Did you know the library offers museum passes to 9 museums and more than 3 dozens historic houses throughout New England? Museum passes are free for library card holders and, depending on the museum, grant the bearer either free access or an extremely discounted ticket price.
This past week, I decided to take advantage of the library’s pass for Strawbery Banke. Although I’ve visited the museum many times in my life, and even spent several summers as part of the museum’s children’s club the Porthole Gang (which, sadly, no longer exists), my more recent visits as an adult have centered on the Candlelight Stroll, a special event offered each Christmas season. Although the Candlelight Stroll is a beautiful experience, featuring lantern-lit walkways and a glimpse at Christmas celebrations from the past, the bitter cold that comes with winter in New England and the massive crowds the event attracts can make it hard to enjoy all the museum has to offer.
Visiting the museum in the fall was a completely different experience. Instead of fighting crowds and waiting 20 minutes to enter a house, I had the place almost to myself. Strawbery Banke features costumed role players, beautiful gardens, interactive exhibits, and 39 historic buildings, almost all of which are furnished according to a specific time period. At each house, a staff member greets you and provides you with the history of the home and family that lived there before you wander at your own pace through the rooms. Several locations have costumed role players, as well, who will give you a "first hand account" of what life is like during the time period they represent. These role players stay in character at all times, so be prepared to play along. At many of the locations I visited, role players were cooking period recipes while they talked with guests, ranging from banana bread in a 1919 house to Colonial cookies called Cobblestones.
Strawbery Banke is more than just historic houses. Guests can also visit a cooper working on wooden barrels and explore a 1940s grocery store. The store is actually a highlight of the museum as it includes shelves lined with vintage food packages. Children and adults alike can have a lot of fun searching for familiar brands in very unfamiliar packaging (don't forget to scope out the candy display!). An additional exhibit located near the 1940s store features World War 2 propaganda urging people to walk instead of drive in order to make their car tires last longer, save fat to make explosives, and grow victory gardens in their backyards. An especially interesting display details how to use rations to purchase groceries.
The museum also features many beautiful garden spaces (some of which feature fairy houses) and some interactive exhibits that are fun for all ages. The museum is open daily from May through October as well as for special events throughout the year, including Ghosts on the Banke at Halloween and the Candlelight Stroll in December. The Strawbery Banke pass is good for free admission for you and your family for two days, free parking on site, and a 10% discount at the museum store. For more information on Strawbery Banke, visit their website at www.StrawberyBanke.org.
To reserve any museum pass, please call (207-698-5737) or visit the library during business hours. Only one pass is available per day, so passes must be reserved for a specific date and must be picked up from the library prior to visiting the museum. For a complete list of available museum passes, click here.