We could have been at the beach or barbecuing or something a bit more three-day-weekendish, but Peter and our friends Dan and Jess decided on lunch in South Hadley, then a pretty walk up the street to the Skinner Museum. This is part of Mount Holyoke College, opened by one of their benefactors decades ago as a place to put his collection made in the tradition of Cabinets of Curiosity, except this one fills a few buildings. The part of his collection that’s on display is in an old church saved from a nearby town which was flooded to make the Quabbin Reservoir, to provide water to pipe to Boston.
Museum founder Joseph Allen Skinner was the son of a bootstrap-type of the nineteenth century, who starting with next to nothing dyed silk, then built mills that made him millions. Some of the wealth was used to help fund a chapel, state park, hospital, and library in nearby Holyoke; some went into his traveling and this collection which has something for everybody and maybe something for nobody, too. You’ve kind of got to love a spare arm.
Much wasn’t yet labeled, but, especially with Laura-Ingalls-Wilder-era farm tools in the basement, it was fun to guess what things were used for and how. As Dan said, you could sometimes figure things out by looking, which you can’t with a computer. We had a good day. As the founder wrote about the museum billed as offering a thousand stories, “It is fine and I always find something new to look at.”