STRAWBERY BANKE MUSEUM MISSION, HISTORY & VISION STATEMENT
To promote understanding of the lives of individuals and the value of community through encounters with the history and ongoing preservation of a New England waterfront neighborhood.
Toward that goal, Strawbery Banke Museum:
- Preserves for today's visitors and for future generations, historic buildings, cultural landscapes, objects, and other materials pertinent to its mission.
- Conducts research aimed at placing local developments within the broader context of city, state, and national history.
- Disseminates the results of that research to the public through exhibitions, publications, demonstrations, tours, symposia, workshops, and other educational activities and programs.
We bring history and people together for delight, discovery, and learning.
In doing so, Strawbery Banke Museum will:
- Stand for excellence and entrepreneurship in every aspect of the operation - programs, collections, preservation, and management;
- Champion the primacy of the visitor experience and use innovative and traditional methods to provide life-changing and inspirational learning experiences based on authentic objects, stories and ideas;
- Inspire the Seacoast community with awareness of our collective past, and work together to preserve our cultural and built heritage;
- Serve as a destination where engaging activities connect visitors to our common local, regional and national past; and
- provide life-long learning experiences incorporating the needs of learners and the community.
Visitors to Strawbery Banke have the opportunity to experience and imagine how people lived and worked in this typical American neighborhood through nearly four centuries of history. Using restored houses, featured exhibits, historic landscapes, and gardens, and interpretive programs, Strawbery Banke tells the stories of the many generations who settled in this Portsmouth, New Hampshire "Puddle Dock" community from the late l7th to the mid-20th century.
Significantly, this site was rescued from the poorly conceived urban renewal policies of the 1950s by conscientious, farsighted citizens. Always maintaining its grassroots origins, there has been no single benefactor underwriting its existence. Strawbery Banke has relied upon and continues to rely upon the generous support of numerous individuals who believe in the importance of preserving a site that so accurately depicts the history of immigrants transforming themselves into a community of American citizens.
Strawbery Banke tells these stories today by preserving an actual community where visitors can connect with the past; serving as a resource for educators, community; and providing a gathering space for the present-day Portsmouth community.
I arrived in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, in the summer of 1963 to become the second employee of Strawbery Banke. Now a respected outdoor museum, Strawbery Banke was then only a paper corporation that hoped to become the redeveloper of an urban renewal area containing dozens of eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century houses. Soon after I arrived, it became my regimen to rise before daybreak, gather my tools, and head for the towering boom of the wrecker's crane. That looming shape foretold the day's demolition and marked the place of my predawn work. I would salvage all the doors, paneling, and mantelpieces I could and carry my sad trophies to a place of safety...A quick change of clothes and I was ready for my nine-to-five office job. By evening, the house from which I had watched the sunrise would be a pile of debris.
- James L. Garvin, A Building History of Northern New England, 2001.
Originally named Strawbery Banke by early (1630) British settlers for the wild berries growing there, Strawbery Banke today is unique among outdoor history museums - tracing 300+ of history in one of America's oldest continuously occupied neighborhoods. The 10-acre site, with its authentically restored houses and shops, period gardens, and costumed role players, presents the daily lives of ordinary people who lived here - from Colonial times to World War II, from the mundane to the elegant, from economic boom to wartime austerity - in engaging and accessible ways. Strawbery Banke Museum is a capsule of New England seaport life across four centuries.
- Strawbery Banke Museum was instrumental in the creation of the Historic Preservation Act of 1966. The preservation of the Puddle Dock neighborhood is recognized as the first time urban renewal funding was used for historic preservation rather than wholesale demolition of standing structures.
- Strawbery Banke Museum is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and is designated as nationally significant. The Town of Portsmouth has been named one of the National Trust for Historic Preservation's 2008 Dozen Distinctive Destinations.
The Vision of Strawbery Banke Museum is to bring history and people together for delight, discovery and learning.
In so doing it will:
- Stand for excellence and entrepreneurship in every aspect of its operations i.e. programs, collections, preservation, and management.
- Champion the primacy of the visitor experience and use innovative and traditional methods to provide life-changing and inspirational learning experiences based on authentic objects, stories, and ideas.
- Inspire and unite our local community with awareness of our collective past, and work together to preserve our cultural heritage.
- Serve as a destination where engaging activities connect visitors to our common local, regional, and national past.
The collections and the furnished houses in which they reside are the context in which Strawbery Banke's stories are told, reenacted, and displayed. These historic objects from across the centuries are the living history that visitors come to see, and, from them, they gain a new appreciation for the significance of the lives that have gone before.
For a current list of the Museum Board of Trustees, please click here.