Podcast: ‘Revitalize Buttonwoods’ Aims to Renovate Local Museum, Include Diverse Audiences

Buttonwoods Museum serves as a welcome center for the Essex National Heritage Area. (WHAV News file photograph.)

Haverhill’s keeper of history, Buttonwoods Museum, plans a building renovation project and greater inclusion of Haverhill’s diversity in its collections.

Buttonwoods Executive Director Jan Williams calls the effort “Revitalize Buttonwoods—Restore the Past, Shape the Future.” Appearing on WHAV’s “Win for Breakfast” program Thursday, she details what is a two-pronged approach, starting with renovation of the main visitor center and gallery space.

“But, the other part, and the most important part, is a reinterpretation project that we hope is going to transform the museum into a vehicle for social change through inclusive programs and exhibits representing stories of our historically excluded populations here in Haverhill,” she says.

Williams says the reinterpretation will increase the reach of the museum.

“Haverhill is approximately 22% native Spanish speakers and, up until a couple of years ago, we did not represent our Spanish-speaking population. Two years ago, with the kick off of the Puerto Rican art exhibit, all of the exhibits we have held at the museum have been bilingual in English and in Spanish,” she explains.

She adds there are many other areas to explore.

“We are in the process of researching our African American history and our LGBTQA+ history. We will have an exhibit by L’Arche North Boston, here in Haverhill, in July that focuses on disabled people. It’s an initiative that we try to represent, and include, everybody who lives in Haverhill,” she says.

Williams says the project has been at least five years in the making, involving meetings with facilitators, museum professionals and exhibit designers. Plans now include the creation of an advisory committee that will have decision making power on programs and exhibits going forward.

Buttonwoods Museum is located at 240 Water St., in Haverhill.

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