Library Libations

Library is your key to March 'museum madness'

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Welcome March! March brings hope for spring and warmer days. Cabin fever is at its peak and that frosty foe winter still blows cold winds our way. How can we pass the time before the warmth of spring? Perhaps you’ve begun to fill in brackets for March Madness. There’s something I’m mad for but it isn’t basketball. I’d say March is all about museum madness.

We are very lucky to have such wonderful museums and learning centers in our small state. It is my goal to visit them all. While I believe in supporting local business, it can get pretty expensive visiting museums between admissions and special programs. If you are as frugal as I am, you’ll wonder how to save on admission to each place. Enter the library. Many libraries offer discounted passes to local museums. How does it work? Head down to your local library, hand the librarian your library card and (s)he will give you a special pass to present at the museum of your choice. Present the cashier with your pass and (s)he will apply the discount upon admission. Be sure to return the pass to your library when you’re done (sometimes we are persnickety about that sort of thing).
So where to begin? I’ll take this opportunity to brag about my little town of Bristol. We happen to have two mansions, an art museum and a marine museum. We boast a total of seven museums. Linden Place is one of my favorites, so much so, that I was married there in 2015. Built in 1810 by Russell Warren, this three-story Federal style mansion hosted four U.S. presidents. Step through the doors into the rich past of Bristol. Don’t miss the chandelier which once hung in Buckingham Palace.

If you are willing to venture out of Bristol and head up to Boston, don’t miss the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum. Only a few blocks from the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, this museum is home to more than 2,500 pieces and includes a stunning interior courtyard with statues and plant life. Before you go, be sure to check out some books about the museum. Start with "Eye of the beholder : masterpieces from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum" edited by Alan Chong. This book features many color plates of the collection and the museum’s interior. After that, check out Ulrich Boser’s "The Gardner Heist". In the early 1990s, two men were able to get into the museum and stole 500 million dollars worth of art. Want to know if they were recovered? You’ll have to read up! If you don’t have time to read, pick up the documentary by Rebecca Dreyfus called "Stolen".

If art isn’t your forte, fear not, there are even more options. If you love science, history and biology try New Bedford’s Whaling Museum, Coggeshall Farm or the Audubon Society. If you love nature and prefer to enjoy fresh air and long walks, swing by the Norman Bird Sanctuary. You can walk the trails in search of woodpeckers, hawks and maybe a bald eagle (it’s on their official “recent sightings” list.)

If you’ve been reading my columns since January, you can probably detect a theme. That little library card in your wallet is the key to many new adventures and a priceless education. In an age when irrelevant and false information spreads like wildfire, you can stop at the library for the RIGHT information. I once received a gift from an avid library patron. It was a T-Shirt that read “Google Can Find You 100,000 Answers. A librarian will find you the right one.” And we shall.

Kristin Amaral is the information and technology associate at Rogers Free Library

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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.