Friday, September 17, 2010

Village Voices Come to Life at Counting House Museum

A new exhibition, Village Voices: Tales of Enterprise and Endurance, opens at the Counting House Museum on Saturday, September 25 for the remainder of the fall. The public is invited to a reception from 1:00 to 3:00 pm.
The largest expansion of display space in decades at the Counting House, Village Voices occupies the historic second-floor hall. The exhibit chronicles four centuries of enterprise in the region through the lives of residents who have shaped key trades. The role of ingenuity and adaptation in sustaining work life is a primary theme of the exhibit.
Stories of six individuals are presented: sawyer Humphrey Chadbourne, farmer Benjamin Gerrish, sea captain Theodore F. Jewett, shoemaker Francis Raynes, textile manufacturer Samuel Hale, and small business owner Placide Gagnon. Their tales are told using an array of historic objects, photographs, and maps that illustrate the transformation of work life in this region from 1630 to 2010. The display will be on view permanently.
Drawing on objects owned and used by local residents, curator Nina Maurer developed the exhibit, with guidance from academic historians Emerson Baker, Jeffrey Bolster, and Richard Candee. Local historians Nancy Cook and Bradley Fletcher also contributed as content advisors.
“For 400 years, generations of South Berwick residents have sought a connection with the greater world for their livelihood,” explained Maurer. “From shipping lumber to the West Indies in the 1700s to supplying fuel oil from Saudi Arabia today, enterprise entails risk--to homeland, habit, property and identity. Those risks have yielded wealth, but also misfortune. To six who ventured, success came through daring, but also endurance.”
The exhibition was supported by a grant from the South Berwick Strawberry Festival Committee. The exhibit is presented in display-storage cases custom made by Salmon Falls Woodworks of South Berwick and designed by architect Philip H. Kendrick. The cases were made possible by support from the Maine Humanities Council, P. Gagnon and Son, the Davis Family Foundation, the Maine State Museum’s New Century Community Program, and individual donors. The New Hampshire Charitable Foundation underwrote curatorial expenses.
The Portsmouth Athenaeum, Maine Maritime Museum and Maine Historical Society loaned collection items during fall 2010. The exhibit was designed by Susan Hamilton of Phineas Graphics, and conservators Michaela Neiro and Catherine Badot-Costello treated objects for display. Other project participants are research volunteers Margaret Brentano, Norma Keim, and Beth Tykodi; exhibit production volunteers Rick Coughlin and Dana Hughes; OBHS members Harland Goodwin, Sally Hunter, Dick Lunt, Gretchen Straub, Mary Vaughn, and Puff Uhlman; and project supervisor Wendy Pirsig.
The Counting House Museum is open on Saturdays and Sundays from 1:00 to 4:00 pm through the end of October, and year-round by appointment. More information can be obtained at 207-384-0000 or
Photo caption: The story of shoemaker Francis Raynes in South Berwick, is one of six tales of enterprise and endurance that trace the transformation of the town as shown in a new exhibit at the Counting House Museum. (Courtesy photo)