I grew up in Dover, New Hampshire, within walking distance of a quirky little museum called the Woodman Institute. I'd only been once, on a middle school field trip, and I could only remember that it included 1) a garrison with a whale jaw bone near the front door 2) a big taxidermy polar bear 2) a room full of dolls 3) a two-headed snake in a jar and 4) a four-legged chicken. Nearly two decades later, the museum -- now called the Woodman Museum --- still boasts most these glorious treasures and much more!
Katie and I revisited the museum for Sister Day 2018. After getting the spiel about the museum's history (it was founded in 1916 by Annie Woodman), we explored a fun exhibit featuring antique technology organized by its contemporary iPhone app replacement. I thought it was clever, and I especially liked all the old telephones (they even had an Ericofon yay)!
Next we joined a small tour that began with the guide asking, "You guys want to see some glowing rocks?" Um, yes? Of course! We were introduced to a cabinet of fluorescent minerals that shined all sorts of awesome color in three kinds of UV lighting. Did you know that out of all the states, New Jersey has the most fluorescent rocks?
Next, we went to the Damm Garrison -- Dover's oldest house and one of the only surviving garrisons in the U.S. Built in 1675, it was used to protect colonists from Native American raids, but -- as the tour guide recounted in the history of the 1689 Cochecho Massacre -- they weren't always successful.
The tour then continued to the Hale House, which wasn't open when was a kid. Once the home of 1800s abolitionist and Abe Licoln buddy Senator John Parker Hale, it now houses many historical artifacts from Dover. Our guide, Mike, was very knowledgeable and gave us a full history of Dover from the underpinnings of the Civil War through the Cocheco Mill strikes and reform.
We finished exploring the main Woodman Museum self-guided. The second floor is home to so much strange and wonderful taxidermy and natural artifacts, including the aforementioned four-legged chicken (it still has all legs!) and the two-headed snake (needs some fresh formaldehyde).
Other oddities included a Man Eating Clam, a bear wearing a top hat, a passenger pigeon (now extinct), a stegosaurus (also extinct, but who are they fooling), and an "Unidentified Snake the Came to Dover in a Bunch of Bananas from Jamaica" (actual label).
The third floor of the museum is dedicated to children's toys and war paraphernalia. Dolls and guns aren't really our jam so we didn't spend too long in those rooms.
As a Dover native, I especially loved the Woodman Museum's history and charm, though I highly recommend the museum to anyone interested in natural curiosities and New England history in general. I mean, where else can you see glowing rocks and explore colonial garrison all in one trip?
Oh, and then, afterward, Katie and I made a UNICORN CAKE! Didn't it come out great?!