Brooks Academy Museum Featuring New Exhibits

By: William F. Galvin

Topics: History

A glass slide photograph of a gathering outside The Exchange Building in Harwich Center is part of the museum's “Cape Cod Pictorial and Magic Lantern” exhibit.  COURTESY PHOTO

HARWICH — The Brooks Academy Museum and the Elmer Crowell Barn will open on Father's Day and admission will be free. There are several new exhibits for visitors to enjoy, including an art show titled, “The Exchange Building,” featuring art from local high school students.

There are a lot of sights to see in the museum this year, including a new exhibit featuring “magic lanterns.” The exhibit is titled “Cape Cod Pictorial and the Magic Lantern, and How Did They Do It?” The pictorial features photographs of Cape Cod, many of Harwich, from the Harwich Historical Society's digitized glass slide collection.

The glass slides belonged to Samuel Moody and included the photographs of Lawrence B. Robbins. The glass slide photographs detail Cape scenes, including whale strandings and many local shots of Pleasant Lake, cranberry bogs and the former Exchange Building. The historic photographs provide great insight into days gone by on the Cape. On the technical side, there will be a display of the “magic lanterns” used to show the glass slides.

Many of us have marveled at the Milton Welt painting of “The Exchange Building” in the foyer of the selectmen's office at town hall, but the Harwich Historical Society will offer additional insight in the mammoth building that occupied the corner of Main Street and Route 124 for more than 100 years. The building was initially constructed in 1855, but was destroyed by fire 24 years later, and rebuild by Chester Snow in 1884, only to be torn down in 1965.

“An iconic image of Harwich, it was 58-by-100- feet in size, four stories tall, and topped with a cupola, making it the highest structure on Cape Cod,” Harwich Historical Society Executive Director Janet Cassidy said. “A true multi-use building, it housed stores, town offices, a post office, a police shooting range, roller rink and 800-seat auditorium. Come see how students interpreted the building in art.”

There are other new exhibits in the museum this year, including a “Captain's Parlor,” showing how Harwich's wealthy sea captains lived “back in the day.” And if you are wondering how the children kept busy, there is an exhibit of “Toys from Long Ago.” There is also a segment of a historic school classroom tucked into a corner of the building on the second floor. The museum will also continue its displays on trains and cranberries this year.

Harwich was the home and workshop for Elmer Crowell, (1862-1952), who became an internationally famous master carver of exquisite wooden birds that are highly sought after today and sell for truly vast sums. The Crowell Barn workshop, which was relocated to the museum site, is furnished as it was during Elmer's day and is used for bird carving demonstrations. The restoration of the building was sponsored by the town of Harwich and funded through the Community Preservation Act.

The Museum and Crowell Barn will be open to the public from 2 to 4 p.m. this Sunday, June 18. The museum is located at 80 Parallel St. in Harwich Center, just off Main Street and Sisson Road. Go to or call 508-432-8089 for more information, and visit them on Facebook.