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Joyce Endee

Wolfeboro's Wright Museum has big plans for 2012

Music jamboree, tank trails and new exhibits to be added

NORMAN STEVENS, Wright Museum Executive Director, displays the dress uniform and Brewster Academy varsity letter of Lt. Clayton Hale, the first Wolfeboro resident killed in WWII on Aug. 2, 1942. The museum plans to have a rotating display of its extensive uniform collection. (Thomas Beeler photo) (click for larger version)
September 08, 2011
WOLFEBORO — When Norman Stevens was appointed Executive Director of the Wright Museum in May, he could see the potential of the museum and promised changes that would build on its strengths and expand its offerings.

Four months after his May 1 appointment Stevens sat down with this reporter to present his ambitious plans for this fall and for 2012.

In the near term he is expecting the return of the museum's M4 Sherman medium tank any time now. The tank was shipped to Northeast Military Vehicle Services in Milford, Mass. on May 20 for rebuilding. Stevens said it was now running on its own power and was being repainted in the colors of Company A, 743rd Tank Battalion, which landed on Omaha Beach on D-Day. Northeast has promised a two-week warning before the reconditioned tank is shipped, so there will be time to run a notice in the paper before it arrives. When it arrives the museum plans a mini-Family Day where the Stuart light tank is taken out to give rides in the parking lot.

Stevens has even bigger plans for the Sherman and the Stuart tank. It turns out the museum owns the woods behind the parking lot, a perfect place to make tank trails and provide a unique opportunity to see both tanks in operation. To preserve both tanks in running condition it is necessary to take them out and give them a run anyway why not make it public?

Also coming up this fall is the museum's golf tournament, to be held on the Bald Peak Colony Club course on Oct. 6. The tournament is a major fundraiser for the museum.

The museum closes to the public after Veterans Day on Friday, Nov. 11, but reopens for special occasions like the Festival of Trees (which opens on Dec. 10 this year) and for its Cabin Fever Lecture Series held every Sunday at 2 p.m. The 10 lectures in the 2012 program start on Feb. 12, 2012 and run through April 11. Stevens has already confirmed speakers for four of the 10. The whole series will be announced well in advance.

Other innovations planned for the spring include a 1940s music jamboree where big bands will be brought in to play the music of the WWII years, and an Abbott and Costello tribute.


Stevens' most ambitious plan calls for creating five new exhibits to be ready when the museum reopens next spring. Work has already begun on several of them.

The first new exhibit will be "Hollywood Stars in Uniform," focusing on 12-15 celebrities, including Jimmy Stewart, who chose to put their film careers on hold and don a uniform during WWII.

The second planned exhibit is a redoing of a corner of the museum and dedicating it to the Merchant Marine, Coast Guard and Navy involved in convoys.

The third will be an exhibit on production and armor, built around the Sherman tank.

The fourth will be a long-overdue David Wright exhibit that will profile the museum's founder in depth.

And the fifth will be a rotating uniform exhibit. The museum is fortunate to have a large collection of uniforms "textiles" as they are known in museums. To minimize deterioration they should not be out of a climate-controlled environment for long periods of time, so the plan is to change the exhibit regularly. This will also put a new face on the collection for more frequent visitors, since it is likely to be different with each visit.

One prize uniform in the collection was donated by the family of Second Lt. Clayton Hale. Hale was president of his class at Brewster Academy and active in athletics. He enlisted in the Army Air Corps and was the first soldier from Wolfeboro killed in the war on Aug. 2, 1942. Stevens displayed both his dress uniform (in excellent shape) as well as the athletic letter he earned at Brewster (see accompanying photo).

Another hanging exhibit in preparation for mounting in the second floor meeting room is a set of 52 images created by Chris Ritter, a New York artist commissioned to paint images of Army Air Corps men in training and life on Army air bases. The images were donated by the artist's estate and need to be framed. Stevens expects they will be mounted and on display by fall 2012.

The museum is also involved in reconfiguring its space to make it easier to work on exhibits while freeing up space on the main floor. Three offices, including a large exhibit workroom, are nearly finished being built out from undeveloped space on the second floor, adjacent to the meeting room. When the rooms are completed Stevens will move there along with Michelle Landry, Collections Manager.

Stevens said a museum consortium is also being formed that includes the Castle in the Clouds, Libby Museum, New Hampshire Boat Museum, Wolfeboro Historical Society and Wolfeboro Public Library. The idea is to meet once a month to find ways to cooperate to build visits to the area.

Just as we were concluding our tour of exhibits in progress, we encountered Don and Marlene Adams from South Royalton, Vt., who were making final adjustments on their meticulously-restored 1940 Ford sedan on loan to the museum and proudly displayed in the museum's front lobby. It is one of a few cars owned by civilians from that era an appropriate exhibit from a WWII museum that combines artifacts and images of the war with those of life on the home front.

If you have not visited the Wright Museum in a while, make a date to return and witness its rejuvenation.

Martin Lord & Osman
Salmon Press
Varney Smith
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