Saying ‘Yes!’ to life can take on a variety of forms. Sometimes it might mean accepting your friend’s invitation to vacation over New Years. Other times it might look like trying a new yoga class or choosing a restaurant you’ve never been to. I try to say ‘Yes!’ to life as often as possible – and it’s because of this outlook on life that I’ve been to countless places and tasted several things I would never have imagined eating.
Luckily, I live in a region with an abundance of new experiences I get to say ‘Yes!’ to. It’s this outlook on life that led me, just last week, to explore a building I’d always passed by and never thought to adventure into: the Museum of the White Mountains. I’ve been attending Plymouth State University for over a year now and commute to the small town of Plymouth every day for classes. I should have known that this museum was here, what it was, and what an opportunity I was missing.
Greeting me at the door of the Museum of the White Mountains were two local student workers from Plymouth State. It only took a few minutes chatting with the girls to get a grasp of what the museum was all about – they might be students, but they know their facts. I learned that the building was originally a church up until 2013, after which it was purchased by the college and used as an exhibition space. We also talked about what the museum had to offer tourists unfamiliar with the area and how the exhibits are just as kid-friendly as they are appealing to artists and professionals.
After our conversation, the student workers set me free to explore the museum on my own. The current exhibit, The Grand Hotels of the White Mountains, tells the story of the grand hotels of the 20th century that wealthy urbanites flocked to when city life became too much to bear. These hotels were more experiences than mere lodging. Their amenities included recreational activities, extravagant meals, and outings.
What didn’t stand out to me right away but instead crept up on me as I glanced from wall to wall was the dedication to the exhibit’s theme – the museum was decorated as if it were a hotel itself. Furniture, wallpaper, and color schemes all reflected that of the hotels.
As I browsed each wall and took in the plaques, photographs, and wall-length projection of the view from the Omni hotel, it was clear that both hand and heart had gone into the making of this exhibit.
Even the portraits lining the staircase seemed destined for public display, captivating in a way that begs the onlooker to learn more about the story behind the shot. A trip down the stairs landed me in the open lab which, coupled with the first floor’s studio space, provides opportunities for kids to enjoy the museum alongside their parents and grandparents. The student workers had mentioned these rooms being used for crafts, scavenger hunts, or lessons throughout the year.
Back upstairs, I was taking in the hallway displays and looking for any details I’d missed before when I ran into Cynthia Robinson. Cynthia is currently the director of the Museum of the White Mountains, though she also identifies as an eco artist and an Artist-in-residence for the State of New Hampshire as well as an Art Educator.
She took a few minutes out of her busy day to sit down with me and chat about summers at the museum. From May to August, Cynthia sees crowds of visitors come through the doors of the museum to learn about the stories behind the White Mountain region. Visitors coming to see the current exhibit have been varied. They’ve had aficionados, families, vacationing couples, loyal locals, and seniors all show up to take in the Grand Hotels displays. Parents love bringing their children to the museum because of the hands-on areas and its location being so close to several other New Hampshire attractions. For singles or wandering tourists, the museum is a welcoming opportunity to learn and explore at your own pace. Cynthia jokes about the aficionados, saying they know their grand hotels and “will often come in and teach me or tell me what I’m missing.”
Listening to Cynthia talk about the museum’s visitors made me consider why I hadn’t come to visit sooner. The Museum of the White Mountains has everything my history-loving heart could ask for: friendly staff, interesting exhibits, the opportunity to learn something new, and a location close to at least five different restaurants and an ice cream shop. I’m not the only New Hampshire local who’s late to the party: Cynthia reports seeing dozens of new visitors every summer who happen to be locals just out for a walk through town. They, like me, don’t realize the rich history on display just a few minutes from downtown or Interstate 93. And, just like I was before this week, they’re missing out on something great.
After thanking Cynthia and the student workers for their time, I finally made my way out the door and onto the sidewalk. As I walked to my car, I opened Google Maps and dropped a pin on the museum’s location. My best friend is coming from out of town to visit in a few weeks, and I’ve been collecting places to take her during her trip. I know she’ll love it because I loved it, and because the Museum of the White Mountains is something anyone would enjoy exploring. All they need to do is say Yes!
For more information about the Museum of the White Mountains, check out their website at www.plymouth.edu/mwm/ or plan your visit today!
After formal interviews, I love asking people about their favorite activities and destinations in the area. Here’s what those at the Museum of the White Mountains had to say:
What they’re up to…
Where to head afterwards: Wherever your interests take you! Plymouth and the White Mountains have it all, and their extensive brochure collection can point you in the right direction.