Center for Rural Partnerships Collaborates with Alton Historical Society

March 16th, 2006 by Adam

A time when the railroad was a brand new, big business – and redefined transportation and the country itself – has come and gone. Now, the Plymouth State University Center for Rural Partnerships has signed on to support the Alton Historical Society as it works to preserve an historic freight building and create a museum dedicated to understanding transportation and the way it has affected the economy and culture in Alton and the Lakes Region.

The Center for Rural Partnerships is a new department at Plymouth State University (PSU) aimed at connecting the needs and goals of rural communities with insightful research and productive partnerships. The center works with a variety of constituents and community groups on a number of issues, including sustainable community economic development and promoting New Hampshire’s rural quality of life. Its focus and portfolio of projects are diverse in terms of geography, theme, type of project and type of partner.

The recently-developed Center signed on with the Alton Historical Society (AHS) to help preserve an historic building and create a museum devoted to understanding transportation, land use and the history of economic and cultural landscapes in the Lakes Region of New Hampshire.

“We are so pleased to lend support to the Alton Historical Society’s important project. Not only does the project greatly benefit the Lakes Region, it is on par with the Center’s goal of helping to preserve and enhance New Hampshire’s valued cultural landscapes,” said Thaddeus C. Guldbrandsen, Ph.D., Director of the Center for Rural Partnerships. “This museum project preserves an important piece of Lakes Region history and provides the State of New Hampshire with a gathering place and laboratory for understanding the relationship between transportation, land use and the economy. The project also makes good use of a currently vacant building adjacent to a new public park and promises to bring more interest to the center of one of the fastest-growing towns in New Hampshire.”

According to Guldbrandsen, the project will serve the community as a whole, because knowledge of history provides insight for contemporary challenges and future plans. The Lakes Region of New Hampshire is a region faced with dramatic population increases, changes in land use patterns, loss of historical buildings and cultural landscapes and stresses on natural resources. Cities and towns throughout the Lakes Region and the state of New Hampshire are struggling to make sense of the current changes and better plan for the future.

“Never in the state’s history has the need for historical perspective and preservation been more urgent. A proposed museum in the town of Alton has the capacity to provide valuable historical perspective on the history of our changing communities,” said Guldbrandsen. “Various railroad museums around the state have been preserved as part of museum projects. The Alton Museum is unique in its attempt to interpret the region’s dynamic history of changing land use and economy. Alton is a significant place for such a cultural resource, because it is going through such rapid growth right now.”

According to Guldbrandsen, the Alton Historical Society will receive support from the Center and from the entire community at Plymouth State University.

“Our faculty members have a wide range of expertise and our students are eager to connect their education to real world applications,” he said.

The J. Jones & Son building, which will eventually house the museum, is located in the center of downtown Alton, and town leaders hope the renovation contributes to the energizing of the downtown area. The museum will create a new downtown center, offering valuable gathering spaces for the town and region.

Philip Laurion of the historical society says, “While this project is a large undertaking for an organization of our size, we feel it will be well worth the effort. The proposed project will not only preserve an historic railroad building, but will also provide the town with a new museum and some much-needed meeting room space as well. The museum will allow us to expand and better display our collection of historical artifacts and offer more educational programs, and the proposed conference room will help alleviate the high demand being placed on town-owned meeting spaces.”

In addition to assisting with the development of the Alton museum, The Center for Rural Partnerships serves political leaders in New Hampshire by providing easily-accessible summaries of scholarly research and lessons learned in other regions. Working in collaboration with University System of New Hampshire librarians, faculty, and staff, the Rural Center serves the state as a convenient source of useful information.

In the near future, the Center will undertake an intensive strategic research project in Coos County to identify and build on the strengths of the region to promote greater community and economic well being. The Center will also host a lecture series entitled “Growing a Sustainable Economy in Rural New Hampshire” at PSU and other locations to exchange ideas about expanding economic opportunities for rural business leaders and entrepreneurs.

The Center will also partner with the Center for the Environment at PSU to undertake various environmental and economic projects throughout the state, including the Northern Forest Region.

Plymouth State University (PSU) is a regional comprehensive university offering a rich, student-focused learning environment for both undergraduate and graduate students. PSU offers 42 majors and 62 minors in programs that include education, business, humanities, arts, and natural and social sciences. The College of Graduate Studies offers coursework that promotes research, best practices and reflection in locations on- and off-campus as well as online. For non-traditional students, PSU’s Frost School of Continuing and Professional Studies offers working professionals opportunities to pursue an undergraduate degree by attending classes in the evenings, weekends and online. Located in a beautiful New England setting, Plymouth State University has been recognized as one of the “Best in the Northeast” by The Princeton Review.