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  • Writer's pictureThis Is Rutherford

This is the Meadowlands Museum

By Jennifer Ersalesi

Meadowlands Museum at 91 Crane Ave

Rutherford Historical Narrative Video:

At 91 Crane Avenue in Rutherford there is a historical building and museum with many permanent and rotating exhibits. For nearly 60 years, The Meadowlands Museum has celebrated the history of our local area and has become a popular place for field school trips, personal visits, and public gatherings.

Rutherford Borough Historian, Rod Leith, explained, “Ever since former Lincoln School principal, Dorothy Davies Sudall led a group of PTA parents up to Connecticut to learn what it takes to form a community museum, the Rutherford area has been fortunate to have a place where local history is always on display. And what was formed back then in the early 1960's has continued its success in encouraging people to learn about everything from rare minerals from northern New Jersey mines to schoolboy football legends and celebrations of nineteenth century Passaic River boating. Possibly one of the most treasured moments in Meadowlands Museum history came in in April of 2015 when it hosted five generations of the family of Thaddeus L. Marshall, the African-American street peddler who was the muse for William Carlos Williams' Red Wheelbarrow poem.” Robin Reenstra, member of the Meadowlands Museum Board, told This is Rutherford more about the museum, its history, and its current exhibits.

TIR: The Meadowlands Museum resides in the Yereance-Berry House, built in 1804. What makes this American-Dutch farmhouse important to the history of Rutherford?

RR: The Yereance-Berry House is among the oldest Dutch farmhouses still standing in southern Bergen County. It was a residence until 1974 when the Museum purchased the home and many of the original woodworking details still exist in the building today. The house is registered on both the state and national Registries of Historic Buildings.

On the back porch of 9 Ridge Road, William Carlos Williams holds son Eric with Paul Herman, his father-in-law behind. Photo credit: Rod Leith

TIR: There are many exhibits that are permanent in the museum and some that change throughout the year. Of all the exhibits in the museum, of which are you most proud?

RR: We are proud of all of our exhibits. That said, three are of particular note. First, is our permanent exhibit on William Carlos Williams, the poet and doctor. We have had international scholars come from around the world just to visit this room and the large collection of items from his life that are on display. Second, our upstairs rooms are devoted to antique toys and to the geology of the meadowlands region. Both bring delight to young children, including the room with a black light that features rocks of the areas that glow in the dark, Third, our lower level includes both an original colonial fireplace used for cooking and a pre-electric kitchen area.

William Carlos and his brother Edgar both used this high chair, which doubled as a stroller. Photo credit: Rod Leith

TIR: You mentioned the William Carlos Williams exhibit, why is this exhibit particularly important to Rutherford?

RR: The William Carlos Williams room is dedicated to the life and work of Dr. William Carlos Williams. He was a local physician in Rutherford, but also was an important poet of this time. He was very active in all aspects of the area's community theater. William Carlos Williams was a friend and contemporary of notable poets Ezra Pound, and E. E. Cummings, as well as the photographer and artist Charles Scheeler.

TIR: The “A Stitch in Time” Exhibit, curated by Danielle Morin was a recent exhibit at the museum. What can you tell us about this exhibit?

RR: The "A Stitch in Time" exhibit was in place from spring 2018 to March 1, 2019. This exhibit featured the fashions of the Meadowlands area from 1895 - 1915, along with the industry of the area that produced the fashions. From silk mills, to bleacheries, embroidery factories, to thread and button manufacturers, as well as the printing of fabrics, the Meadowlands Region was home to numerous companies that provided jobs to the growing population.

TIR: On March 2nd, a new exhibit, “Against the Grain: Notable Women of the Meadowlands” opened. Can you tell us more about this particular exhibit?

RR: "Against the Grain: Notable Women of the Meadowlands" is a new exhibit that showcases the lives of a number of women throughout the Meadowlands area from pre-colonial times to the modern day. These women are incredibly diverse in their fields of activity, but each one represents an example of how women have been able to go "against the grain" by doing things that were not expected of women of their time. The Museum is inviting all those who visit the exhibit to also nominate women they know who exhibit these traits. They will be considered as an addition to an ongoing (and ever growing) slide show of other notable women of the area.

TIR: This is the Meadowlands Museum's 58th year of operation. Has the mission of the Museum changed throughout the years?

RR: The Meadowlands Museum was first started in 1961 by a group of PTA members who worked with the Rutherford Board of Education to produce museum exhibits about local history and culture that were presented to Rutherford's school children. It was first named the "Rutherford Junior Museum" and was housed in an unused classroom at Sylvan School. Later, it moved to the second floor of a building on Ames Avenue, and expanded its focus by renaming itself as "Meadowlands Museum" in 1971.

In 1974 the Museum purchased its current home at 91 Crane Avenue, Rutherford, where it continues to preserve, exhibit and educate the public (including school children) about the history and culture of the Meadowlands Area.

TIR: It is possible for someone to become a member of the Meadowlands Museum. What are some of the benefits of membership?

RR: Yes. Membership is an important way for the public to become involved in the Museum, not only through the benefits that are given back to the members, but also by the value that Membership funds provide to the Museum. For as little as $15, seniors and students can become members of the Museum. Other membership levels include: individuals for $25, family memberships for $40, donors for $100, sponsors for $150, patrons for $250 and benefactors for $500. Students, seniors and individual memberships will receive email notifications of all Museum events and exhibits. Family memberships will receive email notifications, as well as one guaranteed enrollment in the Museum's August Youth Craft Days Event. Donor level members and above will receive free tickets to Museum events such as the Annual Chocolate Tasting event in early February, a specialty wine tasting event, and special speaker events.

TIR: How is money raised for the upkeep of the museum and the changing exhibits?

RR: All of the funding for the Museum comes from memberships, donations, event profits, sponsorships by area companies, the sale of items from our Museum store, entrance donations (recommended $5 per adult and $3 per child), and a limited number of grants. We have also established the means for people to donate without a personal expense through an Amazon Smile non-profit connection, the Boiling Springs Savings Bank Community Alliance Program, and Investors Bank's Care 2 Share program. In each of these last three examples, a percentage of the profits that the hosting organization would otherwise make from a donor's activities with them are granted quarterly to the Museum - without the Museum knowing the actual source of the funds. We also are hosting a Go-Fund Me site to raise monies currently needed for the restoration of the exterior of the building. In short, the Museum receives no government operating assistance and is always looking for ways to raise the money that is needed to keep the heat and lights on in its building.

TIR: Volunteers are very important to the sustainability and progress of many organizations. What roles do the volunteers at the Meadowlands Museum play?

RR: The Meadowlands Museum is currently operated completely by volunteers. Between our volunteer based Board of Trustees and other individuals, all of the work to maintain the property, develop the exhibits, host events, as well as host special group tours is the direct result of our dedicated group of volunteers. Volunteers carry on many tasks such as gardening in the summer, developing and maintaining traveling exhibits that are set up in a number of the Region's public libraries, staffing booths at community events, maintaining the Museum's website, and helping with events like the Spring Plant sale or Scarecrow Day in the fall. There are numerous opportunities for anyone with a little time to spare to share in the importance of maintaining our history.

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