The New England Carousel Museum has been around since 1990. It is home to a collection of carousel horses, and other animals that were brought to the museum from places all over the world. One of the newest additions to the museum is a horse that was created as a tribute to Sandy Hook. In the carousel museum there is a functioning carousel for people to take a ride on that runs counterclockwise, as all carousels in the U.S do.
Upstairs in the museum there is a big open space available for people to have parties, and any other events. “We see from 1 to 101. We’ve had people ride the carousel for their birthday, and we’ve done first birthdays; we’ve done a lot of different programs for all different ages,” said Executive Director, Morgan Urgo.
It is also where the restoration of the carousel pieces takes place. A heat gun is used to take off the old paint from the pieces, and then an oil-based primer is applied, as well as Japanese oil. Every step is done by hand, including the sanding.
Also located upstairs is the Museum of Fire History, which opened in 2001, and was started by Carlyle F. Barnes. His great, great grandfather organized the fire department. Mark Redman, Curator and retired Lt. of the Bristol Fire Department led a tour of the museum. He said he always wanted to be a fireman, and that people like to hear the stories about the fire department history.
Redman said that the reason the fire museum, and carousel museum are in the same building is because there is a connection – horses used to pull the fire engines in New York.
The museum is filled with lots of memorabilia. There are leather water buckets in the museum that were used in the 1880’s. The buckets had rounded bottoms so they couldn’t be easily stolen. There are also fire alarm boxes, that would be located in different areas of town, and when pulled the firemen would show up. They got rid of most of them because they became too costly to maintain.
Before Urgo became the Executive Director of the museum, she was a volunteer.
“I always knew in my heart I’d end up here in some capacity,” said Urgo. “I love the space that we have. The building is beautiful; the collection – I’m always learning something new about the collection. I just don’t think you could come here every day and not be happy.”
“Next year is going to be our 30th anniversary. It’s exciting; it’s an opportunity for us to share what we’re doing with a lot more people, especially as a new Executive Director. I want to showcase the preservation that we’re doing – that we have living artists working and preserving history here in the museum, in Bristol.”
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