Atwood House, Marconi Open For Free Locals Day Saturday

By: Tim Wood

Topics: Local Museums , Local History

CHATHAM – Saturday is “Free Locals Day” at two museums.

As long as one person in a party has a driver's license with a Cape Cod address, the entire group gets free admission to the Atwood House and Museum and the Chatham Marconi Maritime Center, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. May 11.

“It's our way of making the museums accessible to local families across the Cape that might not be able to come otherwise,” said Danielle Jeanloz, executive director of the Chatham Historical Society's Atwood House and Museum. It's also a way of thanking members of the local community who support the museums year-round. “They're our biggest supporters, not only as visitors but also as volunteers and donors,” she said.

Visitors this Saturday will be able to preview the Stage Harbor Road museum's summer exhibits, which include “Main Street Cape Cod,” a look at Main Streets in several Cape towns; “Chatham Digs,” which examines items found during last year's archaeological dig at the Old Atwood House; and “The Flight of the NC-4,” marking the 100thanniversary of the first transatlantic flight, which stopped in Chatham. The museum opens for the season May 24.

“We're very excited to be rolling them out,” Jeanloz said of the new exhibits.

Marconi's Wireless History and Wireless Today galleries will be open and have been refreshed, according to Robert Fishback. Also featured is a special display marking the centennial of the formation of the Radio Corporation of America, which emerged following the government control of facilities such as the Chatham Marconi station. On Dec. 1, 1919, RCA consisted of just five radio communications stations, including Chatham. RCA would eventually become one of the premiere U.S. radio company. The new details how the company grew out of the relationship between government and industry. The center will open for the season weekends beginning May 24.

This is the second year local museums have joined to offer Free Locals Day. Last year the Chatham Shark Center also participated, but this year the Orleans Road facility is being renovated and expanded and is not yet open to the public.

This is the perfect time of year for locals to come out and visit the museums, Jeanloz said, since people are not yet in busy summer mode and getting around isn't as challenging as it will be in a month or so. Family and friends who are in town visiting are welcome, as long as one member of the party has a Cape Cod driver's license. Exposing people to the museums is the best way to draw in more visitors, she said.

“The best advertising for us is through word of mouth and referrals,” said Jeanloz.

The Main Street exhibit should be particularly interesting to folks from around the Cape. Inspired by the Cape Cod Museum Trail, it was originally going to focus on Chatham but was expanded as Jeanloz and her colleagues got to know the people running other Cape museums. An inquiry about including a look at the history of other Cape Main Streets received an enthusiastic response, she said, and more than 20 organizations are participating in the exhibit, will remain on display for two years and likely be updated and changed periodically.

“It's reflective of what the Cape Cod Museum Trail has done, which is to provide access to the public to what's out there for museums across the Cape,” Jeanloz said. “It encouraged us to collaborate and work together on various projects.”

The exhibit shows how “history crosses so many boundaries” and fulfills the museum's goal to “inspire, motivate, create and entertain,” she said.

Docents will be available at both the Atwood House and Museum and the Marconi Center during Free Locals Day; there will be activities for all ages and gift shops will be open.

The Atwood House and Museum is at 347 Stage Harbor Rd. The Chatham Marconi Maritime Center is at 831 Orleans Rd. (Route 28). The Center's antenna field trail will be open for those wishing to take a stroll through nature.