Hingham Historical Society’s bucket list – a visitor experience that combines hands-on interactives with visible storage and a new exhibit
The Hingham Historical Society’s new Heritage Museum exhibit tells the story of “Bucket Town” where energetic and innovative craftsmen created tens of thousands of wooden buckets along with firkins, piggins, pantry boxes, churns, and other essential containers during the 18th and 19th centuries. On the eve of the Revolutionary War, the Committee of Supplies ordered 15,000 canteens to be smuggled to safe areas before the conflict began in Lexington and Concord. When director Suzanne Buchanan took the helm of the Hingham Historical Society in 2007, she composed her own “Bucket list” to fulfill the vision of the Society as it entered its second century.
Director Suzanne Buchanan conferring with designer Ed Malouf on the plans for the Hingham Heritage Museum
First on the list, make the 198-year-old Old Derby Academy a modern museum facility. Currently the headquarters of the Hingham Historical Society, it is an 18th-century building minimal electricity and heating, and no air conditioning or the climate control required to protect a collection. Second, an exhibit gallery so the Society can exhibit this collection. Third, a visible storage gallery to make accessible as much of the balance of the collection that is not on display. Fourth, an inaugural installation in the new gallery featuring highlights from their bucket and toy collection. Fifth, create a new and enlarged archives room for the many researchers who return to Hingham to trace their roots and sixth, a new “Out of the Ordinary” gift shop for souvenirs unique to Hingham’s history.
The Old Derby Academy under construction
With the 2.9 million dollar renovation of Old Derby Academy halfway to completion, this bucket list will be “kicked” by December after years in the making. The Ballroom Gallery will feature the Boxes, Buckets, and Toys; The Craftsmen of Hingham exhibit with over 50 artifacts on display from their collection as well as interactive experiences on bucket taxonomy and the legacy of Hingham’s craftsmen on today’s landscape. The star of the new visible storage gallery will be the magnificent Gay Desk emerging from storage for the first time. It will be surrounded by a striking collection of objects currently located in the less accessible and unheated or air-conditioned Old Ordinary. The Gift Shop will be larger and will include a media corner, and the archives room will be so large returning researchers might get lost.
Left, typical Hingham bucket, right William Seawall Tower’s “Fancy Bucket”
Hingham buckets are not your ordinary buckets, a miniature Hingham Firkin signed by Caleb Hersey is valued between $ 2,000 and $ 4,000. The word “bucket” does not do justice to the remarkable craftsmanship that went into these utilitarian objects to hold flour, nails, feathers, beans, water or any other item a colonial skilled worker or cook might require. The elegant proportion and strapped banding technique evoke the classic swallowtail projections of the well-known Shaker box. When the market for boxes shifted away from the handcrafted product to mill manufacture, the Hingham craftsmen created a whole new industry— wooden toys, especially miniature furniture. They drew upon their expertise to create miniature versions of the buckets and pails they once made for the general trade. Dollhouse scaled chests of drawers, ladder-backed chairs and bedroom sets delighted young people all across the country. As part of this “Objects for Lesure” display, there is a “Fancy Bucket” made by William Tower built from 47,568 individual pieces of dark and light colored wood.
This exhibit will not only feature the breath of the collection but will demonstrate how the bucket functioned in the colonial and early industrial economy. How much did a firkin of butter weigh compared to a firkin of feathers? How many buckets would you order to transport 100 pounds of nails? What is your weight in buckets of water? These questions and others will facilitate visible math skill development for the Hingham 3rd and 5th-graders.
Design presentation for “Boxes, Buckets, and Toys”
Our contribution to checking off this “bucket of lists” is modest compared to the years advocacy by Ms. Buchanan and the Historical Society Board. But our planning, design, writing, research, and construction oversight makes for a small bucket of a list all on its own. Visit Bucket Town, a.k.a. Hingham Massachusetts, later this year to experience the lore of the bucket yourself.