Preservation Trust of Vermont
Preservation Award Narrative
Peggy Pearl, St. Johnsbury History & Heritage Center
When the Fairbanks Museum trustees voted to divest the institution of its history collection in 2010, museum history curator Peggy Pearl undertook the preservation of the extensive collection, to ensure a permanent place for these important artifacts. She established a board of directors for this undertaking, a name was selected, nonprofit status was attained, funds were raised and a building was finally purchased in 2014.
After 37 years teaching and running the museum’s education and history programs, Peggy had become the go-to person for local history. She was not, however, known as a fund raiser, a task she took on as director of the Center. After a long attempt to acquire (for $1) an unused building from the town, an effort thwarted by the discovery of PCBs, she personally raised $250,000 through local donations for the purchase of a c.1850 home and barn in the town’s Main Street Historic District.
• Carpets have been replaced.
• A classroom, the reception area and exhibit spaces have been furnished.
• Closets have been turned into glass-enclosed exhibit spaces.
• Professional accession software has been installed and volunteers trained in its use.
• A logo has been adopted.
• Computers have been purchased.
• Thanks to an Elizabeth Morse Genius Foundation grant Peggy obtained, the Carriage Barn has had foundation work, a concrete floor, new interior walls, structural reinforcement and a historically appropriate entrance.
Peggy accomplished nearly all of this with volunteer labor, and it all has been paid for by donations, grants and other funds she brought in.
The Center opened in 2015, with volunteers greeting visitors. Peggy has accomplished much since the Center found its permanent home in the fall of 2014. The future promises schooltime programs at the Center and in the schools, adult programming, a Festival of Traditional Crafts, Ghost Walks to highlight the personal side of local history and more.
Peggy’s dedication to this project is more than admirable, and it is no exaggeration to say that none of this would have happened without her leadership. The History Center will have a long and admirable place in the arts and culture landscape of the town, and children can grow up with an understanding of how their hometown developed thanks to Peggy.
Peggy, a veteran of the U.S. Navy, holds a BA in History Education. She grew up in St. Johnsbury and lives in East Ryegate.
Peggy’s work continues with:
• schooltime classes;
• permanent scale exhibit opening this summer, in conjunction with The St. Johnsbury Athenaeum’s unveiling of the restored monumental Domes of the Yosemite;
• replacement of the summer house that formerly stood in the yard;
• St. Johnsbury Players 80th anniversary exhibit;
• St. Johnsbury Band exhibit and more.