On most museum tours, visitors are sternly warned against petting, handling and sitting on the artifacts. Yet what is more appealing than opening a drawer that says “do not open” or caressing a velvet pillow labeled “do not touch?”
According to Mary Miers, a seasoned tour guide at the Conrad Mansion Museum, visitors always want to open things they shouldn’t. In order to satiate that desire, the mansion staff devised the Nooks and Crannies Tour. This will allow visitors to explore parts of the museum not usually on display.
“We thought this would appeal to curious people who like to look behind doors and open drawers and look in closets,” Miers said.
Miers hatched the idea after she discovered a hinged board concealing a collection of pigeonholes on a shelf in the attic. After prying away the board, Miers found the empty cubbyholes marked in pencil with various dates and initials, presumably an early version of a filing cabinet.
This discovery inspired Miers and the rest of the staff to search for other hidden compartments around the house. Each employee, through self-discovery and information inherited from previous guides, possessed knowledge of different hidey-holes and concealed spaces throughout the house. Together, the guides made enough discoveries and amassed enough information to create an additional tour.
“It was a journey of discovery,” said Miers, to which her co-worker, Mary Meister, added, “We see something different almost every time we work.”
The initial conversation about creating the tour took place in October 2012 and, soon after, a script was crafted. Each guide walked through the tour and honed the dialogue of the script until everyone was happy with the result.
“We are really excited about this tour. It came from the minds of the guides. This is something that is driven and motivated by their imaginations and findings,” said Gennifer Sauter, executive director of the museum.
The tours have a maximum capacity of 10 people so the guides can take visitors into areas too small for the normal tour groups.
The children’s room, for example, is normally off limits but will be included in the Nooks and Crannies Tour so that guests can view the original, state-of-the-art electrical system displayed there. Similarly, the tour will explore the inside of Mrs. Conrad’s closet and will see an old armoire that houses the Conrad’s original furs.
The guides will also demonstrate how to open hidden compartments in various pieces of furniture, such as the concealed drawer in a desk on the second floor that has to be popped out with a pencil.
“They didn’t have safety deposit boxes and this is where they would keep their valuables so no one knew where they were,” said Meister.
Visitors will also see the cistern that serviced the mansion’s three fire hoses, which was extremely advanced technology for the time. The 100-year-old hammock that hung in Mr. Conrad’s “man cave” in the attic will also be displayed.
These are just a few of the stops on the tour. In fact, the museum advertises that the Nooks and Crannies Tour will contain more than 100 items not mentioned on the normal excursions.
The Nooks and Crannies Tour will take place on July 25 and Aug. 22. Tours begin at 5:30 p.m. and run every half hour, with the last one departing at 8 p.m. The tours are $20 for museum members and $25 for non-members. Only 10 non-refundable tickets are sold per tour and they must be pre-paid. For more information call 406-755-2166.
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