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PEABODY & LYNNFIELD WEEKLY NEWS - NOVEMBER 10, 2005
George Peabody House opens its doors to welcome new curator
PEABODY - The George Peabody House and Civic Center on Washington Street is one of the city's hidden jewels.
The Peabody House also serves as an Essex National Heritage Area Visitor Center Visitor Center, and many of the people who come into the center are from out of town, said Marieke Van Damme, the center's new curator.
Thursday, Nov. 17, there will be an open house at the George Peabody house that Van Damme said she hopes will bring more Peabody residents into the historic house. The open house will also be an opportunity for residents to meet Van Damme, who came to the Peabody House a little over a month ago after working for New England Historical Genealogical Society in Boston.
The house, which is the birthplace of well-known American financier and philanthropist George Peabody, was turned into a museum in 1969.
One of the biggest challenges the museum faces, Van Damme said, is finding an identity for a fairly new museurn in a region of the country chock full of historical sites and museums. "We want people to come in and ask questions and see what we're about," Van Damme said.
There are several different exhibit areas at the house. One focuses on the city's history as a leather-tanning center, while another Features items related to Peabody's colorful political history.
In addition to the exhibits that are on display, Van Damme said, the Peabody House also has a collection of commemorative glassware from England that was made in honor of George Peabody. She said she hopes to see the collection on display in the near future.
One group of Peabody residents who are familiar with the Peabody House is the school system's third graders. For years, a trip to the Peabody House hats been a tradition for those young students, a tradition that Van Damme said she wants to continue and to improve. Having a relationship with the schools is high on my priority list," she said, "We'll be soliciting feedback from the teachers. We want to be relevant to the curriculum and to their educational goals."
In addition to working with the schools, Van Damme said she would like to work more closely with the Peabody Historical Society and the public library. "There's so much interesting history and so much to work with," she said.
Finally, Van Damme said, she wants to work to make the history of George Peabody a larger part of the Peabody House.
"This is the George Peabody House," she said. "I would like to see a little more of George Peabody in it."