Road Trip Week 1: Armchair Explorer
As part of our virtual road trip, we encourage you to learn more about the states we are "visiting" each week by being an armchair explorer! For our first week of our virtual road trip, we're visiting New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Vermont. Below are just a few suggestions of different sites you can visit - there are lots more out there to discover on your own!
Let's kick off our road trip in Peterborough, NH. Did you know this small town (which is a little under 2 hours from Berwick) is home to the oldest tax-supported public library in the world?
Prior to tax-supported public libraries, there were membership libraries. Today, free public libraries dominate and there are only a handful of membership libraries left in the country. Eight of those libraries can be found in New England, including the Portsmouth Athenaeum, Salem Athenaeum, and Boston Athenaeum. Borrowing privileges may be limited to members only, but these libraries are open to the public for anyone doing historical or genealogical research. They also have a number of public concerts, speakers, and other programs.
New Hampshire is not only the home of the first tax-supported library, it is also the home to teacher and astronaut Christa McAuliffe. McAuliffe, who taught in Concord, was the first person to be chosen for the new Teacher in Space program and trained to be part of the Challenger space shuttle crew. Thirty-five years ago, on January 28, 1986, tragedy struck just 73 seconds after take off when the shuttle broke apart, killing everyone on board.
Although McAuliffe never had a chance to teach her lessons in space, the Challenger Center and NASA have been working to bring Christa's Lost Lessons to life.
Looking to take a local field trip? Check out the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center in Concord, which pays tribute to not only Christa McAuliffe, but New Hampshire astronaut Alan Shepard, who was the first American to travel in space.
You can take a real road trip to Salem or take a virtual tour of the sites around Massachusetts connected to the Salem Witch Trials - there's so much more to see beyond downtown Salem!
If you want to learn more about the Salem Witch Trials, you can actually read transcripts of the trials (and lots of other related documents) through the Salem Witch Trials Documentary Archive and Transcription Project.
Did you know the site of the gallows was only recently confirmed? For many years, the summit of Gallows Hill has been thought to be the hanging site, but in 2016, a ledge along the base of the hill was officially recognized as the historic site and a memorial was created on the spot, which is known as Proctor's Ledge.
You can take a deep dive into the story of the pilgrims at Pilgrim Hall Museum, or you can take a more hands-on approach to history through the Plimoth and Patuxet Museums - try their interactive game "You Are the Historian: Investigating the First Thanksgiving" to learn more about the Wampanoag people and the colonists.
If you want to know more about life during the 1600s, check out the PBS series Colonial House (which is available at the library) - this reality series was filmed in 2004 in Maine and featured a group of modern men, women, and children trying to spend 5 months living like American colonists in 1628. Do you think you'd be able to do it?
Harriet Beecher Stowe, the author of anti-slavery novel Uncle Tom's Cabin, was born in Litchfield, CT. Her later home in Hartford is now the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center. Through the Center, you can learn more about Stowe's life and the global impact of her novel.
The Harriet Beecher Stowe Center is also home to a collection of materials relating to the authors, including manuscripts, memorabilia, and personal items. You can take a peek into the collection on their website. Be sure to check out their multimedia gallery for current programs about topics like women's suffrage, racism and racial inequality, and more.
Easily the most iconic places to visit in Rhode Island are the mansions in Newport. Did you know you can explore the mansions without ever having to leave home? Check out these virtual tours of several of the houses, which have been presented by the Preservation Society of Newport County. You can also explore their collection of virtual exhibits and watch past lectures and special programs.
There's something for everyone at the Shelburne Museum in Shelburne, VT. This museum includes everything from folk art to a carousel to a steamboat! From home, you can check out their collection of virtual exhibits; explore their collection of art, textiles, carriages, and more; and even try their virtual escape rooms! And since this is Vermont that we're visiting, be sure to enjoy some Ben and Jerry's ice cream, too!