Plymouth in 150 Objects Celebrates Shared Memories and History

By: Reed Silvers, For the Clock

*Additionally posted under PSU Campus News*

While 2021 is like no other year in the school’s history, the milestone for Plymouth State is a good opportunity to reflect on the memories the community has shared throughout the past century and a half. The stories told through historic artifacts, photos, and texts encourage reminiscing and may also foreshadow PSU adventures that lay ahead.

As a commemoration of PSU’s 150 years, historic pieces are on display in the Silver Center for the Arts as part of the Museum of the White Mountain’s Plymouth in 150 Objects exhibit. Artifacts from the campus archives and the Plymouth area and the connections they have to the rest of the world are included.

The launch of the online exhibit on Thursday, February 25 at 7 p.m. will feature speakers who will share stories about specific objects. The event will also be recorded and posted for later viewing.

The objects range from early tintype photos to the 2019 First Fire mug. Museum Director Cynthia Cutting attributes the number and range of artifacts to their “crowdsourced curating.” She emphasized, “It couldn’t be just one person’s way of looking at Plymouth State, it needed to feel like a collective experience.” To get the greatest number of possible perspectives, the museum sent messages to former faculty, students, and other friends of Plymouth State asking them to share their stories. Initially, Cutting thought it may be difficult to acquire the desired 150 objects. However, the crowdsourcing effort, combined with selections from Plymouth State’s Michael J. Spinelli, Jr. Center for University Archives and Special Collections, shattered the goal.

The exhibit experience for most people will start out fully online, and when conditions permit, students, faculty, and staff will be able to see it in person. By summer, Cutting is hopeful that members of the general public will be able to visit as well. Either way, viewers are sure to be fascinated by the broad array of Plymouth history.

Most of the artifacts revolve around the experiences of students and professors within the campus itself. Current students can learn of the professors whose names are on the buildings they go to every day. Robert Boyd’s specimen container and motorcycle helmet, Geneva Smith’s silver bowl award, and photos of Herbert H. Lamson taking students into the Langdon Woods are all on display. The incredible professor-student relations are also showcased. One of Cutting’s favorite instances of this is a butterfly wing collage made by an international student from Africa. When the student returned to his home country, he gifted the piece to his PSU mentor, the late New Hampshire Executive Councilor and Grafton County Commissioner Ray Burton ’72.

Of course, campus activities and relationships are only one part of the PSU experience. Connections to PSU’s picturesque surroundings are also an important part of the University’s past and present, and this factor is well-documented in the exhibit as well. Photos of adventure education students in the mountains, journal entries from students who visited Plymouth State’s Loon Lake Cabin from the 1930s, or simply photos, old and new, of the beautiful landscape across all four seasons are all included.

Plymouth’s connection to the world beyond New Hampshire is another important aspect. Spectators can navigate to the “World Comes to Plymouth” section to see photos from when the small college town was visited by prominent figures. These include vice-presidential and presidential candidates Joe Biden, Al Gore, and Richard Nixon, as well as Rose Kennedy campaigning for JFK. In addition, there is a photo of Louis Armstrong from when he performed at the Silver Center in 1968.

If there is one common theme, it is the motivation those who made donations to the exhibit to highlight the uniqueness of Plymouth State and the special place it holds in their hearts. As Cutting describes it, “There are many stories that are about how being here in Plymouth is more than just working at or going to a school. There are these ideas of the special location, traditions, relationships between people, and innovation. There has definitely been some wonderful research and work that has happened here.”

Those wanting to share their own experience can upload a photo, story, or artifact by clicking on the submission form button on the Plymouth in 150 Objects webpage. Submissions will become part of a blog-style section of the online exhibit, allowing Plymouth State community members to easily share their stories and memories.