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Inside the Bartlett Museum of Amesbury



Our new favorite small museum is a “grammas’ attic” of historical, ornithological, and archaeological curiosities. We’re talking about the Bartlett Museum in Amesbury MA, just over the border from Seacoast, New Hampshire. Preserved in a Victorian schoolhouse, it holds the former collection, we’re told, of the Amesbury Library, preserved here since the late 1960s. (See our photo tour below)



Bartlett Museum
270 Main Street, Amesbury MA
Open weekends limited hours Memorial Day to Labor Day
Official web site

We often passed by the old Bartlett School on Maine Street while visiting the grave and home of Amesbury poet John Greenleaf Whittier. This time we were determined to see the treasures inside this lovely old school. For decades we’ve been aware of the famous prehistoric Native American plummet shaped like a whale, but had no idea it has been on display here, along with a fantastic array of Indian stone tools.

The small downstairs exhibit is largely untouched since it first went up in the late 1960s. It needs tlc, conservation, and modern redesign, but there are some interesting objects here. Upstairs is a real treat. Floor to ceiling cases are stuffed with a wide variety of local birds, including an extinct passenger pigeon. Dated? Yes, but wonderfully reminiscent of turn-of-the-century natural history collections, and this one is intact and unspoiled, though equally in need of future conservation and curatorial work.

Bartlett Museum in Amesbury, MA

Upstairs also includes a wonderfully reconstructed classroom where kids can pretend they are attending school a century ago – and has it changed? This was originally the Ferry School built in 1870, and there is a nice assemblage of old children’s games and toys.

Around back in a wooden outbuilding are spectacularly restored carriages. Amesbury was the heart of carriage and sleigh-making. The industry survived into the early years of the automobile era before the factories closed in the early twentieth century. The school was named for Dr. Josiah Bartlett, the city’s other famous son, who went on to sign the Declaration of Independence for New Hampshire.

At the amazingly low admission rate of $3 ($1 for seniors and students), there’s no better bargain for an enjoyable hour of artifact viewing. We suggest signing up as a $10 member today. Bartlett reminded us the “museum in a museum” at the Woodman Institute in Dover with its larger natural history exhibit, combined with the collection of curiosities at the Newmarket Historical Society, which is also in a preserved school building. -- JDR

Exhibit at Bartlett Museum

Prehistoric whale-shaped plummet ?

Bartlett Museum

Exhibit at Bartlett Museum




Exhibit at Bartlett Museum /

Second floor at Bartlett Museum in Amesbury

Natural history exhibit at Bartlett Museum

Restored school room at Bartlett Museum

Carriage House at Bartlett Museum/

Butcher's carriage at Bartlett Museum in Amesbury, MA

Restored carriages at Bartlett Museum

Bartlett History Museum in Amesbury, Ma/ J. Dennis Robinson photo

Photos by J. Dennis Robinson

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