By Joan Bowen
The ad hoc Historical Museum Study Committee (BHMS) presented its report at the August 17 Selectmen’s meeting. The 89-page report represents a year-long process of analyzing the operations of more than fifteen local historical museums, includes the identification of potential sites and presents a vision of how a Bedford Historical Museum would operate. The report includes material provided to the BHMS by the Bedford Historical Society detailing the assets and exhibits in their permanent collection.
Recommendations for a location and operation of the museum are based on an examination of the operations of over fifteen local museums. The objective was to develop an understanding of what factors would be critical to the success of a Bedford Historical Museum. The BHMS identified the need to include function space that can be rented for meetings or events to ensure that there is a draw to bring people back to the facility multiple times and to generate additional income.
Information from the Bedford Historical Society assisted in the determination of the amount of museum space that will be needed.The estimated need for space is 3,500 to 4,500 square feet. This includes exhibit, office, gift store, research, meeting and archival allocations.
Five existing town facilities are identified in the report as potential locations. Each meets the basic requirements of a town-owned centrally located site with high vehicular and pedestrian traffic plus adequate parking. The BHMS was not charged with developing costs for each location but some details on their evaluation of each site are included in the report.
The A-list recommendations are the Bedford Fire Station (re-purposed), Bedford Police Station (addition), Old Town Hall (re-purposed). Town Center West Wing (addition) and Town Hall Multi-Purpose Room (repurposed). A list of second-tier potential locations is also included. Each on this list is either a privately-owned site or more remotely located from the center of Town. The Bedford Library was considered but was withdrawn at the request of the Library.
The report also includes recommendations for the operation of the museum. It would be operated by the Bedford Historical Society under agreement with the Town. Core to the agreement would be that the Society will provide the volunteer support needed for day-to-day operations. Further, that the Society will provide dynamic displays and events to draw attendees. The agreement would include the Town’s commitment to financially support to be specified museum costs on an on-going basis.
It was agreed that the BHMS will return to the Selectmen’s next meeting on September 8 for further discussion. Members of the BHMS indicated that they want to discuss a potential article for the November 2 Special Town Meeting. The article would request approval of funding to hire a consultant to develop costs for the proposed sites.
The Ad hoc Historical Museum Study Committee was formed in response to a request from the Bedford Historical Society. It was appointed in August 2014. Members include Gaye Carpenter, Linda Christen, Angelo Colao, Kara Kerwin, Bill Moonan (Chair), Mike Rosenberg (Clerk), and Christopher Weisz. Frank Gicca has also served as a non-voting representative of the Bedford Historical Society.