Have you heard of the Nature Museum which used to run out of the junior/senior school on Pulteney Street? Did you visit?
The Nature Museum first opened its doors in April 1937 and was led by director and founder Dr. Beulah Glasgow, who held a doctorate in botany from Yale University. Glasgow taught high school for 18 years and was extremely dedicated to developing the museum and educating young students about different animals, plants, insects, history, art and much more.
As director of the Nature Museum, she composed scrapbooks and created a bi-weekly newsletter to distribute to students. She also used her connections in Geneva and the far-reaching scientific community to create exhibits and programs that would expose the students to hundreds of species of animals and plants.
The first exhibit that opened featured dozens of live animals from the great horned owl and red tailed hawk to honey bees, ants, moths, turtles and snakes. A great favorite of the students was Glasgow’s raccoon, Jerry, whom she saved from starvation. She was granted a special permit from the State Conservation Department allowing her to keep him as a household pet. Unfortunately, Jerry was reported missing in 1940 and I could find no record that he had been found.
By 1943, the museum had expanded from one room to three and was visited by the assistant director of the National Audubon Society, who lauded both the museum and Glasgow.
Glasgow knew a number of scientific people who would loan their findings to be put on display at the museum and conduct lectures for the students and public; Genevans also donated their own items. Mrs. FA Herendeen gave an ostrich egg for display and Mrs. Norman Kent loaned two hamsters, which were considered to be quite rare in 1942. Two baby crocodiles, which had resided at Sampson for a year, were given by a sailor for students to view in 1945 and silk worm eggs were donated by the entomological department at Cornell University.
Summer programs promoted conservation education and students created clubs to research gardens, trees, insects and wild plants.
The bi-weekly newsletter was first published in April 1938 and continued until 1952, about the time Glasgow retired. The front page often featured her artwork of plants and animals with a description, their uses and where they could be found.
In 1981, she was the subject of a Finger Lakes Times article (when she was 87 years old) because she ran a bed and breakfast out of her home at 23 Maxwell Ave. for visiting scientists from all over the world. Glasgow had hosted more than 500 guests by this time, mostly foreign scientists and staff at the Agricultural Experiment Station. Scientists from India, China, Italy, Poland, Russia, Holland and 44 other countries all experienced Glasgow’s home cooking and help navigating Geneva and the United States. A frequent traveler, she described a trip she had taken four years before when she took a jeep to the Himalayan Mountains and went sledding. She was planning to visit Korea the next year.
The new director of the Nature Museum was former assistant Miss Marion Finley. Finley would continue to run exhibits, present lectures and show nature movies. A popular exhibit depicted pioneer life; students were drawn in by a period musket while trying old-fashioned licorice candy and were absorbed by the Native American legends Finley told.
She continued to run the museum until its closure around 1965, during which time the museum had moved from the Pulteney Street building to the new junior high school on North Street in 1957.
Chapin is the archivist for the Geneva Historical Society.