2007-04-12 / Island History

Jamestown Historical Society News

By Rosemary Enright

Spring is a busy time for the Jamestown Historical Society. We're sprucing up the windmill, pulling together the final details of the summer museum exhibit, and putting finishing touches on our summer programs. We're looking forward to seeing lots of visitors in the coming months.

Volunteers to man the windmill and museum are critical to keeping these historic sites open. Linnea Petersen, our windmill chairwoman, will soon be phoning all the volunteers who gave their time in the past and asking them once again to "mill-sit." Fran Boyer will be doing the same for the Jamestown Museum. New volunteers are always needed. You don't have to be a member of the JHS. If you're willing to spend one afternoon during the summer at the museum or the windmill, we'll gratefully add your name to our roster of volunteers.

Here's how it works:

Jamestown Windmill

The windmill will be open each Saturday and Sunday from June 16 to Sept. 16, a total of 28 days, from 1 to 4 p.m. The first day, June 16, is "docent's day." Linnea will familiarize new volunteers - and veteran volunteers, too, if they want a refresher- with the mill and give each of them a booklet explaining how the mill works. The job itself is quite simple. Just before 1 p.m. on the selected Saturday or Sunday, the volunteer picks up the keys, drives up to Windmill Hill, opens the mill doors and windows, puts out the "Open" banner, and relaxes for three hours in one of the most beautiful spots on the island. When people stop by, the millsitter asks the visitors to sign the guest log, chats about Jamestown, and starts them on a self-guided tour of yesteryear. Wall-mounted placards and the windmill booklet explain how the windmill works. At 4 p.m., the day's mill-sitter brings in the banner, closes the windows, locks the doors, returns the keys, and drives home rested and at peace.

Visitors love our mill. The setting is beautiful. The views are spectacular - made even more so by the work of the Nature Conservancy to clear the view. The peaceful quiet of the place is wonderful.

Jamestown Museum

The museum is a little different. This year's exhibit, mounted in conjunction with the Public Archaeology Laboratory (PAL) with funding from the Rhode Island Department of Transportation, is The Jamestown Bridge 1940- 2007: Concept to Demolition. We've taken down our traditional ferry exhibit to devote the whole room to the bridge. PAL is the official state recorder of the demolition of the bridge. Its photo essay will show all stages of the demolition, including underwater photos of the area where the bridge debris will be placed to build a reef.

Wonderful photographs of the bridge construction, scrapbooks that trace the history of the bridge as seen by Jamestowners at the time, as well as bridge-related objects from the JHS collection will be on display. The Jamestown Press in cooperation with the JHS is issuing a second edition of Sue Maden's 1990 book, "The Jamestown Bridge," updated to include information on the demolition and on the impact of the bridge on the island. The book will be offered for sale at the museum.

The exhibit opens on Saturday, June 30, with an opening day reception, and will close on Sunday, Sept. 2. The museum is open every Wednesday through Sunday, from 1 to 4 p.m. We'll also be open Monday and Tuesday, August 13 and 14, for Jamestown 350 week.

We will have a training day after the opening so that the docents can explore and ask questions about the exhibit. We'll run through the procedures for opening and closing the museum. We are cataloging the JHS collection in a computer program called PastPerfect, and we'll offer a quick tutorial to anyone who is computer-minded.

Would you like to become one of the windmill or museum volunteers? You can call Rosemary Enright at 423-2674 or send an email to jhs@jamestownri.com. All we need is your name, your phone number, and any preferences or limitations about when you'll be available.


A couple of weeks ago, you read a short article in the Press about the JHS receiving a $2,000 grant from the State Archives Division. The grant, received in response to a request from Sue Maden, our collections committee co-chair, will be used to buy baked enamel shelving to safeguard the archives and photographic records we have been given over the years. The shelves and a plan case will be installed in the JHS vault in the new Town Hall.

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