After a one-year closure due to the pandemic, Historic Newton’s two museums, the Jackson Homestead and the Durant-Kenrick House & Grounds, reopened to visitors June 16.
Lisa Dady, director of Historic Newton, said the reopening is important to the community.
“In a crisis, people think about police and fire and public health, but you are not really a full community without your museums, your libraries and your arts institutions,” she said.
Cynthia Cowan, manager of the Durant-Kenrick House & Grounds and Anne Larner Educator, said she arrived early on reopening day to make sure everything from the garden to the indoor collections were ready to welcome new guests.
She said they installed new air purifiers, as well as a place for visitors to access hand sanitizers and masks for free. Due to the pandemic, some people toured virtually, Dady said, and community donations during the shutdowns helped them stay afloat.
Clara Silverstein, community engagement manager of Historic Newton, said since May 2020 Historic Newton has held multiple online history lectures and special programs, such as virtual walking tours and a special tour of historic homes.
Silverstein said the Jackson Homestead and the Durant-Kenrick House & Grounds are Newton’s two history museums, and in many cases, they are residents’ first connection with the city’s history. She pointed to school trips, for instance, where children might first learn about the Underground Railroad.
“It might be the first time they thought about the history of Newton,” she said.
Dady said the lectures were “very, very popular” with about 1,200 people attending from May 2020 to April 2021. She said Historic Newton will continue to provide online lectures even now that they’ve opened their doors and might make some past lecture videos accessible.
“One of the unexpected, positive aspects is that it really did push us to find new ways of connecting people with history,” Cowan said.
Before the 2020 shutdowns, Historic Newton had recently opened a HAIRdentity exhibition at the Jackson Homestead showing fashion trends and hairstyle changes from 1840 to 1980. It was only open three months before museums closed their doors, but people now have a second chance to check it out.
“We’re back.” Dady said. “It’s incredibly festive.”
Qiqige Wang can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.