Commentary: The treasure of the Barnes Museum

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As many of you may have heard, this is Marie Secondo’s last month as curator at the Barnes Museum before embarking on a new adventure: retirement. On behalf of the board of directors for the Southington Public Library and Museum, as well as the library and Barnes staff, I wish her well and thank her for her many accomplishments in her time at the Barnes Museum.

The Barnes Museum, formerly known as the Amon Bradley Homestead, was willed to the Town of Southington to become a museum under the management of the Southington Library. There have only been three curators since opening its doors in 1974, Marie being the third. Built in 1836, the homestead housed three generations of the same family and has left a detailed history of Southington through their comprehensive records and belongings.

Marie Secondo, who was selected as curator in 2003, has tirelessly and with extreme dedication promoted the Barnes Museum and raised awareness of this cultural treasure. Visitors now come from across the United States, and from around the world, to visit Southington and the Barnes Museum.

Marie is also credited with bringing the Museum into the 21st century—seamlessly blending timeless history with modern needs. As the first curator with a computer, she is responsible for the digitization of the Barnes Museum collections—or, the 748 GB of storage she was able to accomplish in her 16-year tenure. For those of you who want a reference to just how massive 748 GB is, 1 GB is equivalent to 10 yards of books on a shelf. That means that Marie has digitally cataloged 7,480 yards, or 4.25 miles of books!

Cataloging the collection involves photographing and documenting every physical item in the museum, as well as each page of the 52 family diaries and expansive Captain Andrew Upson Civil War letters. These invaluable collections bring to life the Bradley and Barnes families, and have been seamlessly integrated into all museum tours. To learn more about the family, Marie has also transcribed these documents and made them available on the Barnes Museum website: www.thebarnesmuseum.org

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Despite these modern advances, stepping through the doors of the Barnes Museum still feels like stepping back in time. One of the most successful traditions has become high tea at the museum. Offered at least quarterly, these special events sell out months in advance. Guests of a high tea are treated to immaculate table settings and a delicious assortment of small bites, including homemade trifles, scones and clotted cream. Marie’s care and attention to detail is what makes these events truly special and keeps them in such high demand with the community.

What is next for the Barnes Museum is a mystery that only time will reveal. What is certain is that Marie Secondo’s passion and hard work have left a permanent mark on one of Southington’s cherished resources. Thank you Marie, for all you have done to preserve our history and create such a cultural destination in our town.

Kristi Sadowski is the director of the Southington Public Library. To learn more, visit them at www.SouthingtonLibrary.org.