Woodman Institute Museum – Dover, New Hampshire - Atlas Obscura

Woodman Institute Museum

Dover, New Hampshire

A museum dedicated to "science, history and the arts" little changed since 1915. 


The thing about natural history museums is that they are usually concerned about remaining ‘up-to-date’ both scientifically and curatorially.

This can make finding science museums that have the look and feel that they might have had around the turn of the century a rather difficult thing to do. The Woodman Museum is an exception to this rule.

The museum was established on January 7, 1915 when philanthropist Annie Woodman, passed away leaving 100,000 to establish an “institute to promote local education in science, history and the arts.” Due to this expansiveness the museum has an eclectic collection, among it “egg collections in old glass cases with hand typed labels; taxidermied animals; a room full of old dolls; pinned butterflies; oyster jugs; and other local history items.” It is the natural history items that are particularly delightful today.

Among the scientific items are the largest American rock and mineral collection north of Boston, a ten foot stuffed polar bear from the Arctic (actually a later edition shot in 1969 on an ice floe near Siberia), an old piano made with genuine ivory keys, a 37 pound lobster, a large green sea turtle, a “man-killing, bi-valve clam from Australia,” a collection of stuffed birds, exhibits of “shells, fish and reptiles, a moose, a polar bear, alligator, hippopotamus” a four legged chicken, a two headed snake, and (somewhat sadly), the last cougar to be killed in New Hampshire, shot in 1853.

Spanning four buildings the non-natural history items include a complete early garrison log cabin set up inside another building, the “saddle in which President Abraham Lincoln rode to review troops shortly before his assassination,” numerous war relics dating back to the revolution, an old 13 star American flag, and “a set of samurai armor a Japanese delegate to the 1905 Portsmouth Peace Conference (Treaty of Portsmouth) gave to a waiter at the Hotel Wentworth.”

A museum of a museum, stepping into the Woodman Institute Museum, is like walking a hundred years back in time.

Know Before You Go

There is street parking on the side of the museum, but only a handful of spots.

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