Reading Historical Society Gets a New Home-The old Reading Christian Union building

June 25, 2017
Reading, Vt.

The green door is open and the smell of fresh varnish is wafting through it. The foyer is bright and welcoming. The Reading Christian Union building is freshly painted and the wood floors have been restored. The Reading Historical Society (RHS) is moving in.

The RHS outgrew their old home, as many families do, when they expand, in this case their collections (not children.) The old building (next to the library) was removed in May and is now a parking lot. "We want people to know it's (RHS) here. I can guarantee you this, that there is (only) a small group of people who have actually been through the Historical Society" said RHS president Esther Allen, "I'm hoping this (new building) is really going to open it up for people to feel good about it (the Reading Historical Society)."

"Two years ago at town meeting there was an article, a warning to see if the Church group, wanted to donate it to the town and the town's people accepted it at that town meeting. When the Church presented it to the Town if was with the understanding that it would be a 99 year lease." The agreement was made with the understanding that the Town and RHS would maintain the building during this lease period. Also part of the agreement was that the front of the Church would remain, with pulpit and a couple of pews. The piano and organ are also there, in what has become a music corner, for folks to explore some of the old musical instruments in the RHS collection.

The floors were refurbished in just three days. The work was done by New Life Wood Floors out of Cavendish. The old carpeting was removed and volunteers painstakingly pulled carpet nails for days in preparation for the renovation. The nail holes remain so you can appreciated the time these volunteers took making ready for the flooring contractors.

Once the floors were done, volunteers began moving items from the old building. RHS had display cases in the old building, these were first cleaned and then moved. A couple were painted to brighten them up. As collections were moved, they too were cleaned. Many of the items that were tagged with numbers and descriptions, these were checked against the master list of the collection (an excel spreadsheet maintained by Allen.) "These tags will need to be updated" Allen said, "they are pretty old."

"Our plan is to put things out piecemeal, so that we can change out exhibits, rather than having everything out. And as we go along, I see this is a work in progress. I've finally convinced myself that I don't have to everything done all at once. And it's really with the idea of getting people involved with it, to help with the exhibits. To get other people thinking, Milde Waterfall, who is one of our members, worked at the Smithsonian, she will have a lot of good ideas of how to set up the exhibits, ideas on themes and things like that."

Allen and the Board of Directors for RHS have a long list of things that need to be done and are hoping area residents will become interested in these projects. The list includes: copying old documents; digitizing their photographs; creating a searchable website; expand their genealogy records, which are recorded currently in an old notebook; creating photographs from their old glass negatives. "This list is endless" said Allen.

Gone are most of the old pews (with the help of Eleanor and Sam Grice, Nate and Linda Willard, Greg Smith, Jim Bartlett, and Bob and Esther Allen.) The new museum space is open and bright and inviting. The "grand opening" is timed for Old Home Days on July 2. "We're just going to be open for a few hours, it's one of those cases where everybody on the committee is on another committee so...I'm on the Auxiliary but I'm going to take a few minutes to come down just to see the (gasp), you know that feeling, when they walk though the door. And the green door will be open.

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