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Board puts hold on moving Hatfield museum’s stuff back to Town Hall

  • KATHIE GOW



Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 29, 2020

HATFIELD — Even though a second phase of renovation at Memorial Town Hall is complete, including installation of an elevator and renovation of the Council on Aging space, it remains uncertain whether the Hatfield Historical Museum will be able to resume using the building for storage.

Despite an appeal from Kathie Gow, the curator of the museum, to return its collection to the second floor of Town Hall from two off-site locations, the Select Board instead opted Tuesday to form a subcommittee to discuss whether it is appropriate to move these items back.

“We want to work with you and come up with the best solution possible,” said Select Board Chairwoman Diana Szynal.

Since the summer of 2019, as the $2.24 million renovation project at Town Hall continued, the museum’s materials, aside from what is held and on display at its main location on the second floor of the Hatfield Public Library, were relocated.

“There’s been a lot of things we haven’t been able to access over the last 16 months,” Gow said.

Gow said there is urgency for ensuring items are not deteriorating while they are at the Five College Library Annex and a unit at Benson’s Self Storage. “It’s less safe because it can’t be monitored,” Gow said.

But Select Board member Edmund Jaworski said that no decisions should be made on moving these historical materials back because Town Meeting has not yet voted on whether to pay for an additional $250,000 in environmental and humidity controls and other systems that would make the space more suitable for artifacts.

One long-talked-about plan had been for the museum to move its public displays and exhibits from the library to Town Hall when the refurbishment was complete.

Part of the renovation at Town Hall, including the installation of the elevator, was paid for with $125,000 from the Community Preservation Act account in 2012. At the time, there was an explicit understanding that the museum would benefit from this and upgrades to HVAC systems, said CPA Committee Chairman Robert Wagner.

Gow said the only cost to bringing the materials back is hiring a moving company, and she is worried about the space being used for other municipal purposes and programs.

“I’m just not understanding the reluctance to not move it back in,” Gow said. “Are you so desperate for spaces that you have to bump the historical museum out of there?”

Select Board member Brian Moriarty said the new group should discuss the future of the entire building, adding that the needs of the town are changing.

Szynal said the decision shouldn’t be rushed.

“This is about the long-term protection of this collection, not just the short term, (and) is it accessible in a couple of weeks,” Szynal said.