Citizens recreate original dedication
By Scott Bellile
History sometimes has an curious way of repeating itself. But at New London Public Museum last weekend, the recurrence was completely intentional.
A century after crowds gathered to celebrate the establishing of NLPM, community members came together on Saturday, Nov. 4, to recreate the city’s 1917 dedication event.
The 100-year commemoration at New London Public Library and Museum included live performances of music from the original dedication as well as a recitation of a notable speech. Museum Director Christine Cross also shared museum history.
Attendees ascended the new outdoor stairway and wheelchair ramp to get inside the building for the ceremony. The structure had been under reconstruction since late summer.
Rain and chilly weather forced the event to be held inside rather than on the museum’s south lawn, but the event drew around 80 people who crammed into the meeting room of the library’s basement. Some had to stand outside the room.
“I’m overwhelmed I guess by the wonderful attendance today, the classic music, singing, flute, just everything that’s really come together,” Friends of the New London Public Museum President Mike Huzzar said.
NLPM opened Nov. 9, 1917, and was dedicated that same day. New London Press founder Charles F. Carr first opened the museum inside the public library as a way to gift his collection of 5,000 to 6,000 natural specimens and relics to the city.
A year after Carr died, his wife Emma passed away in 1924. She left the bulk of the Carr estate to the museum. The money allowed the city to construct a separate public museum building for the collection in 1931-32.
NLPM is one of five multi-topic public museums in the state of Wisconsin, Cross said. The others are all in larger cities: Milwaukee, Kenosha, Green Bay and Oshkosh.
“Mr. Carr envisioned a museum for the people of New London, a place where they could see a wider world,” New London Public Museum Director Christine Cross said. “A community, this community, took that generous gift and created something even greater. The New London Public Museum is unique: a big city-style museum in a small town.”
Cross said NLPM offers materials related to local history, natural history, military items, international material culture, Native American history and cultural items as well as an archival photographs, documents and ephemera.
For the commemoration, New London musician Melissa Mulroy was tasked with creating the set list. In preparing, she learned four vocal pieces were performed at the 1917 dedication.
With the help of archivist Alice Gilman and former New London Middle School band director Max Carpenter, Mulroy tracked down the original scores for two of the four pieces: “I Would That My Love,” composed by Felix Mendelssohn, and “A Perfect Day” by Carrie Jacobs-Bond.
A vocal quartet comprised of Mulroy, Elisabeth Genske, Olivet Stein and pianist Kathryn Isbill performed “I Would That My Love.” Mulroy sang “A Perfect Day” accompanied by Isbill.
Other instrumentalists contributed popular classics that were not performed at the 1917 dedication. Father Joseph Mattern of Omro played Bach’s “Siciliano” on flute. During a reception in the museum after the commemoration, 15 musicians with the Neenah Community Band crammed between the artifact display cases and performed four marches: “American Patrol,” “The Thunderer,” “Washington Post” and “Semper Fidelis.”
Henke took to the podium and read a speech that was delivered by Cleveland B. Stanley at the end of the 1917 dedication.
Cross said Stanley was the principal at Waupaca County Training School, a program in the McKinley school building in New London that trained people to become country schoolhouse teachers.
Stanley’s speech touched on the spirit of giving and acquiring as well as why the Rev. Francis Dayton, citizen scientist, was critical in helping to inventory the museum’s collection.
“You may not realize it, but there are not 100 persons not only in this city or county but the entire state who have the scientific training that would enable them to do the work the Rev. Francis Dayton has done here,” Henke said, quoting Stanley’s speech. “The museum is almost more valuable than the library in that respects because it stands for permanence. The library is the evanescent record of man’s mind whereas the museum represents to you the mind of God.”
For an article that further explores New London Public Museum’s history, go to www.waupacanow.com/2017/01/11/museum-turns-100/ .