NORTH ADAMS — If anyone is out looking for the North Adams Museum of History and Science — it had been missing from the Western Gateway Heritage State Park since October 2018 — it has been recovered.
The museum now is housed at the North Adams Holiday Inn.
Charles Cahoon, president of the North Adams Historical Society, which operates the museum, said that when word got out that the museum would have to move out of its space in the park, the general manager of the Holiday Inn contacted him.
The park is being sold to the company proposing a model railroad museum in the park.
So, when local museum officials saw the space they were offered, they agreed. It's just slightly smaller than the old spot, Cahoon said, and it is right smack in the middle of downtown.
Linnette Searcy, general manager of the Holiday Inn, said the first-floor office space had been empty for a few years when she brought the idea to museum officials in 2016. They checked out the space and agreed. Museum officials have to pay for utilities, but otherwise, it is rent-free.
"Lo and behold, it's on Main Street now, so everybody can see it," Searcy said.
She noted that having a museum in the hotel enhances the guest experience, and with so much more foot traffic than occurred at the park, it is much more visible to locals and visitors. Indeed, through the windows facing Main Street and American Legion Drive, passersby can see some of the exhibits from outside.
So, with a new place located, the old museum was closed last year and the crack team of volunteers went to work cataloging, packing up and relocating all the records and artifacts, and designing the exhibits — a process that took over a year, Cahoon noted. The new location opened Nov. 2.
The North Adams Museum of History and Science features a wide-angle look at the history of North Adams, from pre-revolutionary days — it includes the siege of Fort Massachusetts by French and Native American fighters in 1746 — through the industrial age, and 20th-century changes like urban renewal in the 1960s and the closing of local factories through the late 1900s.
Artifacts depict local history of law enforcement, firefighting, schools, sports, military service and the railroad.
The local impact of the railroad is depicted pretty vividly, and it includes a working model of the former railroad yard with 12 running trains, as it would have appeared in the early 1900s.
Ancient devices and examples of products produced in local factories also provide a direct line to life in the past. Among them are rare devices used or produced by Sprague Electric, and shoes and patterns from the Wall-Streeter shoe factory. A mock-up of a kitchen typical in factory workers' housing includes one of the first General Electric refrigerators, sold at Central Radio in 1933.
Other exhibits depict the local history of churches, government and the various wars that drew so many locals into deadly conflict.
Of course, there is a significant exhibit of the 5-mile-long Hoosac Tunnel, which, at the time, was the longest underground train tunnel. It was started in 1851 and finished in 1875. Nearly 200 men died during the process. But there also were a number of significant technological advancements in hard rock drilling as a result of the inventiveness of the project's engineers.
Scott Stafford can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 413-629-4517.