Thank you to everyone who made it out to see a two North Country museums last month! Both tours proved enriching experiences for everyone. Attendees had a chance to connect with peers and organizations from the region and chat about work issues and problem solve as well. The tours also helped to expand everyone’s knowledge not only of local history but of other projects and exciting work being done. Photos from the two excursions can be seen in online here.

A bit about the tours themselves.

The weather for the first tour at the Antique Boat Museum in Clayton couldn’t have been better. The beautiful weather enhanced the museum’s impressive campus of outdoor exhibits including La Duchesse houseboat. Docent Nancy led the group throughout the houseboat that served most recently as the summer home for the McNally (of Rand McNally Map Company fame) family. The boat was donated by the family to the museum and opened for tours in 2005. There was a beautiful piano on the boat, which was discovered in an off-site storage facility and luckily recognized as the original piano for the boat, provided an opportunity for one of the group to play a little bit of music (ignore the flubbing in the beginning, I haven’t performed for people in real life for a long time).

After viewing the houseboat, the group made their way to the digitization lab where Project Archivist Emily Nichols shared their state of the art equipment and set up where they use a powerful camera attached to a rack that automatically raises and lowers the camera based on the size of the object or scanning specifications. You can view some of the museum’s digitization work on their website here: Next  stop was the Lou Smith Library and Marion Clayton Link Archives where Curator and Collections Manager Matt Macvittie showed the various books, documents, and other items all related to boating or ship-building stored there.

After lunch, the group took a short drive to one of the museum’s off-site storage facilities called The Don Doebler Collections Storage Facility. Matt Macvittie gave an overview of the facility and was available for any and all questions that came up as we explored the vast number of vessels stored there. The space was packed to the gills and will be even fuller with the approach of winter when the boats currently in the water come back for storage.

The second tour, which also had the best weather, featured the North Star Underground Railroad Museum in Ausable Chasm as well as three additional historic sites. The group met at the museum where Director Jackie Madison guided everyone through the displays giving a brief talk prior to each themed room. She highlighted the work of active abolitionists in the North Country as well as those formerly enslaved people who settled in the area or continued on to Canada. Jackie also shared information about Roxham Road that is still used heavily today by those seeking asylum. Here are two videos that she recommended for viewing on that topic.

Next the group ventured to nearby Evergreen Cemetery where many local abolitionist’s and politician’s graves are located. Everyone took time to wander through and look at all the gravestones identifying some familiar names from the museum.

After Evergreen, Jackie took the group to a Quaker Union Settlement where stands a small Quaker cemetery located across from the last remaining Quaker meetinghouse of two that were located there. Stephen Keese Smith, Quaker abolitionist, who participated in the Underground Railroad is buried in the cemetery there. An article published in the Press-Republican from last summer which interviews Smith’s great-great grandson recounting some of his abolitionist work.

The tour ended with a visit to the Stephen Keese Smith farm (which is actually for sale right now) and viewing the barn and space that was used by Smith as a station on the Underground Railroad and one of the very last stops before Canada. Attendees were able to go into the hiding place and examine excavated objects from the barn as well.

These summer tours provided the opportunity for learning and connecting much different than we have had the last couple of years. Visiting these unique cultural spaces, observing the displays and their layout, and getting behind the scenes and bonus content regarding multiple locations was a positive experience that we’ll continue to develop and regularly embed into our professional development programming in the region.

If you have ideas for other regional North Country destinations for a program, please let us know! Email Christi at