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History of the Montshire

From its beginnings in a bowling alley to its current status as one of the best science museums in the country, the Montshire Museum has nurtured an interest in the natural and physical world for nearly a million visitors and schoolchildren in New Hampshire and Vermont.

After Dartmouth College’s natural history museum closed in the early 1970s, a group of area educators persuaded the college to donate specimens and other resources in support of a new community science center. The organization was incorporated in 1974, taking its name from the last syllables of the two states whose communities it would serve: VerMONT and New HampSHIRE.

The Montshire Museum’s first home was a former bowling alley. The “new” Montshire opened 15 years later, and has continued to add to its facilities, including the outdoor and water exhibits in Science Park in 2002, and the Hughes Pavilion in 2010.

The Montshire is now one of the busiest museums in northern New England, typically attracting more than 150,000 visitors annually. The Museum’s school programs also reach more than 20,000 schoolchildren in New Hampshire and Vermont.

The Museum has been the recipient of numerous grants from NASA, the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, and other science and education foundations. In recent years, the Museum has partnered with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Vermont Center for Ecostudies and with ILEAD (Institute for Lifelong Learning at Dartmouth). The college and the museum have also created the Dartmouth-Montshire Institute for Science Education.

Montshire Timeline

Plus (click or tap to expand) + 1969

Spearheaded by Dr. Robert Chaffee, former Museum Director of the Dartmouth College Museum, research begins in the Upper Valley to discuss the implications of having a regional environmental center in the Hanover-Norwich area.

Plus (click or tap to expand) + 1973

A full proposal for a bi-state regional educational center is developed by Robert Chaffee and Walter C. Paine, and presented to various community audiences.

Plus (click or tap to expand) + 1974

The Montshire Museum of Science is founded. The name “Montshire” is derived from the last syllables of Vermont and New Hampshire, and stands for the Museum’s focus on the communities it serves.

Plus (click or tap to expand) + 1976

The Montshire Museum opens its doors to the public in the former Golfside Bowling Lanes on Lyme Road in Hanover, New Hampshire, with six diorama cases and a Discovery Room with simple interactive exhibits (January 10).

Dr. Robert Chaffee is the founding director. Walter C. Paine is the founding Chair of the Board of Trustees

On this date, the Trustees of Dartmouth College sign over the collection of biological and geological collections to the new Montshire. The Museum opens with 60,000 natural science specimens, and acquires over 600 in the following year.

Continuing a relationship originally established at the Dartmouth College Museum, the Regional Center for Educational Training shares space at the new Lyme Road location. The Center’s first director is Dorcas Chaffee.

Plus (click or tap to expand) + 1980

The Montshire becomes the first organization in the country to be named a Public Service Science Center by Montshire.

Plus (click or tap to expand) + 1981

Montshire hires David Goudy as director. Goudy previously served as the assistant director of the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis Missouri, and starts his tenure on August 1, 1981.

Plus (click or tap to expand) + 1983

Montshire launches Science Circus, an outreach program serving schools throughout New Hampshire and Vermont. Major capital investment includes the purchase of the Museum’s first truck, allowing the Montshire to bring science exhibits and programs to schools and communities.

Plus (click or tap to expand) + 1984

Supported by a community fundraising campaign, the Montshire purchases 100 acres along the Connecticut River in Norwich, Vermont, from the Co-op Food Stores.

Plus (click or tap to expand) + 1986

The Museum opens nature trails and outdoor exhibits in Norwich. The Museum’s Summer Camp Program begins.

Plus (click or tap to expand) + 1988

The Corporate Fund, a project of the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, recognizes the Montshire with its first Award for Excellence in Non-Profit Management.

Vermont Governor Madeline Kunin removes the first shovelful of soil during groundbreaking ceremonies for the new Museum building in Norwich (August 5).

The Museum acquires a StarLab portable planetarium system and adds an astronomy-based curriculum to the Museum’s outreach program for schools throughout New Hampshire and Vermont.

Plus (click or tap to expand) + 1989

More than 3,000 people attend the grand opening of the new Museum building in Norwich, Vermont. New Hampshire Governor Judd Gregg leads the dedication (November 18).

Plus (click or tap to expand) + 1990

Soda Fountain Science area begins serving up hands-on science activities for Museum visitors.

Plus (click or tap to expand) + 1991

The Board of Trustees adopts the mission statement: “The purpose of the Montshire Museum is to create, awaken, foster, and nurture an interest in and curiosity about the physical and natural world by providing programs, experiences, and exhibits emphasizing real objects and phenomena.”

Annual attendance exceeds 100,000 visitors.

Plus (click or tap to expand) + 1992

Montshire receives a grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute to create “Animal Inquiries,” a place-based ecology curriculum engaging fourth and fifth grade students in experimental design in local schools.

Andy’s Place opens, providing an area designed specifically for children 5 years of age and under.

Plus (click or tap to expand) + 1994

Montshire is awarded a National Science Foundation grant for “Model Projects for Women and Girls in Science and Mathematics: Science Horizons”, to develop and implement a program to engage girls in science and provide women scientist role models through a collaboration with the Dartmouth College “Women in Science” Program.

Montshire is awarded a U.S. Department of Energy grant for Energy Circus, enabling the Museum to develop an electricity exhibit section for Science Circus, the Museum’s science outreach program, and Pushcart Science, a portable workspace for Museum staff to lead energy, electricity, and science activities in outdoor environments at the Museum and in the community.

Montshire Museum and Dartmouth College create ValleyNet, a community-based information resource for the Upper Connecticut River Valley region of New Hampshire and Vermont, which later grows into its own independent organization.

Plus (click or tap to expand) + 1995

The 196-foot long pedestrian bridge is built, connecting the Museum building to the Ridge Trail, and making a connection between the indoor natural history exhibits of northern New England and the outdoors.

The Observation Tower opens.

U.S. Senator James Jeffords of Vermont announces the Montshire as an official interpretive site for the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge.

The Institute of Museum and Library Services awards the Montshire the National Award for Museum Service, presented by First Lady Hillary Clinton at a White House ceremony.

Montshire launches “Scientifica,” a new outreach program (replacing Science Circus) as the Museum’s flagship school outreach program. Scientifica includes more than 2,000 square feet of hands-on exhibits to visit schools and communities in Vermont and New Hampshire.

Plus (click or tap to expand) + 1996

The first of three National Science Foundation grants is awarded to the Montshire, creating the TEAMS (Traveling Exhibits at Museums of Science) collaborative with six museum partners around the country. The funding supports innovative research about how families learn in museums.

Plus (click or tap to expand) + 1998

The Montshire developed and designed exhibition, AirPlay, opens—part of the TEAMS collaborative project funded by the National Science Foundation.

Plus (click or tap to expand) + 1999

Pedestrian access through a tunnel under the railroad tracks is completed, allowing visitors access to the Quinn Nature Preserve and riverfront trails.

Plus (click or tap to expand) + 2002

Dartmouth provost Barry Scherr and Montshire director David Goudy announce the creation of the Dartmouth-Montshire Institute for Science Education to enhance the quality of science education in Vermont and New Hampshire.

Leonard M. Reiser Learning Center opens, providing 10,000 square feet of new exhibit space, a teaching classroom built especially for visiting school groups, and a multi-media theater. The new space featured exhibits about the Conte Refuge and the Connecticut River watershed. U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont leads the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Two-acre Science Park opens, the result of a $4.2 million capital campaign by the Museum.

Plus (click or tap to expand) + 2003

The Montshire-designed and developed exhibition, Hear Here opens—part of the TEAMS collaborative project funded by the National Science Foundation.

Plus (click or tap to expand) + 2004

Ground is broken for the Montshire Access Project. This $1.9 million project (completed in 2006) provides improved visitor access to the Museum building, and a paved access road and parking lot (June 10).

Montshire hosts a national conference on family learning.

White River Flyer, part of the Green Mountain Railroad, begins train excursions to the Montshire.

Plus (click or tap to expand) + 2005

Jesse B. Cox Charitable Trust funds development of a model for museum-school partnerships to create a long-term, sustainable science infrastructure in a rural school district.

Science in the Stacks exhibits open in seven regional libraries—funded by IMLS.

Plus (click or tap to expand) + 2007

Landscape Architecture magazine celebrates the unique design attributes of Science Park with a feature article and photo spread in its October issue.

The Center For Native Plant Studies is established. The Museum offers new workshops, public lectures, and exhibits about native plants. New England Wild Flower Society (NEWFS) designates the Montshire as a regional center for courses and certification in native plant studies.

Montshire’s TOYS: The Inside Story exhibition opens—part of the TEAMS collaborative project funded by the National Science Foundation.

Plus (click or tap to expand) + 2008

The Woodland Garden opens.

Parents Magazine recognizes the Montshire as one of the nation’s top 25 science centers in its September issue.

Plus (click or tap to expand) + 2009

The Science Discovery Lab opens (replacing the Science Soda Fountain area) and includes wheelchair accessibility and expanded science activities for older children.

Montshire forms partnerships with Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Vermont Center for Ecostudies to enhance and expand programming, and to offer new opportunities to explore nature.

Montshire receives a NASA grant to fund “The Dynamic Earth: You Have to See It to Believe It!”, a five-year project to develop Earth Science exhibits and programs.

Montshire receives a grant from National Institutes of Health to fund the Museum’s new outreach initiative, “Connecting Classrooms and Community with Health Sciences,” a multi-faceted project to develop health science curriculum for middle schools in Vermont and New Hampshire.

Montshire is recognized as 2009 Business Innovator of the Year by the Hanover Area Chamber of Commerce.

Plus (click or tap to expand) + 2010

Montshire partners with ILEAD (Institute for Lifelong Learning at Dartmouth) to increase the number of science courses offered in the Upper Valley.

The 2,400-square-foot Hughes Pavilion, an architecturally unique, tensile membrane structure, is constructed on the northwest corner of Science Park.

Montshire and Frog Hollow, the Vermont State Craft Center, form a collaboration to involve Vermont artists in the creation of benches for the Museum’s Woodland Garden.

Plus (click or tap to expand) + 2011

Montshire’s Associate Director & Director of Education Greg DeFrances is one of 18 museum leaders selected as a Noyce Fellow by the Noyce Leadership Institute.

Plus (click or tap to expand) + 2012

Montshire ranks #4 of Top Ten Science and Technology Museums in the country (Trekaroo.com).

Board of Trustees revise the mission statement to, “Montshire Museum’s mission is to awaken and encourage a lifelong interest in science through exhibits and programming dedicated to hands-on discovery and education for people of all ages. Unique to this mission is Montshire’s 100-acre New England riverfront setting, which fosters deep and creative learning in both the physical and natural sciences.”

Plus (click or tap to expand) + 2013

Montshire’s Associate Director & Director of Development Jennifer Rickards is one of 17 museum leaders selected as a Noyce Fellow by the Noyce Leadership Institute.

Montshire launches “Pop Up Science,” a hands-on science workshop space transported in a colorful trailer bringing health science, tinkering, and ecology activities to outdoor fairs and festivals throughout Vermont and New Hampshire.

Plus (click or tap to expand) + 2014

Montshire introduces the Warm Welcome program to ensure that the meaningful experiences offered by the Museum are accessible to disadvantaged children and families.

The Museum’s first floor is renovated to add additional space for exhibitions and to serve visitors.

The Botanical Investigations exhibition opens—created in partnership with NEWFS and funded by the National Science Foundation.

Plus (click or tap to expand) + 2015

Friends of the Montshire contribute over $1 million to establish the David Goudy Discovery Fund to create new and enhanced exhibit experiences at the Museum from 2015 to 2020. The exhibition Bubbles: Science in Soap is the first exhibition supported by the Fund.

Science Park is renamed David Goudy Science Park to recognize Goudy’s exceptional service to the Montshire and community.

Montshire forms partnership with Vermont Afterschool Inc., bringing STEM professional development programs to after school providers in Vermont, and delivering over 1,000 tinkering kits to afterschool programs.

Montshire collaborates with Gulf of Maine Research Institute on NASA-funded project on climate change.

The Light Around Us exhibition opens—funded by the National Institutes of Health.

Executive Director David Goudy retires after 34 years of service on March 31, 2015. The Montshire hires Dr. Marcos Stafne as Executive Director. Stafne previously served as the Vice President of Programs for the Brooklyn Children’s Museum and various other science and arts institutions. He begins his tenure on April 15, 2015.

Plus (click or tap to expand) + 2016

The Montshire celebrates its 40th Anniversary with a community day free to the public (January 10).

Plus (click or tap to expand) + Today

The Montshire continues to advance its mission to awaken and encourage a lifelong interest in science through exhibits and programming dedicated to hands-on discovery and education for people of all ages.