Where I went: The Woodman Museum at 182 Central Avenue in Dover, woodmanmuseum.org, 603-742-1038
What it is: The Woodman Museum is an early-20th-century-style natural science, history and art museum located along the main road of Dover. The museum was founded in 1916 and consists of four buildings: the main Woodman House, the Hale House, the William Damm Garrison and the Keefe House, all filled with a wide variety of exhibits, artifacts and galleries for all ages. Some examples of what can be found at the Woodman Museum include colonial artifacts, a mineral, shell and fossil gallery, mounted animal specimens, fine art and furniture, military history, local history objects and more. The museum is open from mid-March to mid-December, Wednesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission to the museum costs $13 for adults, $10 for seniors, $9 for college and high school students and active military and $7 for children.
What I did: I parked along Central Avenue before venturing into the Woodman’s main building just after the museum opened. There, I was greeted by the staff and was led into the first room of the museum with my guide.
I was introduced to the Woodman’s array of the classic inspirations behind today’s most popular phone applications. This rotational exhibit was established in an attempt to emphasize the importance of remembering the inspirations behind these modern-day conveniences. Devices such as classic telephones, old film cameras, vintage typewriters, flashlights, maps of Dover, and various projection technology all stood lining the walls of the Foster Room and worked to show just how far appliances have come over the years.
The next stop on the tour was a room that featured significant historical influences that led to the founding of Dover, as well as an homage to President Lincoln and his ties with the Granite State.
Following the introduction of the room and a brief overview of what else can be expected through the exploration of the Woodman House, I was left to my own devices and allowed to explore at my own leisure. I was awestruck at the vastness of the rest of the Woodman House, not having realized that the museum would be made up of three floors of diverse and interesting artifacts and exhibits.
From the works of a local taxidermist and his displays of a massive polar bear, moose, bison, wolf, fish, birds and more, to perfectly preserved Native American memorabilia, I saw just how much fascinating and significant historical regalia was held within the Woodman.
I traveled throughout the three floors, making sure to check every room so as not to miss anything before making my way back downstairs. There, I was told that the Woodman House is actually only one of four buildings on the Woodman Museum campus.
Before I ventured with my guide to the other houses around the museum grounds, we made a stop in the mineral room, which is home to over 1,300 samples from around the Seacoast and the rest of the world as well as a fluorescent mineral display.
The two of us then ventured to the Damm Garrison home, which is one of only a few remaining authentic colonial-era garrisons, which has since been relocated from the back river district of Dover. There, we got a taste of what life was like back in the 1600s, including wood-burning fireplaces, rifle peepholes and other necessities of early colonial living, laid out as they were hundreds of years ago.
From there, we traveled to the Hale House, the third of four buildings. It was filled with rows of displays, categorized by various themes. Traveling up the stairs, we were witness to the high-society standards of colonial-era living with various rooms set up to replicate how an upper-class home might have been designed in the colonial era.
With the fourth building acting as an active art gallery, and with limited time, we concluded our tour. With so much to do and such variety between all of the exhibits, it was difficult to see everything during my adventure to the Woodman Museum, but I will be returning to ensure that I did not miss out on any of the full Woodman experience.
Who else would enjoy this: I learned the hard way that the Woodman Museum is not your average museum. With so much to see and so many places to explore, and under the guidance of a knowledgeable staff, those looking to visit the museum should set aside a solid three to four hours if they wish to truly take in everything that the Woodman has to offer. Each of the four buildings will take about an hour to thoroughly explore, according to my guide. Aside from the time required to take in all of the museum’s bounties, there is something for everyone within its walls: beautifully preserved animals from alligators to butterflies, an extensive rock and mineral collection and rooms for all of the American wars, as well as a relocated colonial garrison home and replications of high-society living. The entrances to the buildings have ramps to accommodate those who have a difficult time with stairs, although the upper levels of each of the buildings will be difficult to manage, but the museum staff notes that they do their best to accommodate individual needs.
Featured photo: Woodsman Museum by Andrew Clay.