19 Grove St. ~ PO Box 58 ~ Peterborough, NH 03458 ~ 603-924-3235 



“Words spoken are as light as air.  Words written are always there.”

Message penned in an autograph book, 1887

In a society filled with instant communication hastily sent from a touch device or keyboard, the handwritten word is becoming a thing of the past. The Monadnock Center’s new special exhibit, The Art of Handwriting, examines the history of penmanship and the art of the written word. The exhibit opens on January 19 at 5 p.m. with an opening reception and free museum admission.

Handwriting allows each practitioner to express their individuality and personality in ways that electronic communications cannot. The letters, postcards, and autograph books of the past on display in The Art of Handwriting attest to the intimacy of the written word and its ability to convey not only information but emotion and connection.

Many schools have abandoned teaching cursive writing to focus on keyboard skills and many lament the loss of handwriting in the curriculum. Brain researchers have found that printing and cursive writing are not only fundamental to develop successful reading skills but also support spelling and communicating thoughts and ideas. In this exhibit, we will look at the ways handwriting has been taught over the years with examples from instructional manuals, letters, and copy books.

Artifacts from the world of commerce like ledger books, bills of sale, and inventories show us the importance of an elegant hand in the business world. Visitors will learn about the local man who made his living as a scribe and supported a family of ten through the art of his pen. The story of another local man examines the relationship of handwriting to reading and his efforts to help struggling readers through penmanship. The exhibit also includes unusual artifacts that incorporate handwriting like a 19th century fundraiser quilt featuring the handwritten names of a local church’s parishioners. A selection of historic writing implements round out the exhibit. A hands-on exhibit interactive station will give you the chance to try your hand at different writing styles and make a 19th century-style calling card.

The Art of Handwriting is on view Wed- Sat, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. January 19 through May 25, 2018.

Museum admission: $3 (free for members and children under 12)

The Monadnock Center for History and Culture has a small but impressive collection of early American furniture and decorative arts on display in its museum. Illustrating New England furniture making from the 18th to the 20th centuries, the collection includes objects that were made, owned and collected by Peterborough residents and have been donated to the Center over the last 100+ years.

Greenie RoomThree distinguished highboys are at the center of the collection. About 1915, Adele Foster Adams donated a circa 1760 mahogany highboy that was built by the Townsend-Goddard workshop of Newport, R.I. This fine example of the Townsend- Goddard style features an arched top with a broken scroll and slender cabriole legs terminating in elongated slipper feet.

The second highboy is by an unknown maker but has a strong Peterborough history having descended through the Wilson family, proprietors of Peterborough’s earliest tavern. Made of maple in a vernacular Queen Anne style, the piece was probably built in New Hampshire or possibly southern Maine. In addition to its fine proportions and beautifully executed shell carving, the highboy’s top molding ingeniously opens to reveal a hidden compartment.

Highboy The third highboy is a showpiece by the Dunlap workshop of New Hampshire. This highboy descended in the Morison family, one of Peterborough’s founding families. Built from maple and dating from about 1790, it features exuberant decoration including carved sunbursts, scrolls and a pediment with pierced basket weave panels. Similar examples of the Dunlap workshop are found at Winterthur, the Currier Museum, the New Hampshire Historical Society and Historic New England.

Other examples of 18th century furniture in the collection include two lowboys, a gentlemen’s desk of astonishingly large proportion, chairs and tavern tables. In addition, the Center has an impressive collection of tall case clocks including two examples by Simon Willard.

Among the items made in Peterborough are two Peterborough pianos made by Hagen & Ruefer between 1890 and 1900 at their piano factory on Depot Street. Additional “Peterborough Made” items are a collection of piano stools by the Briggs Piano Stool factory in West Peterborough and a delightful mahogany and chestnut dressing table made by cabinet maker Lorenzo Holt for his eleven year old granddaughter in 1866.

Monadnock Center Town AtticCome play in the Town’s Attic! The Attic is a hands-on exhibit room for families with activities designed to appeal to preschool and elementary school children. Try your hand at writing with a quill pen or making a rag doll. Look at 3-D pictures with a stereo viewer or explore a set of mini-exhibits on local history topics like the Civil War or the Mariarden Dance Theatre. Picture books (all with a history theme) are available for some quiet activity. New activities are added throughout the year, so there is always something new to try.

Preschool story times are offered periodically throughout the year in the Town’s Attic. Story time features the reading of a history-themed picture book and a related game or craft. Visit our events listings to find the next preschool story time.

Robbe Family KitchenThe Robbe Family Kitchen is a period room exploring the family kitchen in a typical 1785 Peterborough home. The kitchen displays cookware, tableware, lighting and accessories that would have been found in William Robbe’s home on Old Dublin Road. The table is set with pewter dinnerware and serving pieces. The fireplace is arranged with ironware that made it possible for Eleanor Robbe to keep her family well fed. A dresser displays the containers, tools and gadgets necessary for keeping house on an 18th century farm. Learn about the central role the hearth played in 18th century family life and explore the yearly rhythm of life on an early New Hampshire farm.

robbe kitchen implementsWilliam and Eleanor Robbe were like many of their contemporaries, being the children of Scotch-Irish immigrants who came to New England in the early 18th century. William’s father was one of the first settlers in Peterborough. The Robbes settled on Old Dublin Road building a home and farm on land next to the farm built by William’s brother Alexander. William Robbe was said to have special powers- visit the Robbe Family Kitchen to learn more!