Sunday, May 27, 2012

Welflleet Historical Society Holds Open House

The Wellfleet Historical Society held an open house yesterday afternoon to inaugurate a couple new rooms. Sven was particularly interested in the collection of old tools, dusted off and removed from the cellar for display at the back of the museum.
He admired a spear for eels and had a long conversation with John Portnoy on the subject. Sven had recognized a specific tool because Swedes used similar ones. Apparently Scandinavians would go out at night with torches, which attracted eels. The fishermen harpooned them. Portnoy told Sven that the tradition on Cape Cod was different. Eels got stuck in the mud. Cape Codders used the same type of tool but stuck it randomly into the riverbed, without being able to see what they were trying to catch. It was nice that Sven could share history with someone who obviously loves history just as much, in the Historical Society’s fabulous new room. In 2012 we don’t even attempt to catch eels, let alone eat them.

Many of the tools reminded Sven of Sweden.
Check out this amazing scythe! Sven told me that a blacksmith was crossing a small pond a long time ago. The ice broke. The blacksmith drowned. His chest of carpenter’s tools was preserved in the bog. (The pond dried up and turned into a bog.) This ancient Scandinavian owned many similar tools to those now on display here in Wellfleet. They had not changed, although thousands of years had passed. How cool! (The find is called Mästermyr.)

During Sven's conversation with John Portnoy,
I was busy admiring dresses in another new room, at least a room I had not visited before. Three mannequins wore ankle-length robes and coats. One had ice-skates slung over her shoulder. Another warmed her hands in a muff. There were vintage bonnets, up on a shelf, a lace petticoat, a row of beaded purses. I liked the wallpaper that decorated the top of the wall, too. It captured the ambiance of the 1870 to 1890s era.

By now the museum was quite full. Time for a toast and a speech.
I think Brad Williams did the talking, but it was impossible to see around the corner and say for sure. Most of the attendees were standing in the small “summer kitchen.”

The crowd of history buffs lifted vintage wine glasses to thank those who had created the rooms. The speaker also paid tribute to Helen Purcell, who inspired the museum in the first place and is the go-to history person in town. In the photo above, Helen hugs Dee Portnoy, responsible for the magnificent cottage garden out front. Dee will now work on an oral history project for the museum.

Seamen’s Bank contributed $25,000 towards the refurbishment of the new rooms. Town Meeting voted $100,000 more for the restoration of a side of the building. The basement will also be renovated.

I’m thrilled that Wellfleet's museum has created these new rooms. Now I can tell guests not to miss the museum. As Alan Platt said as we walked out together, “If only it could be open more often!”