Frequent contributor Jim Peters submitted the following post about the need for more museums in Lowell and throughout our region.
I recently had the honor and pleasure of having a hamburger at the Old Court with our City Councilor, Patrick Murphy. We discussed a great many things, but one of my own personal favorite topics is the dearth of museums in Massachusetts. Not that every town or city does not have an historical society, but actual museums are not frequent in a drive down an older highway in Massachusetts. Museums are “a window to the soul” of a time period. I remember one in New Hampshire that was a hodge-podge of old “stuff.” It was very entertaining, and they had kept an Egyptian mummy from the mummy era of the 1880’s. It was not in great shape but it appeared to be a mummy and it was in a coffin, for lack of the proper term, with hieroglyphics on it.
I know Lowell has many fine museums. The Quilt Museum is outstanding as are the National Park treasures with their specific programs for people of all ages. What I am talking about is the type of museum that is limited in range, charge little or nothing at all, and tell the visitor about a period of time that may have passed. They are staffed by volunteers who become experts in the areas of interest in the museum. They are much like the Middlesex Museum at the Faulkner Mills in Billerica. That museum is fascinating to see. It is staffed on Sundays between one and four by volunteers, of which I consider myself one. Visit it sometime. Just follow the signs on Rt. 3A.
I would like to see Lowell have a wide range of museums. Included in these would be a Native American Museum which I would like to state to place on land across from the Francis Gate. Also, I see an education museum, perhaps staffed by retired teachers with many interesting stories to tell. How interesting would it be to have students in a museum where they learn about education and how the classroom has changed. That one I would like to see in the Moody School because I have uncovered a document that states that that building was built with its large windows to the sun in the afternoon so that it could shine through and light up everyone’s desk. Honestly, every window in that school was placed with the student’s ability to read, write, and do arithmetic in mind.
Another museum could be the Religion Museum with documents on the founding of religions in Lowell by the immigrants. People could learn about the Catholics, the Congregationalists, the Mormons, the Buddhists, and other religions in one visit. I know many people whom I would like to see staffing that type of museum.
There could be a Car Museum in one of the old mills, housing collector’s old automobiles. Right now, except for an ice cream stand in Lowell, there is precious little safe area to display them. There could be a Print Museum, which acknowledges our right to freedom of the press, a freedom that, in my opinion, is much more far-reaching than the right to carry a gun. But there could be a Rifle, or Weapons Museum. The possibilities are endless.
In a later conversation I had with Paul Tsongas before he passed away, I asked him
“Why the statues?” And he told me that in one hundred years people might forget some aspects of Lowell’s rich history, but they would not be able to forget the statues. Let’s make the same type of commitments to objects of history, by making this the City of Museums. And, if anyone has something old that they think might be of interest to youngster of today, let me know. I will find a place to store it. Just do not make it too large. My wife, Vicki, says I produce enough clutter.