‘It’s New England’s Smithsonian’: American Heritage Museum celebrates history


‘It’s New England’s Smithsonian’: American Heritage Museum celebrates history
Tank Demonstration Weekend – American Heritage Museum (Photo/Courtesy)

HUDSON – The American Heritage Museum is New England’s Smithsonian and Hudson’s hidden gem.

The museum, located off of Main Street in eastern Hudson, features an almost-unrivaled display of military history, with artifacts ranging from fragments of the Berlin Wall to clusters of armored vehicles and tanks. The military exhibit, part of the Jacques M. Littlefield Collection that was donated to the museum in 2013, sits beside two other equally impressive exhibits on aviation and vintage automobiles.

All in all, it’s a world-class collection conveniently located in the heart of Massachusetts.

“It’s still a very fresh, very new museum, but it is extraordinary in that this museum is the only type of collection like this in North America. We’re continuing to expand and develop programs and exhibits in the museum regularly. The collection is just astounding — it’s a jaw-dropper,” American Heritage Museum Director of Marketing and Communications Hunter Chaney told the Community Advocate in an interview.

The Littlefield Collection, displayed in the museum’s main building, traces military history from the Revolutionary War to the modern era. The museum features military vehicles, tanks, uniforms, weaponry and much more. The American Heritage Museum continues to feature more historical artifacts; in January, the museum dedicated a German railcar, the start of a brand-new comprehensive Holocaust exhibit. There is also an extensive exhibit on the Hanoi Hilton that was recently unveiled.

“Coming across these rare artifacts and reconstructing them and restoring them for public display is a timeless objective for us. This is something that we’ll continuously do until the very end. It’s what motivates us,” said Chaney.

‘It’s New England’s Smithsonian’: American Heritage Museum celebrates history

The museum also has one of the world’s largest collections of historical aircraft, spanning from the early days of aviation to advanced, technological marvels used in the Korean War. It’s all under one on-site hangar, ready for public viewing. The American Heritage Museum also boasts an impressive collection of automobiles — from as early as 1901 — housed adjacent to the airplanes.

The world-class collection is impressive alone, but it’s enhanced by the museum’s unique approach. Instead of allowing the items to sit passively, the American Heritage Museum pushes the envelope, looking for unique and innovative ways to utilize the collection. History comes alive at the museum.

“It’s one thing to see a static artifact, but when you see things in motion, when you’re enveloped in history or you have a chance to interact with a moment in history, that’s where true understanding occurs. We’re continuing to really emphasize that,” Chaney said. “We have a saying here: ‘If you read about history, you might remember it. If you experience something from history, you tend not to forget.’ That’s what we try to do. We provide an environment that not only engages you in history, but excites you to want to learn more.”

For instance, on May 25 and 26, the museum will hold a World War II tank demonstration, firing up the massive 1940s-era engines and driving them around the property. The museum’s website allows community members to register to drive the vehicles. At the demonstration — complete with World War II reenactments — the museum will be hosting several World War II veterans, some of whom may have driven the tanks themselves in the war.

‘It’s New England’s Smithsonian’: American Heritage Museum celebrates history

Tank demonstrations will continue in August.

In June, the museum will host Tanks, Wings & Wheels Weekend. The museum makes an excellent Father’s Day destination, and the entire collection will be on display for community members to enjoy.

New this year, the museum will hold a World War II reenactment of the pacific theater in July. In October, the reenactments will continue with the World War II battlefield reenactment, which features over 250 actors trying to take over an airfield under heavy Nazi fire.

“The premise is that the Germans have captured the airfields of Stow, Massachusetts, and it’s up to the Allied forces to take over the airfield and further their advancement. We have this dynamically choreographed reenactment. It’s just an excellent way to engage people in World War II history,” said Chaney.

In September, join the museum for Historic Aviation Weekend. Specialists from around the world will come to Hudson to present the planes. Chaney said that the museum “pulls out his favorite toys” for the event.

The American Heritage Museum is located at 568 Main St. in Hudson. For more information on the museum and the Collings Foundation, please visit https://www.americanheritagemuseum.org/.

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