The Shirley Historical Society started building its Museum twenty years ago this Fall. The ground breaking was held on August 16, 1981 with Town Historian Lucy Longley and Museum Benefactor Earl Tupper wielding the first shovel.
The members of the Historical Society had long realized the need for space to house their collection of Shirley books, papers, photos, and artifacts. They had been storing some files in the basement of the Hazen Library and some artifacts in members' back rooms. Mrs. Longley had been trying to convince Mr. Tupper to purchase a building for a Museum. Earl Tupper had grown up in Shirley and become famous for his invention of Tupperware. He agreed to fund the basic construction of a new building and Mrs. Longley donated land for the museum.
Architect Jack Visniewski and Contractor Richard Dennis were hired and began work. The basic structure was completed by January of 1982 for a cost of $70,000 for a 50' X 25' story and a half building including full basement, and handicapped accessibility to the main floor. Of particular value were the special order fifty foot long rough hewn beams from Maine. Also of note were the floors in the meeting room and office which came from lumber grown in Shirley and which were planed at the Farnsworth Lumber Yard in Shirley. Looking to the care of its irreplacable contents, the building had a security system and smoke and heat detectors installed right from the beginning.
The Shirley Historical Society is a non-profit corporation of people interested in preserving Shirley's history. It is not related to any government board and does not receive any money from the town. Thousands more dollars needed to be raised to complete the building and thousands of hours of volunteer time were added to put up and paint the wallboard, install molding and picture rails. Volunteers did the exterior painting and installation of the gutters.
Emily Houde volunteered her artistic skills to paint a mural on the entry hallway. This mural was done in the style of Rufus Porter and pictures scenes form Shirley Village and Shirley Center. Emily also stenciled willow trees near the ceiling of the meeting room. There are spaces on these trees for names of Shirley people to be added. For a $10 fee, and completion of a form about the Shirley person, a permanent memorial is added to the building.
Historical Society volunteers are still at work, twenty years later, improving the lighting and finishing the ceiling and walls in the cellar to provide additional display space. Partitions between display and storage areas and an appropriate cellar door still need to be added. A few years ago the roof was replaced and better vents added. We still need to finish giving the building its third coat of paint. Projects could take less time to complete if there were more volunteers. One doesn't even need to be a member of the Society to volunteer. Please contact the curator at 978-425-9328 if you are willing and able to help out.
In the Meeting Room.we change the displays periodically, depending on program themes. Around the room you will see maps from various times in Shirley’s history.
Our collections of special interest include the Shirley Shaker Community and Shaker life in general, the nationally known MacKaye family, and the locally known Longley Family. For more specifics regarding our collections, go to our museum topics page
We have an entrance hall with a guest book and items for sale.
We also have coat hooks, and a small kitchen and handicapped accessible rest rooms.
The Library has files of information on Shirley people and activities.
There are town reports and books by Shirley authors. There are files
on most of Shirley’s older buildings.
A copier is available for a donation of 25 cents per copy.
In the Cellar we are now working on finishing the ceiling and improving the display area. There is an old wagon and many farm tools, as well as items from Shirley’s Samson Cordage Company. In the cellar we also house the town weights case.
In the Attic we have a display of items from the Oddfellows who gave much furniture to the Museum. There are also some old basket making and shoe making tools and wooden sleds. We bring our artifacts out for display according to the theme to be presented.
On the Front Lawn is a form we believe the Shakers used to make large farm wagon wheels.
The Shirley Historical Society welcomes visitors, researchers, donors, volunteers, and folks who just want to share their memories of Shirley with us. The Museum is open most Saturdays from 10:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone the curator Meredith Marcinkewicz for specific scheduling. Her home phone is 978-425-4513