When the Commonwealth of Massachusetts incorporated the Barre Library Association by Chapter 105 of the Acts of 1885, one of the Association’s purposes was to form and maintain “a museum containing specimens in natural history, works of art, antiquities and other objects of interest.” A significant part of the museum’s natural history exhibit consists of its taxidermy specimens.
The taxidermy collection of the Woods Memorial Museum is in large part the creation of Henry Wilcut Harwood (1845-1947). A native of Barre, he was the son of George and Lucinda (Stetson) Harwood. Henry W. Harwood and his brother conducted a very successful lumber business in town. From the age of 14 years, Henry W. Harwood studied native birds and quadrupeds in his spare time. He became renowned regionally as a naturalist and taxidermist. He donated a portion of his extensive taxidermy collection to the Barre Library Association in 1907. By this time, his collection was considered one of the best private exhibitions in New England. Most of his specimens were captured in and around Barre.
Henry Wilcut Harwood served for many years as a Director of the Barre Library Association, and his involvement with this organization lasted more than 50 years. For much of that period he was superintendent of the Woods Memorial Museum. Under his direction, the museum was developed to a point where it won recognition as one of the best of its type in central Massachusetts. He remained active in the Barre Library Association until his 100th birthday.
Another large and valuable collection of stuffed birds, was donated to the Barre Library Association in 1891 by Dr. George Brown, along with the ash cases in which they are still displayed. Dr. George Brown (1823-1892) was a native of New Hampshire and a graduate of the University of New York Medical Department. He came to Barre in 1850 to work at the Elm Hill Private School and Home for the Education of Feeble-Minded Youth. A year later he took over leadership of the institution. It remained in his family’s hands until it closed in 1946. Dr. George Brown was a founding member of the Barre Library Association.
Henry Wilcut Harwood, undated
Henry Wilcut Harwood and his blind colt