By Julie Huss
DERRY — She's history.
And it's Karen Blandford-Anderson's job as curator of the local history museum to keep it that way.
The Derry woman and Heritage Commission member was named the Derry History Museum curator following the departure of longtime historian and museum curator Richard Holmes earlier this year. She now cares for the town's artifacts and collections in the Adams Memorial Building.
Keeping the town's history on display for everyone to enjoy and appreciate is the main focus of the job.
"We want the people of Derry to realize we have a real, rich history," Blandford-Anderson said. "There's a lot going on here."
The intimate, lower level museum is full of Derry's heritage, from special exhibits on veterans, war heroes and the dairy industry, to shoe manufacturers, local business, poet and onetime Derry resident Robert Frost, and famed astronaut and Derry native Alan B. Shepard. The first American in space, in fact, has his own room at the museum. From old printing presses of a local newspaper, right down to information about the first potato grown in the region, it's a mecca of information and historical finds from one corner to the next.
Blandford-Anderson said she stepped into big shoes following Holmes' tenure, but wants to keep the museum going as a place to visit for information and education.
"I didn't think we could continue without (Rick Holmes), this is his baby," she said. "But he hasn't disappeared."
In fact, she said she chats with Holmes on a regular basis to keep the town's history momentum moving forward.
She will continue doing inventory of artifacts and keeping a photo log of what's inside the museum.
A new exhibit taking shape will feature donated puppets and items from the family of famed puppeteer and Derry resident Nikki Tilroe.
Tilroe, who died in 2005, was a noted entertainer, dancer and artist, who worked alongside the likes of Muppets' notables Kermit Love and Jim Henson, and also Shari Lewis. She spent several years as an artist-in-resident at Chester College of New England, entertaining children and the community with puppet shows and other productions. Tilroe's vast collection of puppets, costumes, fabric and other items will soon have a place of honor in the museum, Blandford-Anderson said.
Blanford-Anderson said she hopes to spark the interest of people who want to learn more — from school groups to people researching family roots to anyone hoping to find a bit of Derry history they didn't know before.
"I've spent 18 years in Derry, that's part of it," she said. "And bringing the history of Derry to the people that live here, I think they'd find it very interesting."
Blandford-Anderson said the museum always volunteers to step forward and get involved in the safe keeping of Derry's history. Right now the museum is open by appointment.
The Derry Museum of History is found on Facebook and also online at derrymuseum.org.
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