Hunter: The William & Charles Museum
03/25/10 5:55PM By Edith Hunter
| MP3 || Download MP3 |
(HOST) One of commentator Edith Hunter's favorite memories is of founding a museum - at home - with the help of the entire family.
(HUNTER) Fifty years ago while I was giving birth to Charles at a nearby hospital, at home, five year old William was giving birth to the William and Charles Museum.
We were living in New Hampshire in a wonderful old 15 room house. Just off William's room was a large area at the top of the backstairs. My husband had thought it could be made into a much-needed upstairs bathroom.
But before he had taken any action, son William had laid claim to it. He convinced his father to line the walls with shelves which William immediately began filling. His 14 year old sister Elizabeth, the naturalist, had many candidates for the shelves: rocks, shells, nests, and empty cocoons.
William's twelve year old brother, Graham, built a reflectoscope with which William could project pictures of his stamps from his stamp collection or postcards from his postcard collection. Charles was too little to contribute much, but he did give his empty baby food jars to hold specimens, and his empty vitamin bottle with its dropper for William to use with the family's microscope. William saw little things crawling around in the drops of water from the brook.
Everyone in the family helped run the museum. William was the Head curator, Charles was the Assistant Head Curator, Elizabeth was the Curator and Graham was the Assistant Curator. Armstrong, William's father, was Maintenance man, and I was the Janitor. Graham had a little printing press and he set the type for a postcard that William sent out asking for specimens. It read: "William A. Hunter, RFD Milford, New Hampshire, Dear -----, Please send some specimens from your state for the William and Charles Museum. Thank you, William A. Hunter."
There were grapefruit leaves, cactus, stones with fossils in them, all from children in different states. Older friends of William's grandparents sent specimens: a chambered nautilus in a case with a sliding glass door, a model outrigger from the south seas. William and I wrote a little book about the museum that we sent to everyone who had given things to the museum.
When the museum was eleven years old we moved to Vermont. The collection was put into shoe boxes and junior cartons. One shoe box of very special specimens I saved out to show children who visit me. In it are two gastroliths - stones from inside a dinosaur!! When I show these to children, I see "children's faces looking up, holding wonder like a cup."