New Hampshire's Small, Specialized, and Local Museums

Jul 17, 2019

New Hampshire has a rich history, and many unique museums around the state that highlight historic homes, authors, art, science, and unique collections. We talk about the role of these museums in their communities, and the challenges, and joys, of running a small, local museum. 

Look below for a map of museums around the state. 

GUESTS:

New Hampshire's Museums:

Below is a map of museums around New Hampshire. This is not a complete list. Many towns have historical societies with their own collections, which are not all included on this map. You can find a list of these here, and more information at the New Hampshire History Network.  New Hampshire Magazine also has a guide of popular museums by region

Transcript:

This is a computer-generated transcript, and may contain errors.

Peter Biello:
From New Hampshire Public Radio, I'm Peter Biello, in for Laura Knoy. And this is The Exchange.

New Hampshire is filled with small museums, including historical buildings and famous authors homes, historical societies that collect the artifacts of their towns in several unique museums with specialized collections. Today on The Exchange, we talk about the talk with the directors of two such museums, the Telephone Museum and the Aviation Museum about the role they play in their communities and in preserving history and how they manage on small budgets and staff and listeners. What are your favorite small museums in New Hampshire? E-mail us. The address is exchange at an NHPR.org or give us a call 1 800 8 9 2 6 4 7 7. We also created a map featuring more than 50 of our state's museums.

Peter Biello:
So you can see which ones are near you. That is at NH PR dot org slash exchange. With me today on the program, Jeff Rapsis is executive director of the Aviation Museum in Londonderry, and Laura French, executive director of the Telephone Museum in Warner. Thank you very much, both of you, for being here.

Peter Biello:
Really appreciate it.

Laura French:
Thank you. Thank you. Good to be here. Good morning.

Laura French:
So let's start the discussion by talking about sort of a summary of each of your museum will start with you, Laura. What do you curate?

Laura French:
Well, we have telephones dating back from a replica of the first invention. We don't have. The real first invention, but all the way up to modern day cell phones, everything in between. We have tools. We have switchboards. We have switching systems. All things telephone related.

Peter Biello:
Yeah. A quick look at your Web site shows a lot of the the phones we may have seen in black and white movies. Right. The ones that hang on the wall and they have a kind of cone things sticking out of them.

Peter Biello:
That's not the technical term I'm sure.

Laura French:
The technical term would be the transmitter.

Peter Biello:
Transmitter. Okay.

Laura French:
But yeah, we have all of the wall sets, the wooden wall sets that that go back into the eighteen hundreds and early nineteen hundreds to the candlestick phones. Most people are familiar with you know the hand crank, the dial, the push button. We we go all the way, all the way through.

Peter Biello:
Mm hmm. And what about you Jeff. The Aviation Museum.

Jeff Rapsis:
Well in terms of a collection it's really wide ranging. We have like the telephone museum. We have a replica of the first plane in this case, and it's on display at the southbound rest stop on 93 and Hooksett. It's the Wright Flyer and it's hanging right above the entrance. So you'd have to visit our museum to see part of our collection is right there. So thanks to Alex Ray and the Common Man for giving us that visibility at the museum, we have an enormous collection of artifacts and memorabilia and products that were all part of the airline and aviation experience, which is about a hundred years old at this point now. And we have stuff that's related to New Hampshire, so stuff that isn't in a lot of books and papers and collections that belong to pilots who tend to save things and then it's time for them to go somewhere. And that often comes to us. My father was a pilot for many years and the museum has all of his stuff. And that was before I was ever involved in it. So now I'm involved with a collection that has part of my family's stuff in it. So it's a very wide ranging collection.

Peter Biello:
Can you give us a sense of the size of the collection? I mean, I'm I'm kind of picturing I haven't been to your Aviation Museum, but I imagine it needs a lot of space to hold big things like parts of airplanes.

Jeff Rapsis:
It does. Well, we have a basement that's full of a lot of materials, but we have an exhibition space that's not quite large enough for a full sized plane like a DC 3 that you'll see it like the National Air and Space Museum.

Jeff Rapsis:
We can't do that, but we do have several aircraft on display on the floor. And it's kind of a big hangar like building that was added on to the back of our museum in 2011.

Peter Biello:
And how about you, Laura? What's the scope of your collection? How big is it?

Oh, we have probably fifteen hundred pieces, not all of which are on display. We have probably about 5000 square feet where we display everything. And then we do have things in our basement that we kind of cycle through because as Jeff said, we just don't have room to put all of our collection on display.

Peter Biello:
So different things are on display at different times.

Laura French:
Yep. Yep. Every year we try to cycle different things through. We get a lot of donations from people. And of course, people like to have their things on display. And, you know, we have to tell them it won't be on display all of the time, but as much as we can. But our core collection was collected by one family. And so, of course, that gets priority.

Peter Biello:
And I'd like to talk to each of you later in the program about where you get this stuff. But I did want to dig in a little bit on on each of your personal journeys to becoming interested and in this kind of thing. So interested, in fact, that you become executive director of a museum about it. So maybe start with you, Laura. Where did your interest come? How did you what was the path that you took to become the executive director of this museum?

Laura French:
Well, it's it's interesting, actually.

Laura French:
I started working for a local independent telephone company back in 1989, and I worked there for almost 14 years. And the family that's responsible for the museum. We're major shareholders in that. Excuse me. And they also had four generations of one family that worked for that company. So in 2002, their company was sold. And my job went with it. And so I kind of stayed in the industry. But they also asked me if I would be willing to help out with their next project, which was starting the museum. So I'd been there since the inception of it. And we were all telephone people that were kind of winging it, pretending to be museum people, sort of. And then back in 2012, we decided that we wanted to kind of step up our game and be a quote unquote, real museum. And so that's when I got promoted to executive director.

Peter Biello:
And how about you, Jeff? Where did your origins start? I mean, you said that you had some family history in aviation. Yes.

Jeff Rapsis:
Yes, that's true. I can really relate to Laura's comment about winging it, especially pun intended.

Jeff Rapsis:
Oh, right. But it really is.

Jeff Rapsis:
It's in my case personally. It's really all about my dad, who was a pilot for Northeast Airlines, which was a regional carrier based in Boston and was kind of New England's airline way back when.

Jeff Rapsis:
And he flew in World War Two and did commercial while he was also a flight instructor in Nashua, where I grew up. And he seems to have taught everybody how to fly. He learned how to fly between after World War 2 and in the mid 60s. And a lot of these folks are still around. And he passed away when my brothers and I were very young. But through my whole life, it's been people saying, are you related to the guy that you know of the pilot? And I chose a career in printing, publishing and journalism. For 30 years, I've worked in New Hampshire newspapers and was one of the founders of the Hippo Press. And that went on up until last year. And I thought I would be at some point later on involved in a non-profit. I've always served on boards and tried to be a part of that world.

Jeff Rapsis:
And when the chance to lead the Aviation Museum came up, it was it seemed the right thing to do for me at this time, because I'd been interested in aviation my whole life. And I thought, you know, wherever my dad is, you know, he loved airplanes and aviation. It was his whole life. And I go into the newspaper business. So wherever he is, somewhere, he's saying finally, finally, something I can respect. And it's it really has been a great feeling because it's been like coming home and getting to know something more thoroughly than I ever would have had a chance to be part of this whole different world that's out there. Aviation, airplanes, locally and beyond has been just a great experience for the past year or so that I've been doing this.

Peter Biello:
Well, tell us a little bit about how your museum, the Aviation Museum, is funded.

Jeff Rapsis:
Well, in New Hampshire, as a nonprofit, it's always a struggle. We don't have any kind of an endowment. We basically have to go from year to year. And it's a real mix of admission fees. We rent our facility. We have, as I mentioned, the sort of exhibit hall and learning center, but that's used as a rental facility. And we have everything from corporate meetings to weddings. So we rent it out. We do it kind of a business on the side that way. We are fundraising constantly. So I think listeners of NH PR can relate to that right now. It's it's something that any nonprofit has to do. And so we draw from the corporate community, from the foundations and grants, community and individual donations are a really important part of our mix. So it's a little bit of everything. And somehow we make it all work and live within our means as best we can.

Peter Biello:
From what I recall on your Web site, it doesn't cost very much to get into the Aviation Museum.

Jeff Rapsis:
No. In fact, that's one of the issues we've discussed at the board level since the museum opened in 2004. The admission has been five dollars a person and we did a survey and that's really under average at this point, it hasn't been changed for whatever reason. So we are actually going to be increasing the admission price for individuals and but trying to to how much do you think it'll be? Ten dollars for an adult admission. But we have discounts for students and seniors and that'll take effect at some point soon. But we're still in the planning stages of implementing that.

Peter Biello:
Yeah. So about what percentage of year of your revenue comes from the admission fees?

Jeff Rapsis:
Probably just about 20 percent if that. And it really depends on how many tours we get. And we do get groups of students and large groups that come in unexpectedly. So it really varies from month to month. And I just don't have the information to answer that.

Peter Biello:
I know. I'm sorry I put you on the spot numbers wise, but I imagine you expect sort of a bump in that percentage if you're doubling essentially the admissions.

Jeff Rapsis:
Yes, it has. I think we're worth it. And that's in keeping with what most museums and nonprofits that do what we do are charging these days. We are blessed with a staff. Well, we only have one and a. Half full time is one and a half staff members, one full time, one part time. So you're looking at two thirds of the staff right here. But we're blessed with several dozen volunteers. We call them docents and they they keep the museum open. They lead tours. And these are folks that are often retired pilots, mechanics, air traffic controllers who feel strongly that they want to share their love of aviation with a new generation.

Jeff Rapsis:
And one of the big things we do at the museum, in addition to maintain the collection, is we do a lot of outreach and a lot of education so that we can try to inspire the next generation of innovators and pilots and aviators.

Peter Biello:
And Laura French of the Telephone Museum in Warner, what do you think? Well, how are you funded? The same ways as Jeff's funded.

Laura French:
They now where we're very fortunate. We do have an endowment fund when they say yet when they sold the telephone company, the family donated a lot of their stock proceeds as well as some other major shareholders. So we're fortunate in that sense, but still, we are required to make a certain percent from the public as well to me and our non maintain our non-profit status from from admission fees or a combination of admission. You seem to be a combination of admission fees, a gift shop, sales memberships, donations, volunteer hours, that sort of thing. So we still have to do that and we still look for grants to help fund our programming. And, you know, like Jeff said, we're constantly fundraising, so send money.

Peter Biello:
So if I if I walked up to the telephone museum on an afternoon when it was open, how much would it cost me to get in?

Laura French:
We have three levels, six dollars, seven dollars and then three for students.

Peter Biello:
Sure. Same question for you. Like what about what percentage of your your overall budget are people walking in off the street to come and see them?

Laura French:
I would say maybe maybe 10 percent. It's not a lot. We. We struggle. We went through the same thing with the raising the admission fees. We used to be a little bit less. Our biggest struggle is for whatever reason, people don't understand why there is such a thing as a telephone museum. So to us, it's a no brainer because it's only one of the best inventions of all times, depending on who you talk to. But so we struggle with what do we do? We raise the rates. Is that going to knock some people out or, you know, do we raise them? So we did raise them a little bit. A couple of years ago. And we didn't notice any big fallout from that. So we may inch em up slowly.

Peter Biello:
So what do you do as executive director tip to get people to think a little differently about something as common as as a telephone? But how do you get people through the door?

Well, that's that's a very good question. We just we go out and do radio spots like this. We we do as much networking as we can. Word of mouth. You know, we've done contests. Hey, if you bring in so many people, you know, you'll get a free something, whatever. And just just talking it up. It's but it's a conversation that we have probably at every staff meeting. How do we answer this question, you know? So if anybody has any great ideas, I'd love to hear it.

Peter Biello:
I imagine both of you have programs for schoolchildren. Yes.

Laura French:
We do. We don't get a lot of public school kids that come through, but we do get a lot of homeschool kids. So and again, we're a very small staff. There's two and a half of us. And so we've we've tried to attract the schools. It's a little bit difficult. And so we don't have any formal education person that can handle all of that. So we sort of try to do it on a case by case basis. We ask them, you know, what are you studying? What would you like us to focus on? And then we'll build around that. And is there a busy season for you? Oh, yeah. After school gets out. So June, probably June through October is our busiest season. And then the outer months from that are, you know, not not quite as busy.

Peter Biello:
Jeff, is that the same for you now is about your busy season?

Jeff Rapsis:
Well, we're we're a year round and we operate programs in the museum, but also a lot of outreach programs where we go to schools during the school year, mostly a lot of middle school outreach. We have volunteers who will dress up as Orville Wright and go out and talk with the young kids to inspire them about the whole history of flight. We go into science classes and the high school level and middle school and talk about the physics of flight.

Jeff Rapsis:
And that's a little more in-depth, of course. And we like to think that we're because we're the Aviation Museum of New Hampshire, that we don't want to limit our stage to just our museum. And so we're trying to do more events in different parts of the state, because the aviation community does sort of extend all over the place. A good example of that is coming up next month in Mason, New Hampshire.

Jeff Rapsis:
We're going to do a program celebrating the fortieth anniversary of a legendary local aviation event in which a local pilot on a bet flew his small aircraft underneath the enormous Greenville railroad trestle that is no longer there, it's been torn down. But this is a hugely popular stunt.

Jeff Rapsis:
It's not advised to do this. And of course, the guy lost his pilot's license right after it because it was in the papers. Not supposed to do that. But people still talk about it.

Jeff Rapsis:
I went over to the town and ask, does anyone want to kind of do something to celebrate? The guy is a gentleman named Bronson Potter who died in 2004. His gravestone in the town's cemetery actually has a picture of his plane flying under the bridge carved on the stone. That's how important it was to the town. And the reaction was, yeah, let's do something. And it turned out. A gentleman in town had made a home movie footage of it that he had forgotten all about and no one's ever seen it. So I've gone to the world premiere of the home movie footage of Bronson Potter's great Greenville fly under on Friday, August 9th at 7 p.m. And everyone's invited.

Peter Biello:
Well, that's something coming up for for the aviation minded folks. Laura, can you tell us really quickly something that people coming into the telephone museum might be able to see any kind of specific events, the equivalent of someone dressing up like Orville Wright, for example? Anybody dressed up like Alexander Graham Bell?

Laura French:
No, we haven't. I'm going to make that. I'm going to make a note about that. No.

Laura French:
You know, I can tell you that when you come into our museum, we we give a great guided tour. It's filled with stories that I worked in the telephone business. So I have some stories. My cohort is a huge history person. So she's done all kinds of studies. But a lot of our tour is based on real life stories from people that lived in the industry, worked in the industry. And so I think that's the highlight of what we have to offer. We have special programming and all that, but I'm sure we'll get to that later.

Peter Biello:
We're going to talk a little more about a small local museums in a moment if you've got a favorite. Tell us about it by email. The address is exchange at an HP morgue.

Peter Biello:
This is The Exchange on an NHPR. I'm Peter Biello, in for Laura Knoy today. And today on the program, New Hampshire's small museums. We're speaking with Laura French, executive director of the Telephone Museum. And Jeff Rapsis is executive director of the Aviation Museum. And we're talking with you, we hope. Tell us about your favorite New Hampshire museum. What impact has it has had on you, on your community? And how do you or others go about supporting it? You can e-mail us your story. The address is exchange at an HP morgue. Org or give us a call. The number is 1 800 8 9 2 6 4 7 7. I want to talk about your collections. Jeff and Laura, specifically how you came about getting the stuff that you have. And we'll start start with you, Laura. How did you acquire the things that you've acquired for the telephone museum?

Laura French:
Well, it started out with four generations of one family that all worked for the local independent telephone company that served Warner Hopkinton in surrounding towns. And they started the first family member started in 1928. And the fourth generation just retired a few years ago. But it was really the second generation Dick Violet, who saw the value in keeping these items. He loved history. He loved telephone. And so he was the one that really was the catalyst for starting the museum. So probably about 70 percent of what we have was collected by he and his family.

Peter Biello:
So he had held onto a variety of these sort of wall mounted antique.

Laura French:
Oh, yeah, everything you can imagine. It's switching systems, telephones, tools. He didn't throw anything away. OK. Always helpful to start a museum after that. It really is. Yeah. Yeah, it gets it. Got it all out of the house and the barn and and all of that. Since we've opened though, we have had we had one other.

Laura French:
Gary Mitchell from a telephone company in Connecticut. He he donated his entire collection, which was over one hundred pieces. And then we've had a lot of people bring in donations and that sort of thing. And then we also have some of our money in our endowment fund is reserved for adding to the collection. That's wiring things that you want. Exactly. OK. So what kind of things do you want? What kind of things you out there to buy? Well, you know, anything unique? We just acquired several items that are phenomenal.

Laura French:
One being what they call it, a potbelly candlestick phone. And it you'd have to see it to to get it's a stroke. Which in the telephone world is it's really cool. So anything that's that's unique, that reflects the time and that sort of thing. We have more black rotary dial phones than we can ever use.

Peter Biello:
So no more donations, no more. OK.

Jeff Rapsis:
I had a couple. I was going...

Laura French:
Yeah, well, leave them in your trunk.

Peter Biello:
Well, what about you, Jeff? How did you come to acquire all of the things that you have at the Aviation Aviation Museum?

Jeff Rapsis:
Well, it started with a group of folks before the Aviation Museum existed who were getting together, and they wound up calling themselves the New Hampshire Aviation Historical Society. And this were this was a group of people mostly at the Concord Airport who were saving things because things change fast in aviation. And older things tended not stick around if you don't preserve them. And so these are guys who had parts of aircraft in their hangars, uniforms, other things that were just too valuable to to just let go. And when the original 1937 airline terminal, it's this wonderful art deco building that was built in Manchester in 1937 when that in 2004 was slated to be demolished because the runway, it's right next to it was being widened and expanded. A plan was hatched to instead transform that into a museum that could house all this collection of things that was all over the state. And that came to me. They had to move the building a mile and a half across two runways to a new location.

Jeff Rapsis:
But now we are right next to runway 1735 at the Manchester Airport. One of the best exhibits we have is when people walk out the front door and a U.P.S. 767 is rotating on a full takeoff speed right in front of the museum. It's really inspiring. And if that doesn't inspire a young person for aviation, I don't know what will. Since that time, now that we have a museum, people just come to us with the most extraordinary things. I get phone calls. Guy calls up and says, I have a bomb. I'd like to donate to you. And I you know, is it ticking?

Jeff Rapsis:
Can you tell me a little more about this? But then people just show up. And I brought in a couple of things. I have won a metal item. Yeah.

Peter Biello:
Let's talk right here. Great sound. Can you talk about what that looks like a torture device of some kind, doesn't it?

Jeff Rapsis:
It looks like a giant metal toothpick with a hole in it. Yeah.

Jeff Rapsis:
This is brought into us by a woman who was just on a senior tour of the museum. Her senior living community came down for an activity and she brought this with her and said, you might want this. And I said, what is it? Turns out her brother in law, who's no longer with us as a young boy, was present in 1927 when Lucky LINDY Charles Lindbergh was making his tour after triumphantly flying nonstop from New York to Paris and becoming an international celebrity. He came back with the spirit of St Louis, and one of the first things he did was fly up into New England to promote aviation. And one of the first places he stopped was right here in Concord at the Concord Airport.

Jeff Rapsis:
And this tie down. This is what it was. It was a metal stake that you'd put in the ground. And the hook is where you tie down the aircraft. This was used to tie down the spirit of St.. Lewis in 1927, when Lucky LINDY came to Concord during his first tour. And and her brother in law apparently was just a young kid who stole it and took it home. I don't know. You know, it was just there. And so he brought it home as a souvenir. And it's been in the family ever since. And unfortunately, he's long gone. And the family thought the museum might be a best the best place for this. And, you know, we agreed with them. We thought this is a tremendous piece of history. That is New Hampshire, but also is related to one of the big celebrities of early aviation. Charles Lindbergh.

Peter Biello:
Oh, that's fascinating. So so while we're on the subject of stuff that you have brought, you've brought some other things here. What about this? This record right here. This jet set record music for the music for the Jetset.

Peter Biello:
It's an LP. I thought you might have a turntable. And apparently maybe . Yes. So this is an old 78 when 78 or I was I says it's 33 and a third long playing LP record.

Jeff Rapsis:
And it's a promotional record that was put together by Northeast Airlines, which is the airline my father flew for when they began it. They did two things. They started flying to Florida, which was big news for them because they were just a New England airline and they finally got these lucrative routes to Florida. But they also started using these new things jets, which we just take for granted now. But in the early 60s, it was a quantum leap in transportation. And there's a picture of a Boeing 727 in the back of this, which is one of the early jets. And to promote it, an airline might do something like put out a record. And here we see we have a victim own singing from the sound of music and some other things that have nothing to do necessarily with the airline.

Jeff Rapsis:
But it's all part of this jet set lifestyle,.

Peter Biello:
The mystique of flight at that time in American history.

Jeff Rapsis:
And I think there are I think pictures were taken of this to be posted online. It's worth a look because the design of it screams early 60s. It's that era. That was when the Jets first came in. And part of what we have at the museum is kind of a collection of pop art and design because we have a lot of airline promotional materials, posters and pens and ashtrays even that show you what life was like in the 60s, tangible evidence of what it was like in the Mad Men era.

Jeff Rapsis:
I guess we'd call it now.

Peter Biello:
And the final thing that you've brought up. I'm not sure how you get it up here. You might have needed some help here. A piece of an airplane.

Jeff Rapsis:
Yes. I brought up. It's a new aircraft. It's not anything historic. In fact, it was just built by volunteers. This is a vertical stabilizer. And I don't know, photos will be posted, but it's about four and a half feet tall. It's made of aluminum aircraft, aluminum.

Peter Biello:
I'm gonna give it a tap so people can hear exactly what it might be.

Jeff Rapsis:
Yeah. It's a it's a vertical stabilizer, part of a tail of an aircraft that's called an RV 12. It's a light sport, two seat aircraft. And the reason it's with me is that we are in the process of working with the Manchester School of Technology to enable their students to build an aircraft in the next school year. It's a program we're starting where we hope to do it every year with them. And it's a hands on educational experience as part of their manufacturing curriculum, which will give a team of 24 kids the chance to actually build a flyable real aircraft over the next school year. And we've been getting a lot of attention for that because it is kind of out of the box idea. But there's a certain logic to it that makes sense because there's a huge shortage of aviation professionals. Now, what we need to start training the next generation.

Peter Biello:
Well, Jeff is right.

Peter Biello:
We do have pictures of all of the things here in the studio at an NHPR.org listener. She can check him out there. Laura French, I want to ask you about figuring out the significance of a particular object similar to so let's say someone donates something to you and says it has a particular significance. Maybe there's a story attached to it that makes it more valuable. How do you go about verifying or checking or learning more about an object?

Laura French:
Well, there's a ton of stuff online. The Bell telephone system, they have archives. They have they're a huge resource. There's a lot of telephone collectors around. We have one on our board of directors who quite well known in the industry. He is our go to guy, especially with the more unique pieces. My boss, Paul Violet, whose dad was the founder of the museum. He's a wealth of information. He worked in the industry for 45 years. So he can, you know, tell us all sorts of things. But when we get in a pinch, then we go to our board member as far as the stories behind it. You know, such as Lindbergh and everything. We don't have as much that we have to research. We don't. So far, nobody's given us anything that was definitely used by Alexander Graham Bell or or anything like that.

Peter Biello:
But let's say someone did, like you. You'd really have to do your homework to verify that. The thing is, what this person says it is.

Laura French:
You really would.

Laura French:
Yeah. And, you know, I think, again, the Bell system would would be a great place to go. They they kept everything in their archives. It's all online and it's accessible. We look a lot there. They made videos for a lot of their new product rollout. And if you get a chance, you should Google it because some of them are pretty funny. Yeah.

Peter Biello:
And would it make you suspicious if someone tried to sell you something as opposed to just say, this belongs in museum, please have this and treat it well?

Laura French:
I don't know if it makes us suspicious. We tried not to purchase things. You know, we love the donations, but we have purchased some items. But it's usually because it's a very unique piece. We've had our experts look at it and verify. We've had people try to sell us things that weren't legitimate, you know, weren't real. But our collectors and that sort of thing, they can tell by looking at something if it's something that we should invest in or not.

Peter Biello:
I see. And Jeff, the same question to you essentially maybe as a as as regards the tie down here. Did you take the story at face value? Do you have to do some checking out on it?

Jeff Rapsis:
Well, yeah. There's just no doubt that woman would. Why would the women make up a story like that and just give it to us? So I think it comes with a certain provenance just based on the story that came with it and where it came from. But we are not going to leave it at that. I have it's in my list of many things to do to rustle up some of the, you know, the whole large format negatives that must have been taken of Lincoln. Lincoln I simply Lindbergh's visit to Concord. Lincoln did visit Concord too, but didn't fly. He got aviation related. He took a train. With Lindbergh. There's got to be photographs. We just haven't gotten a chance to look. And I want to inspect. I want to find one that shows clearly the wheels of that spirit of St.. Lewis so that we can see. And if there is something of this shape, then we know there's no doubt at all. But for now, it is a great story, just that the woman gave it to us. And you'll notice that's kind of how I told the story.

Jeff Rapsis:
It's not so much about Lindbergh as it is about the woman and her family and how they say they they got it from the site and then it stayed with them all these years. And now we have it. And when we display it, it'll probably have that as part of the display rather than be all about Lindbergh. It's about New Hampshire aviation history and what people have held on to and how it came to us.

Peter Biello:
So what are some of the most common questions that people ask you? Jeff, at the Aviation Museum, when they get there, is there a common question that you tend to get asked?

Jeff Rapsis:
Well, I have to say that there is no one common question. There are people that come in from all walks of life, from young kids to veterans of very advanced age, and they all have reasons to visit. We have a team, as I said earlier, I think of several dozen docents or experienced people in aviation background and they give the tours and they will custom eyes what they do based on what people are interested in. So what a young kid wants to learn about might be quite different from a veteran of World War 2 or the Korean War wants to come in and sometimes just talk about their experiences with people would understand. And that's one of the great things about the museum. It's sort of for everybody. It's not without one story that we want to tell people. We want to hear people's stories and and benefit from that.

Jeff Rapsis:
But there's not one common question other than, you know, how come you guys are so hard to find? And we are aware at the airport, but we're on the other side of the airport from the main passenger terminal, and we're actually in an industrial park. And you have to follow the signs to find us and were there. But it is something that people that's if the phone rings, it's usually people saying, how do we find you or when are you open? Who early opened three days a week, Friday, Saturday and Sunday to the public just because we're only open because of the docents schedule. We would like to be open more. Maybe we will be, but we're open for tours by appointment. Really? Anytime.

We'll have more from Jeff Rapsis as executive director of the Aviation Museum and Laura French, executive director of the Telephone Museum in just a minute. We're talking about New Hampshire's small museums. This is The Exchange on an NHPR. This is The Exchange on an NHPR. I'm Peter Biello in for Laura Knoy today. And we're talking about New Hampshire museums, specifically the roles they play in their communities and preserving history and how they manage. So, listeners, we want to know about your favorite museums in the Granite State. Give us a call to tell us about it. 1 800 8 9 2 6 4 7 7. Or send us an email exchange at NHPR.org.

Peter Biello:
We're talking with Jeff Rap's executive director of the Aviation Museum and Laura French, executive director of the New Hampshire Telephone Museum. And Laura, I want to put to you a question I asked Jeff before the break, which is what is what is some of the most common questions that you get asked by people who visit the New Hampshire Telephone Museum?

Laura French:
The very first question people ask when they walk through the door is why? Why is there a telephone museum, 1 and 2? Why is it here? And wonder? We always say, why not a telephone museum? But the answer to why in Warner is because that was the telephone company area that was served by the person that did most of the collecting for the museum.

Laura French:
Why a telephone museum? We just I don't understand the question, but.

Peter Biello:
Well, it's such a...People might come at it as this is such a common thing. We seem to understand it. The the goals haven't changed that much. You pick up a phone and you talk to someone far away. Right. But there's more to it than that. And it takes a little digging.

Laura French:
Right. Right. And I think and that's one of the things we've talked about, is that we still carry our phones with us every day. So what people don't realize is the origin of it and how it got started and how it progressed to where it is today. And the story is really pretty fascinating. And I was never a real history buff and in high school. But once I started unraveling the story and some of the controversy behind it and just the social impact, there's just so much about it that is really cool.

Peter Biello:
And what are some of the things that people are, like, impressed to learn? Like when you when you unload a particular fact on them that makes them go.

Peter Biello:
What is that fact?

Laura French:
Well, there's a couple. One is the controversy behind the invention itself. Alexander Graham Bell wasn't the only one that had the idea. He was the one that got it there first. And there was some controversy behind that. And then I think the second one that catches everybody off guard is that the person who developed the rotary dial system was actually an undertaker out in Kansas City, was not the bell system. .

Peter Biello:
So now I'm curious. So was there their connection to his career as an undertaker?

Peter Biello:
And the reason he developed this this particular phone?

Laura French:
The reason that he came up with it was because when a competitor moved into town, the competitors, started getting all the business, and he couldn't figure out why that was until he discovered that the competitor was married to the telephone operator. So she was directing all funeral requests to her husband rather than to this guy. So he decided to figure out a way to bypass her and make it so people could call directly.

Peter Biello:
I see. Okay. So as a means of competition. All right. Yeah. Jeff, you wanted to weigh in?

Jeff Rapsis:
I I think why telephone museum? Why Aviation Museum? Why anything like this? And I think the celebration and exploration of things that are everyday objects or occurrences is really important because there's a certain amazing magic about being able to speak with someone who's not there in front of you through some other device and system. It's been changing over the years, but what a magical thing that is. That's something that throughout most of human history. We would have been unimaginable. And what an impact it had in the mid 19th century when it first started occurring, and then there were transatlantic cables that allowed you to speak instantly with someone on the other side of an ocean. And I think we've lost all that wonder. And I think we lose a lot of the quality of our life if we don't understand. And keep that in mind. It's the same thing with aviation. One of our missions is to try to inspire young people.

Jeff Rapsis:
And I think, you know, nowadays, aviation well, when I was a kid, you'd walk out on the tarmac and talk with the pilots and kind of get the bug that way. And you can't do that anymore because of security. It's all behind fences. And if anything, for young people or anyone, really, aviation is an inconvenience. You get to stand in line. You're going to say take off your shoes. You've got to cram yourself into a tiny seat. It's not. What's the wonder in that? And yet here you are in this conveyance, seven miles above the surface of the planet, traveling at 600 miles an hour, sometimes more. This is something kings and queens, you know, of your would have not been able to do and yet we can do. And I think we've got to keep I think life loses a little bit of its magic if we don't have a museum about the Tello phone or aviation to kind of remind us of how special these ordinary things are that we take for granted now.

Peter Biello:
How important is it that a museum be able to pivot and talk about things that are in the news? Right. Like, for example, the Aviation Museum. I want to talk about airline safety in the wake of all these reports about Boeing and the telephone museum. The New Hampshire Telephone Museum may be better, better off or better able to serve people who visited if they're able to talk about privacy concerns on cell phones that happen right now, like is it important that museums are able to do that? Laura?

Laura French:
Oh, I think definitely it's important to stay relevant. That helps people make the connection of, you know, what it is that we're trying to do. We did a really cool special exhibit last year comparing party lines to today's social media, and that was very thought provoking for people. So we try to have programming that is relevant. And that way, if it if it catches their eye as something that's going on today, it gets them in the door and then they can, you know, start to see how we got to where we are and how things have changed.

Peter Biello:
Jeff, What do you think of being able to pivot to stuff that's in the news,.

Jeff Rapsis:
Anywhere we can do it

Jeff Rapsis:
I think benefits us as a museum. It's also part of our function. So we have you asked about people bringing things to us. Occasionally people bring things from crash sites. There's a fair number of old time airline and military crash sites in the state in New Hampshire. And we receive things from there. What do you do with that? We don't want to celebrate crashes as part of what we do, but it's definitely part of the story. And so we do programs occasionally all the time.

Jeff Rapsis:
But once in a while about one or another of the crashes that people can go and visit if they want one one in a near Berlin, New Hampshire and Mt. Success right off the Appalachian Trail, you can still visit the fuselage of a Northeast Airlines DC 3 that crashed there in 1954. It's the Mt. Success crash of Flight 792, and we'll do a program on that. But we use it in part to emphasize how the aviation business has transformed itself over the last 50 years into one where safety is paramount. It was much more dangerous to fly back then, even when air traffic was a much smaller business. There were far more fatalities in crashes because we did not have the sophisticated systems that we have now. So, yes, there are gonna be a plane crash in the news once in a while, but we try to use our historical background to keep it all in perspective. You're much safer on a modern airliner than you are driving to the airport.

Peter Biello:
Let's go to the phones and talk to Dan in Kentucky. Dan, thank you very much for calling. You're on the air.

Caller:
Hello. I have my own private museum sort of by accident. Just because I'm a believer in things and I'd like to pass it on. I call it the Museum of Common Wonder, and it has four categories. One category is you ain't going to be breaking it. I have an iron rake that soldered into a copper pipe for a handle. You ever get frustrated by the end falling off your rake? Somebody else has been, too. I have an axe handle, which is an iron pipe. It's welded and a number of things like that. A second category is repairs. I have a pair of socks that are so darned it just brings tears to your eyes. I have a hole which has been repaired numerous times by sewing with wire pieces added riveting. It just screams of the kind of poverty does exist is around here years ago.

Caller:
They're all local items.

Peter Biello:
And Dan, I want you to give away the store. But it seems like you've got a museum of Yankee ingenuity so far. Is it open for viewing? Can people just stop by at certain hours and see what goes?

Caller:
If you called me. I've never thought about opening it for viewing. I haven't gotten there yet and I'm getting old and we'd like to find a museum to take it. Take it over.

Peter Biello:
Well, let's see if we can have our producer talk to you and get your contact information so we can learn more about this off the air. as our Show's about to end soon, but I appreciate your call. Thank you very much.

Caller:
I feel like.

Peter Biello:
Oh, thanks, Dan. We really appreciate you hanging on.

Jeff Rapsis:
I want to visit that.

Peter Biello:
I am interested.

Jeff Rapsis:
I could use a rake like that.

Peter Biello:
Couldn't we? All right. Snow shovels as well. That won't break under the weight of snow.

Jeff Rapsis:
Socks, too.

Peter Biello:
So before we in the program on it, I want to ask each of you about sort of the future of museums like yours. Maybe we'll start with you, Laura French. Where do you see the museum of how to see the museum functioning in the next decade or so?

Laura French:
Well, I think we will continue to to keep up with the ever changing technology.

Laura French:
We we start right at the beginning and we keep trying to add.

Laura French:
We have a smartphone in the museum already so.I

Jeff Rapsis:
I can donate to my iPhone 6 s. if you want. It's just about ready to give up.

Laura French:
Yeah. That would be perfect. You know, we want to continue telling the story of communications. And the the biggest thing is just the impact that it has had on society. And I think that's an ever growing story. You know, there's so many ways that it impacts it now. So, you know, I can see us continuing to do that. Continuing our programming, special events and that sort of thing.

Peter Biello:
And what about you, Jeff, the future of the Aviation Museum?

Jeff Rapsis:
Two big things. One is the piece of aircraft we have in the studio as part of an educational initiative that we feel will be very important to our future. This is a program that we're doing in conjunction with the Manchester School of Technology. It's only the first program of its type in not just New England, but the entire united northeastern United States. There's been a couple of pilot programs in Texas that have shown this can be done. But having high school kids build an aircraft is kind of like where robotics was about 15 years ago. It's a terrific hands on experience that will get these kids careers in aviation, we hope. And then we also want to try to expand our facilities to have more aircraft. Maybe people who repair and restore vintage aircraft can make our museum their home.

Peter Biello:
Jeff Rapsis's executive director of the Aviation Museum and Laura French, executive director of the New Hampshire Telephone Museum. Thank you very much for being here today. Really appreciate it. Thank you. Thank you. This is The Exchange on NH PR. I'm Peter Biello in for Laura Knoy today and this is an NHPR.

The views expressed in this program are those of the individuals and not those of NH PR YA its board of trustees or its underwriters. If you liked what you heard, spread the word. Here was a review on Apple podcasts to help other listeners find us. Thanks.