CHATHAM – A World War I-era grenade discovered last Thursday at the Chatham Historical Society's Atwood House and Museum was found to contain no explosives and deemed safe for display.
The grenade was found while museum officials were updating a recent exhibit on “Chatham in the Military.” It had apparently been stored in the museum's basement archives for decades.
“The first thing we wanted to know was if it is safe,” Museum Executive Director Danielle Jeanloz said. “And if it is, could we display it?”
The grenade was examined by Chatham Police Sergeant William Glover who found that although the device retained its pin, there was no explosive inside. Glover said he could see while the grenade was still in its storage box that it was empty inside. No explosive residue was present, either.
Chatham resident Alice Guild, a columnist for the Chatham Monitor in the 1920s, donated the grenade to the museum, according to its archives. The grenade had an accession number attached to it which appeared quite old, Jeanloz said, and may date from the time of its donation, perhaps as long ago as the 1920s. While it was documented in the electronic database the museum initiated in 2008, there was no indication if it was safe.
Jeanloz said Janet Marjollet, head of the museum's costumes and textiles department, was going through boxes and found the grenade. “Then we noticed it had a pin in it,” she said.
The museum has more than 20,000 items in its archives, and not all of them are logged into the database.
“We have a lot of treasures in our collection and in our building,” Jeanloz said. “When we start going through looking for specific things, it can get interesting.”
A year ago, when a human skull was found on the museum grounds, officials learned that the correct protocol in such situations is to call the police, she said.
“They're really good, they tell us what's going on, how to handle things,” she said. It was later determined that the skull had originally be found on the outer beach and left in a bag in the bushes behind the museum. It was thought to be of Native American origin and was more than 100 years old.
The museum is currently closed for renovations to the Atwood House foundation, but volunteers and staff are working to refresh exhibits for the museum's holiday opening. The grenade will be included in the “Chatham in the Military” exhibit when the museum reopens Dec. 9. The exhibit will continue next summer with more new items, Jeanloz said.
Over the winter the museum staff will organize and clean the storage area where the grenade was found. Some items there are not documented, and others that have accession numbers attach to them don't correspond to numbers in the database, Jeanloz said.
“We're trying to make sure that everything is properly documented,” she said. That's especially important with potentially dangerous items like the grenade. “Ten years from now, someone may find it again and we don't want them to panic.”
The Atwood House and Museum will host a number of holiday events this coming season, beginning Dec. 9 with a “Grub with the Grinch” children's breakfast, followed by Santa's Workshop, a living display featuring woodworker Richard Noyes. For more activities, see the museum's website, www.chathamhistoricalsociety.org. The museum will be open Tuesdays through Saturdays, Dec. 9 to 12, from 1 to 4 p.m.