Samuel Slater Experience enjoys a banner first year
Jacklyn Bonneau, a guide at the Samuel Slater Experience in Webster, introduces Steve and Kathy Bullock of Medway to the interactive aspects of the museum. “I’m a teacher at heart,” Ms. Bonneau told the couple.
By ROD LEE
The Samuel Slater Experience on Ray Street in Webster faced the kind of challenges that would confront any startup—any nonprofit—in the first year of its existence, when the museum opened in March of 2022.
The biggest of these being, will the people come? Will patronage justify Chris Robert’s efforts to bring the story of pioneering manufacturer Samuel Slater and the history of the town of Webster (and Dudley and Oxford) to life?
Old trunks, an old radiator, an old phone booth, silent movies and all kinds of exhibits are housed at the Samuel Slater Experience on Ray Street in Webster.
For all involved in the venture, the answer is a resounding yes.
“We had more than 4000 visitors, groups of all kinds, schools, organizations, and a lot of private events, corporate and Chamber of Commerce gatherings,” SSE’s Barbara Van Reed said on March 11th.
Her remarks came a week after an official celebration of the museum’s first anniversary, which drew strong backing from local businesses and an appreciated turnout.
“There were a lot of happy raffle winners,” she said.
As evidence that the SSE is indeed attracting all sorts of support, a baby shower was taking place in the large meeting room just off the lobby, as Ms. Van Reed spoke.
“That’s been our major focus, to let people know we’re here,” she said. “In some respects the first impression people have of a museum is that it’s stodgy. People don’t think of the museum industry as a growth business. But this is different. It is interactive. This is what museums are going to be like in the future. We have good space and we have Main Street with the ambience.”
The Samuel Slater Experience also has the volunteers, who serve as guides and in other capacities. They are the backbone of the operation, she said.
“They are the best people in the world. This couldn’t happen without them,” Ms. Van Reed said.
Word of mouth—people telling others about the museum—is driving attendance, she noted. Visitors are coming in from near and far.
Plans are afoot to expand on what has already been put in place.
“We are looking at developing an exterior site plan with more parking,” she said. This will enable the museum to host concerts and other attractions beyond its doors.
Meanwhile bookings continue.
On Saturday, April 15th, Sharon Geyer, a fiber artist who specializes in weaving, will make an appearance as part of a one-day Log Cabin Workshop for intermediate weavers. This occurs from noon to 3:00 p.m.
Ms. Geyer began her weaving career in 1995 as a tapestry weaver (French tapestry technique) under a master artist in Philadelphia. From there, she began to explore patterns and textures on a large eight-harness loom. Her membership in the Yankee Fiber Friend Guild has advanced her prowess over the past two decades.
Her most recent work has been as a rigid heddle weaving instructor at Woolworks in Putnam. The rigid heddle loom captured her heart from the first project in 2019. The ease of use and portability of these little looms has led to the current weaving workshop series she has developed.
On Thursday, April 20th, Richard Hughes returns to the SSE, during School Vacation Week, “and we have discovered that kids love silent movies,” which are part of Mr. Hughes’ presentation. “You’d be amazed,” Ms. Van Reed said.
The Samuel Slater Experience will benefit too from being incorporated into the final segment of a documentary about “Slatersville” that has been coming together for some time now.
The museum’s hours are 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Friday and Saturday and noon to 4:00 on Sundays. Visit https://samuelslaterexperience.org or call 508-461-2955 for information about field trips and tours.
Visitor numbers including those who showed up for private events totaled 4500 in the museum’s first year, Sally Patterson of the SSE said.
Another beginner weaving class starts April 22.
Contact Rod Lee at [email protected] or 774-232-2999.