Volunteers from Falmouth Land Trust and the Falmouth Historical Society in front of the Tidewater farmhouse. They were able to salvage artifacts before the building was razed. Among the volunteers is FHS member Betsy Whitcomb, center, and FHS member Sally Farneth, far right. Contributed / Falmouth Historical Society

FALMOUTH — Members of the Falmouth Historical Society have remained busy during the pandemic by collecting historic artifacts, developing new programs and increasing the society’s online presence.

The Falmouth Heritage Museum may not be open to the public, but it’s now home to new artifacts salvaged from Tidewater Farm before it was razed in December 2020. According to society president David Farnham, the buildings are thought to have been built between 1795 and 1820. The society expressed interest in preserving the property in 2019, but after conducting a feasibility study, it was decided the buildings had fallen into extreme disrepair and the cost of preserving them was too high.

Like most of the older homes around here, we find there’s a lot of history, and that it reflects the history of the people of Falmouth,” Farnham said. “That particular home had been operated as a farm and there had also been a shipyard in the front yard, so it was tied into both our maritime and our agricultural traditions here in Falmouth.”

Volunteers were able to scour the property for items of historic value before it was demolished and successfully salvaged eight doors with hardware, a fireplace mantle, and a late 19th-century cast iron sink from the barn, among other artifacts.

During the nonprofit’s annual meeting Jan. 19, members Betsy Whitcomb and Sally Farneth outlined “Rural Life in Maine,” a new program for young students to compare and contrast their lives to the lives of Maine children who grew up in the late 19th and early 20th century.

Inspiration for the topic came from Whitcomb’s grandmother, who wrote an autobiographical account of her childhood growing up as the youngest of nine children on a farm in rural Lewiston in the 1890s. 

Farneth, a retired second grade teacher, said the presentation would cover topics ranging from acceptable apparel for children – including young boys wearing dresses – to the inner workings of the family dynamic, with children responsible for a variety of chores that kept the household functioning.

According to Farneth, Falmouth second grade teachers typically present a historic unit in the spring, so she’s hoping to be able to implement the program then, possibly with outdoor presentations at Falmouth primary schools when weather permits. 

The society has also been busy moving catalogs online. Artifacts acquired between 2009-2019 have been successfully digitalized, but there is still work to be done before the database is open for public use.

Farnham said the organization is taking an extremely conservative approach to reopening due to the older demographic of both visitors and volunteers. The museum likely will not reopen to the public until everyone has been vaccinated for COVID-19.  

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