Museums for Free: Love Your Upper Valley Libraries

Submitted a year ago
Created by
Susan B. Apel

Looking for an affordable adventure? Do this right now. Go to the website of the library in your town, or pay a visit to the front desk. Ask about museum passes. You might find yourself an art-filled (or history-steeped) afternoon, for free.

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A little research into a handful of Upper Valley towns in both Vermont and New Hampshire showed that just about every library can put a pass in your hand that will allow you--and your family or friend--entry into an area museum or historic attraction. Each library has its own list of offerings. Here are some of the common Upper Valley venues available through most libraries. 

The Billings Farm and Museum (Woodstock VT)

American Precision Museum (Windsor VT) (read about it here)

Vermont Institute of Natural Science (Quechee VT)

Some libraries also provide passes to museums and other attractions as far away as Burlington VT and Boston MA, including the Shelburne Museum (Burlington), the Museum of Fine Arts (Boston), and the ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center (Burlington). On a recent trip on a pass to the Currier Museum of Art in Manchester NH, courtesy of the Lebanon Library, my husband and enjoyed free admission for 2 adults--a $30 value.

The Fells Estate and Gardens in Newbury NH has an historic home, gardens with sculpture, and walking trails.

The Howe Library in Hanover NH has the most extensive list of local places, and includes the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston, also the Fairbanks Museum and Planetarium in St. Johnsbury VT. Lebanon has a variety of local options, including The Fells Historic Estate and Gardens in Newbury NH (read about it here) and the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center in Concord NH. Lyme lists many of the most common and this: the Squam Lakes Science Center in Holderness NH.  Norwich and Royalton include the Vermont History Museum in Montpelier. 

American Precision Museum in Windsor VT

The fine print: Every pass has different rules. You may have to have, or get, a library card. Some passes provide totally free admission; others offer a discount. The number of people covered may vary. You will have to reserve for a specific date and pick up the pass in advance of your trip. (The librarian will sign and date it.) General admission may be covered, but not special exhibitions. Passes are limited in number. 

It is easy, no-fuss, and can save you money. The place to start is your town library's website. You may have to poke around a little; I found the information by searching for "museum" or looking under "programs" or "resources." In some cases, the website contained no reference to museum passes but an email or phone call revealed that yes, the library has them.

Your immediate mission is to find a museum adventure for yourself. While on the website, however, you might want to note other no- or low-cost activities that your library offers besides borrowing those all-important books. I discovered movie nights, Lego clubs, online programs for learning a foreign language, numerous book clubs for adults and younger, an Italian conversation group (Hartland), French lessons (Howe), printed copies of the New York Times Sunday crossword puzzle, and art exhibitions within the library walls. Bethel Public Library will keep you up-to-date with its listing of offerings at local performing arts venues like the Hopkins Center, Pentangle, and the Chandler. It even hosted a community tea. 

Have you ever used a museum pass from your local library? If so, feel free to leave a comment below and tell us where you went. Or let us know if your library has a program of any kind that you especially love. 


I write about the arts and other interesting things in the Upper Valley. Please sign up to receive an email each time I post something new by clicking here.  To view my profile page or to read previous posts, please click here.

Susan B. Apel, writer, ArtfulEdge


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