Wright Museum looks back at 2020, ahead to 2021

When the Wright Museum of World War II initially planned its 2020 season, May – October, one now familiar word was missing from staff strategy sessions.

“Pandemic’ was not in our everyday vocabulary,” said longtime Executive Director Mike Culver, who said staff became intimately familiar with the word during the course of 2020.

“Like all museums, I am sure our attendance suffered this year because of it,” he added.

The 2020 season, however, did have plenty of highlights, including the unveiling of a renovated entryway, store, Art Gallery and new Education Center as part of Project25. Celebrating the museum’s 25-year history by mapping out its next 25 years, Project25 addresses five priorities identified in 2017 during “an extensive strategic and architectural analysis phase.”

The Wright’s new DuQuoin Education Center where lectures will take place in 2021

“These five priorities include enhancements to exhibit galleries and storylines, space for educational programs, collections care, vehicle maintenance and street presence,” said Anne Blodget, president of The Wright’s Board of Directors.

With expanded space and dramatic lighting, the Art Gallery drew rave reviews from visitors.

“The space enables us to present traveling exhibits of the highest quality,” said Culver. “We essentially have a world-class exhibit and art space right here in Wolfeboro.”

One highlight in 2020 included “Vietnam: The Real War,” co-presented by Service Credit Union, which featured award-winning images from the Archives of the Associated Press. 

“This was a powerful exhibit,” said Curator Justin Gamache, who said the expanded gallery space enables The Wright to create “thoughtful exhibits that inspire.”

“We are all thrilled at the kind of experience we can create for visitors now,” he added.

According to Culver, staff and volunteers alike worked especially hard to make visitors feel welcome.

“More importantly, I believe we made visitors feel safe and normal,” he said. “We all needed that this year.”

In looking ahead to 2020, Culver expressed enthusiasm for what he said will be “a memorable exhibit season,” highlighted by two exhibits that reveal the crucial, often unheralded, role women played in WWII.

“WASP: The Untold Story” will recount how WWII-era women became trained pilots who tested experimental and repaired aircraft, ferried aircraft from factory to base, pulled targets behind their planes for artillery practice and trained other pilots. “Women and the War Effort: Recruiting Posters of WWII” will illustrate how America used propaganda in the form of posters to recruit women to participate in the war effort. 

“If 2020 has taught us anything this year, it is that an understanding of our history is critically important,” explained Culver. “We look forward to 2021 and, hopefully, making some history of our own with thoughtful exhibits and educational experiences that inspire visitors of all ages.”

The region’s leading resource for educators and learners of all ages on World War II, The Wright features more than 14,000 items in its collection that are representative of both the homefront and battlefield.