an important place in our collective imaginations.
Sunday River, Mt. Abram and More! Celebrating the Skiing Heritage of the Bethel Area
November 21, 2009 through May 31, 2011
This exhibition commemorated the 50th anniversaries of the Mt. Abram and Sunday River ski resorts, as well as the rich skiing heritage of the Bethel area in general. Co-sponsored by the Ski Museum of Maine at Kingfield, the display included photographs, artifacts, ski equipment and period advertising relating to the development of alpine and Nordic skiing in the mountains of western Maine. In addition, a section of the exhibit presented a brief overview of skiing in Maine from the 1870s to the present. Funding for this exhibit was provided by the Mt. Abram Ski Club and Sunday River Ski Resort.
To Improve the Farmer’s Lot: The Grange in Maine
July 1, 2008 through May 25, 2011
For over half a century, beginning in the 1870s, the Grange (“Order of Patrons of Husbandry”) in Maine numbered some 50,000 members in more than 400 locations throughout the State. Active on behalf of Maine’s rural populace, the Grange lobbied the Maine Legislature to improve the quality of education in the State’s public and vocational schools, and to reform the taxation system to make it more equitable. In addition, as the first major organization in the United States to grant women equal rights, the Grange provided an opportunity for rural females to escape the drudgery of the farm home so they could take advantage of the educational and social aspects of the Order. Based on the book “A Fair Field and No Favor”: A Concise History of the Maine State Grange, written by Bethel Historical Society Associate Director Stanley R. Howe, this exhibit delved into the history and significance of this remarkable organization and its role in Maine’s past.
The Art of Helen Anna Morton
July 3 through October 29, 2010
A dedicated, long-time Bethel Historical Society volunteer and house museum guide, the late Helen Anna Morton (1913-2009) of Newry, Maine, produced numerous artworks during her lifetime. She was well known in the New England area, and worked in oil, watercolor, pencil, pen and ink, crayon, pastels and scratchboard. Exhibiting for many years at local galleries, she participated in art shows all over Maine each summer and was a founding member of the Western Maine Art Group. In conjunction with the 2010 Mahoosuc Arts Council’s “Bethel Art Fair,” which was held in honor of Mrs. Morton, the Society displayed some twenty paintings by this talented artist.
“War & Pieces”: A Civil War Reproduction Sampler
July 1 through September 18, 2010
Displayed in conjunction with the recent publication of “Write Quick”: War and a Woman’s Life in Letters, 1836-1867—a book based on Civil War era letters and documents in the Society’s collections—as well as the upcoming sesquicentennial of the American Civil War, this modern adaptation of an 1860s appliquéd sampler quilt was designed by B. Brackman and K. Menaugh, and is based on “pictorial” Civil War quilts that featured patriotic images and were created, for the most part, by Union supporters. The image on each of the nine fifteen-inch squares in this reproduction quilt was taken from a design that represents a special phase of the War. Surrounding the blocks is a wide border containing designs that represent post-war hopes for peace and forgiveness: shields representing the Union; doves of peace, and an entwined rose and lily that represent re-Union. The “War and Pieces” quilt was appliquéd by hand by Society members Mabel Kennett, Lee Barth and June Abbott, and hand quilted by Mabel Kennett. Measuring nearly seven feet square, the quilt was presented to the Bethel Historical Society in 2002.
The Maine Mountain Heritage Traveling Exhibit
September 9 through 26, 2008
Created by the Maine Mountain Heritage Network, this exhibit presented eighteen stories and associated images that were submitted by local organizations from across the Maine Mountain Heritage Area (Franklin, Oxford, Piscataquis, and Somerset Counties and nearby towns). Story subjects included natural history (moose and riverways), community origins (early immigration and community life), and local economies (logging and slate mining). The exhibit was created to raise awareness and deepen knowledge of the history and natural history of the Maine Mountains. The exhibit was produced by Mountain Counties Heritage, Inc. and designed by Insyt New Media. Funding was provided by the Federal Highway Administration and the Maine Department of Transportation through the National Scenic Byways Program through the Old Canada Road National Scenic Byway.
Among Our White Mountain Souvenirs
August 10, 2007 through May 31, 2008
The earliest souvenirs connected with the White Mountains of northern New Hampshire and western Maine made their appearance in the 1830s and 1840s. These mementos included landscape paintings by founders of the so-called “White Mountain School,” inexpensive Staffordshire dinnerware decorated with scenes such as Thomas Cole’s “View Near North Conway,” and two volumes that today are considered White Mountain “classics”—Lucy Crawford’s History of the White Mountains (1846) and William Oakes’ Scenery of the White Mountains (1848). Soon after railroad lines reached the “Alps of New England” in the early 1850s, a wider range of souvenirs became available for popular consumption; among these were brochures, stereoviews, souvenir china, cartes de visites, mauchlineware, guidebooks, maps, menus, postcards, playing cards, and tourist newspapers. Focusing on specific districts within the region, this exhibition featured a wide variety of White Mountain souvenirs from the Society’s holdings, as well as from two private collections.
Documenting the Native American Experience: Selections from the Charles Huntoon Collection
July 1, 2007 through May 31, 2008
In April 2007, the Bethel Historical Society received a sizable collection of books, papers, and audio files documenting the American Indian experience—the gift of Charles R. Huntoon of Portland, Maine. Over the years, Mr. Huntoon acquired many volumes about Native Americans and, most especially, works concerning the Abenaki, an eastern Algonquian sub-group whose historic homeland extended from northern New England and into southern Québec. His collecting eventually led him to an unpublished French-Abenaki dictionary compiled by a Jesuit missionary, Father Joseph Aubéry (1673-1755); it also brought him to the doorstep of Stephen Laurent (1909-2001) of Intervale, New Hampshire. The son of Abenaki Chief Joseph Laurent (1839-1917) of Odanak, Québec, and Intervale, Stephen Laurent was a talented lexicographer who took on the task of augmenting Father Aubéry’s dictionary and translating it into English. After many years of work on this project, the two men published five hundred copies of Father Aubéry’s Dictionary in 1995. To preserve the pronunciation of the Abenaki language, Stephen Laurent recorded the entire Dictionary on tape, and this material, in several formats, is also part of the Huntoon gift. The Bethel Historical Society is honored to accept the Huntoon Collection, selections from which were displayed in the Mason House Exhibit Hall.
Molly Ockett and Her World
July 17, 2004 through May 26, 2007
Making use of photographs, artifacts, paintings, and written text, this exhibit told the story of Molly Ockett, an Abenaki Indian, and the world in which she resided from her birth around 1740 to her death in 1816. Molly Ockett lived among the white settlers of such towns as Bethel, Andover, Fryeburg, and Paris during the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. She is honored annually at Bethel’s “Molly Ockett Day” celebration, and her name is connected with numerous geographic landmarks, business ventures, and community organizations. Since her death, Molly Ockett has become a legendary figure, the subject of fireside story-telling, of school pageants, and of popular magazine articles. The “Indian mystique,” complete with romance, curses, buried treasures, and near-miraculous cures, has insured Molly Ockett’s place in the consciousness of the region. But what of the real Molly Ockett? This exhibit at the Robinson House elevated Molly Ockett from the realm of myth and legend to the status of a documented personage in the colonial history of the Bethel area and the White Mountain region of Maine and New Hampshire. Funding for this exhibition was provided by the Molly Ockett Chapter DAR and the Maine State Organization Daughters of the American Revolution. To visit the online version of this exhibit, click here.
The Bethel Historical Society: Our First 40 Years
June 16 through December 31, 2006
On May 31, 1966, eighteen people gathered at the Bethel Library to organize the Bethel Historical Society. From that modest beginning, the Society has evolved into one of the most active historical organizations of its type in northern New England. “The Bethel Historical Society: Our First 40 Years” was a mini-exhibit installed in two large display cases on the first floor of the Dr. Moses Mason barn. The exhibit highlighted some of the Society’s efforts over the past forty years to preserve the local and regional past through programs, exhibits, publications and research activities.
Cohen, Congress, and Controversy: Rediscovering Civics in the Archives
July 25 through September 22, 2006
Sponsored by the University of Maine’s Fogler Library in Orono, and co-hosted by the Bethel and Gilead Historical Societies, this traveling exhibit was part of an outreach effort to raise public awareness about the William S. Cohen Papers. Cohen’s donation of his papers to the Fogler Library comes on the leading edge of an effort to document the activities of Congress and the Executive Branch, allowing for a crucial public understanding of our nation’s history. Born in Bangor, Maine, and educated at Bowdoin College and Boston University, Bill Cohen had a promising start in law and an avocation as a writer. His career in elective office lasted nearly 30 years, from his service in Bangor city government (1969-1972) through three terms each in the U.S. House of Representatives (1973-1978) and the U.S. senate (1979-1996). A Republican who distinguished himself during two constitutional crises—presidential impeachment in 1974 and the Iran-Contra investigations in 1987—Cohen saw himself as part of a tradition of independent-minded representatives from Maine. Retiring from the Senate in 1996, he was determined to return to private life, but accepted an appointment as Secretary of Defense in President Clinton’s administration from 1997 to 2001. The proposed venues for the exhibit follow the route of Bill Cohen’s campaign walk in 1972 from the New Hampshire border at Gilead, through Bethel, Rumford, Wilton, Lewiston, Skowhegan, Bangor, Millinockett, Houlton, and Caribou to Fort Kent.
Newry at 200: A Bicentennial Glimpse
July 5, 2005 through July 23, 2006
This exhibition celebrated the 200th anniversary of the incorporation of the Town of Newry, Maine, best known today as the home of the Sunday River Ski and Golf Resort. Located due north of Bethel, the mountainous community was settled in 1780 by Benjamin Barker of Methuen, Massachusetts, and Ithiel Smith of Cape Elizabeth, Maine. In 1796, Massachusetts sold some twenty-seven thousand acres here to Sarah Bostwick, a wealthy New Jersey widow and, until 1805, much of what is now Newry was known as the “Plantation of Bostwick.” Farming, logging, and tourism became important in the nineteenth century, with winter recreation dominating the local economy by the late twentieth century. Newry-related photographs, postcards, paintings, and artifacts from the Society’s collection were highlighted in this short-term exhibition at the Robinson House.
Barn Again! Celebrating an American Icon
August 19 through October 22, 2005
Barns have become symbols of America. They represent tradition, family, hard work, self-sufficiency, and a wholesome lifestyle. Even as barns disappear from the rural landscape, they remain an enduring symbol of American life. Barn Again! Celebrating an American Icon, an exhibition presented by the Maine Humanities Council, explored how these utilitarian agricultural structures have become icons. The exhibition was organized by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES), the National Building Museum, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and made possible through the generous support of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Hearst Foundation. Additional funding was provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Smithsonian Institution Special Exhibition Fund, and the Smithsonian Educational Outreach Fund. Barn Again! is a registered trademark owned by the Meredith Corporation and the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The Bethel Historical Society was pleased to be one of only three sites in Maine that hosted this traveling exhibition in 2005.
Oxford County, 1805-2005
May 12 through August 14, 2005
This special summer exhibition honored the 200th anniversary of Oxford County, Maine, which was officially created by the Massachusetts legislature on March 4, 1805. Information about the three major bicentennial events (a trail ride from Beacon Hill to Paris Hill to reenact delivery of the original county documents, a grand celebration at Paris Hill on June 11, and a tour of the Bicentennial Quilt) was included, as well as artifacts and historic images highlighting the County’s past. During the Society’s annual Sudbury Canada Days celebration (August 12, 13 & 14), the Oxford County Bicentennial Quilt was on display.
The Martin Collection of Maine Minerals
August 13, 2004 through June 24, 2005
The mineral resources of Maine, and especially of the Oxford County area in the westernmost district of the State, have attracted public attention for nearly two centuries. Initially, collectors sought these wondrous products of nature for their appearance alone, but markets for the commercial use of such materials—including mica and feldspar—were eventually found. In 2001, the Bethel Historical Society received the gift of a sizable and representative collection of Maine mineral specimens collected over many years by local historian and author Stuart Martin of Rumford Point. A selection of over sixty of these specimens, many of which were mined from locations near Bethel (notably the towns of Newry, Stoneham and Rumford), were displayed in this exhibit on the second floor of the Society’s Robinson House.
July 1, 2003 through May 29, 2004
This traveling exhibit, funded in part by the National Community Forest Center, Northern Forest Region, explored the need for wood and woods in a modern, consumer-based society. Located in three gallery spaces on the second floor of the Society’s Robinson House, this temporary exhibition featured numerous large scale paintings, drawings, and photographs, as well as forest-related artifacts, to reflect four hundred years of change in “Maine’s woods.” An interactive exhibit that conveyed the concerns of those living and working in a forested environment in transition, Middle Ground encouraged visitors to participate by sharing their opinions on how best to achieve balance between the desire for wood and woods.
Signs of the Times
Spring 2002 through December 30, 2003
Featuring over thirty examples of large-scale historic trade and advertising signs from the Society’s permanent collection, this exhibition sought to demonstrate how signs play an important role in the activities of local businesses, organizations, and individuals by the ways they identify, direct, and decorate. All of the exhibited signs—dating from the 1840s through the 1980s—were accompanied by text describing their original purpose and location. In several instances, these labels also featured old photographs showing the displayed signs in situ. The historic signs allowed the past to speak to the present by reflecting changes in architecture, technology, and community character.
All Aboard! 150 Years of Railroading from the Atlantic to the St. Lawrence
July 1, 2001 through December 30, 2003
Begun in 1846 and completed between Portland, Maine, and Montreal in 1853, the first international railway in North America was the dream of John Alfred Poor of Andover, Maine. Besides providing an ice-free winter port for Montreal, the railroad had a profound effect on the economies of western and southern Maine (most especially Portland), northern New Hampshire, and northern Vermont. This exhibit celebrated the sesquicentennial of this important rail line, as well as the arrival of rail transportation to Bethel and the northern White Mountain region in 1851.
Plants and Animals in Peril: Maine’s Endangered Species
January 12 through April 30, 2002
The exhibition brought attention to the distinctive and fragile ecology of the Pine Tree State. A collaborative project of the George B. Dorr Museum of Natural History at the College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, and Acadia National Park, this educational and provocative exhibition used examples of lesser-known plants and animals of Maine, which are either threatened or endangered, to highlight the complexity of saving species. At the same time, the displays celebrated Maine’s unique biodiversity. The exhibit employed a variety of display concepts and media to create interactive, visually oriented exhibits that appealed to both children and adults.
Light Years Ago: The Art and Science of the Kerosene Lamp
June 1 through December 15, 2001
In 1854, Dr. Abraham Gesner, a Canadian geologist, patented his new invention in the United States. That invention was kerosene—also known as “coal oil”—a thin oil distilled from petroleum. The availability of the new fuel was limited until the first dug oil well in Ontario (1858) and the first drilled well in Pennsylvania (1859) produced large quantities of oil. Soon thereafter, the new fuel received a wide distribution, and inventors and designers went into a frenzy of innovation as new burners, wicks, sockets, chimneys, fonts, sizes, shapes and uses proliferated. This exhibit presented a variety of interesting products of the Kerosene Era from the collection of Pat Stewart of Greenwood, Maine. Included were “Little Harry’s Night Lamp,” only three inches tall; beautiful miniature “Twinkle” lamps in cobalt and lavender; practical lamps used by barbers, photographers, policemen, and sailors; as well as attractive parlor lamps and regal banquet lamps. The exhibit also included a few examples of earlier and later oil lamps and lamp accessories.
A Sampling of Winter Recreational Activities in the Bethel Area
January 20 to February 24, 2001
Produced by the Bethel Area Chamber of Commerce as part of its “Celebration of Winter 2001,” this exhibit highlighted the history of winter sports activities in western Maine and nearby northern New Hampshire. Area residents from the towns of Bethel, Newry, Rumford, Andover, and Greenwood loaned a collection of eclectic memorabilia for display, including antique skis, skates, toboggans, and sleds. Old photographs, brochures, letters, and posters (some dating back to the 1920s) were also featured, as were videos of local ski areas in the 1960s.
Scenery of the White Mountains
July 1 through November 3, 2000
The White Mountain region of New Hampshire and Maine is unique for its combination of superb scenery, important historical associations, and easy accessibility to millions of people in the northeastern part of the United States. Beginning around 1820, artists began producing images of this “Switzerland of America” for public consumption. By the time of the Civil War, photographers were also becoming important propagators of the image of the White Mountains throughout the country. Featuring paintings, lithographs, engravings, maps, and large-scale photographs dating from the 1830s to the 1940s, this exhibit highlighted images created for both popular and refined consumption.
John Francis Sprague: Disseminating Maine History in the Early Twentieth Century
August 5, 1999 through June 15, 2000
Funded in part by a grant from the Maine Humanities Council and provided to the Bethel Historical Society by the L. C. Bates Museum at Hinckley, Maine, this exhibit explored the fascinating career of John Francis Sprague (1848-1926). Lawyer, legislator, environmentalist, writer and speaker, Sprague led Maine in the writing and publishing of state and local history in the first quarter of the twentieth century. Sprague’s monument is his Sprague’s Journal of Maine History, which he founded in 1913 and which provided an important outlet for the dissemination of writings about Maine’s past until his death in 1926.