The philanthropy of one of the Wenham Museum’s founders will continue on Friday when the museum will open its doors for free all day.
Highland Street Foundation’s Free Fun Friday offers free admission to various cultural sites each Friday during the summer, but this is the first year that has participated. The museum’s role started to take shape three years ago when the museum’s marketing director, Mary Barthelmes, first became aware of the program.
“I read about the Highland Street Foundation and was impressed with their support of the region's cultural organizations and outreach to those who may not have the opportunity or means to enjoy them,” she said.
The museum will be open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday.
Becoming part of the Highland Street Foundation’s program “has allowed us to open our doors to more of the areas under-served families and their children just as the museum's fore-founder Elizabeth Richards did with her international doll collection over 100 years ago,” Barthelmes said. Richards lived in the museum's 17th-century house, the Claflin-Richards House, for 10 years. Over time, she amassed a world-renowned doll collection —one of only two collections in the world to remain intact for more than 100 years— that contained dolls from turn-of-the-century celebrities and royals, and Miss Columbia, the doll who traveled around the world from 1900 to 1902.
In 1992, Richards donated her world-renowned international doll collection to the Wenham Village Improvement Society; at the same time the WVIS was purchasing the 17th-century house that served as Wenham Museum’s first building.
With the donation, Richards’ dolls became the founding collection of the Wenham Museum. Richards always allowed children's charities to exhibit her collection and keep the admission proceeds for their benefit.
Friday’s free admission is a modern-day equivalent of that, open up the museum, including its current exhibit on the history of toys and its popular train room, along with other exhibits and displays.
“Partnering with the Highland Street Foundation has allowed us to continue Ms. Richards’ philanthropic act,” Barthelmes said. “We are proud to open our doors to all children and their families while introducing them to the world of museums through their visit to the Wenham Museum a museum of childhood and New England Family life.”