The Amherst History Museum is housed in the three-story Simeon Strong House, which was built in the 1750s. Simeon Strong was a judge in Amherst who died in 1805. He was responsible for improving the laws of Massachusetts.
There are thirteen rooms in the Strong house, about half of which are available for tours.
“We take you on a trip back through the centuries. We specialize in artifacts,” says Philip Shaver, the president of the Amherst Historical Society.
The museum is home to around 7,000 historical objects from Amherst. This includes looms, spinning wheels, books, magnifying glasses, and one interesting looking bed.
“We have a rope bed. The mattress is supported by ropes. If the ropes get loose, we have a fork-shaped tool to tighten the bed so the bed bugs won’t bite,” Shaver says. “Sleep tight for us means twisting the ropes to make them tighter.”
And one of the principal attractions at the museum is Emily Dickinson’s dress.
“This is an original white wrapper that Miss Dickinson wore around the house that has a little pocket which she could place little writings or thoughts that might occur to her,” Shaver says. “This is an object that truly belongs in Amherst. We try to collect objects that belong in Amherst and that tell an Amherst story.”
Outside the museum is a large sycamore tree that was planted in the 1750s. There used to be a pair of them and they were “bride and groom” trees. Shaver says planting two sycamore trees was a common way to celebrate a new marriage.
“We’re thinking of planting new sycamores further out so they present less of a threat to the house but continue to show our appreciation for this colonial custom.”
The ultimate goal for the museum is to teach people about the town’s history.
“We hope to provoke curiosity in the stories of old Amherst. Our mission is to connect people to the history of Amherst, its culture, and its objects.”
Tours begin in May and continue throughout the fall. Check out their website amhersthistory.org to learn more.