NORTH ADAMS — Facing the loss of its space, the North Adams Museum of History and Science is closing indefinitely, taking with it pieces of the city's past.
Before items in the 5,000-square-foot exhibition space at Hotel Downstreet are packed up and stored, we decided to take a tour of the museum and see what is in the collection.
The museum's last day open to the public is Sunday, Jan. 30.
Chuck Cahoon, president of the North Adams Historical Society, the group that operates the museum, recently gave The Eagle a tour and pointed out some items in the museum's collection that stand out to him and explained what they say about the city's history.
Coury's Drive-In memories
The collection includes a coin-operated scale, quiz game and fortune-teller that all used to be at Coury's Drive-In, a movie theater on Curran Highway that closed in the '90s.
It was "the Berkshires' Most Modern Drive-In Theatre," reads a framed ad on the wall for the business, yellowed with age.
"For entertainment on a Friday or Saturday night around here," Cahoon said, "there was the movies. All the youngsters went."
Arnold Print Works history
In a corner of the museum dedicated to the city's industrial history, there are zinc plates from Arnold Print Works displayed inside a glass case.
"They were made for printing colored cloth," Cahoon explained.
Why put that in the museum? "The whole process of printing cloth, they had some unusual machinery," Cahoon said. The company was a major employer in the city, and sold its products around the world, he said. "They were known all over the place," Cahoon said.
The factory used to be in the industrial complex that is now the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art.
From North Adams to the moon
When Americans first went to the moon, astronauts left something there: a coin that reads "From Planet Earth — July 1969."
The disc had "goodwill statements" from U.S. presidents and leaders from more than 70 countries, according to NASA. Pictures of the messages were reduced 200 times and put on the disc.
That disc was manufactured at Sprague Electric Company in North Adams, Cahoon said. "That's a copy of it," he said of the museum's coin.
A look back at Main Street
A stained glass sign for North Adams National Bank sat above a clock on Main Street, Cahoon said. The building was torn down during urban renewal, according to Cahoon.
Jack jumpers, because everyone had one in North Adams
There are several "jack jumpers" in the museum.
"It's part of the thing you'd call local color," Cahoon said.
Blacksmith Walter P. Pritchard made jack jumpers and told The Eagle in 1941 he thought he sold 100,000 of them.
They were popular locally. "Ask any kid in Adams if he has a jack jumper and he will give you a withering look, as if you'd asked if he had a mother," a 1941 article in The Eagle, taped on the museum's wall, reads.
"A jack jumper is a runner with a seat on it," the article continues, "and when you get good, you can ride it like a bicycle, with the added advantage of being able to go off nice snow jumps with only minor damage to your liver."
More than just an oil can
Like everything else in the museum, this mangled can has a backstory.
When World War I ended in 1918, people filled the streets with noisemakers to celebrate. Nick DelNegro went onto the street with a five-gallon can and a broom handle, according to a 1929 article in The North Adams Transcript.
"He started in at the head of the first parade that was formed and all day long, until darkness brought a cessation of the celebration, he marched about the streets of the city beating his tin can," the article reads. Later that day, the tin can was "battered beyond recognition."
Photos: Items from the city's history, found at the North Adams Museum of History and Science
Items from the city's past offer a glimpse into its bustling manufacturing industry at the North Adams Museum of History and Science, which will be open to the public for the final time in its current location at 40 Main Street in North Adams this weekend. Wednesday, January 26, 2022.
To purchase these photos, click here.