A History of the Museum
Marion in the 1860's was a small town which contained many people who were widely traveled. Many had brought back exotic specimens of the natural world. No one knows who supplied the first museum collection. It is suspected that in the 1860's when Dr. Waldron Ellis (who in the 1830's opened the first circulating library in his house, which now houses the Sippican Historical Society on Front Street), moved out of town there was some sort of a natural history collection in existence.
The Marion Natural History Society was formed in 1867. In 1872 Mrs. Elizabeth Taber, at eighty-one years of age, decided to devote her considerable fortune to "put some snap' into her native village. To that end she bought from Captain Allen a ten-acre tract of land and proposed to construct a building to house a library on the first floor and the natural history museum on the second.
She made it clear that she was simply trying to raise the cultural level of the town and that she had no desire to have either the museum or library named after her. (The library was not known as the Elizabeth Taber Library until after her death and Tabor Academy was named after the Biblical Mount Tabor rather than any member of the Taber family).
Elizabeth Taber herself donated a glass case of insects and a collection of shells and coral to the Marion Natural History Society. Additionally Mrs. Taber provided the museum's shelves, desks, and cases as well as the lighting fixtures, many of which are still in use today.
On September 10th 1872 the Library Association and the Natural History Society accepted the deed to the building. Each organization voted to relinquish to the other that part of the building not intended for its use. The formal dedication of the building took place on September 26, 1872.
The library table and many of the original collections were donated by the New Bedford Young Men's Natural History Society in 1874 when that organization dissolved.
In 1891 the Society paid $100.00 for a collection of birds' nests and eggs owned by Frank Barrows of New Bedford. Mr. & Mrs. Delano of New Bedford donated a collection of shells to the Society which are on view now at the museum.
Among the acquisitions made by the Society in 1895 was a live owl, which was sent to Boston to be killed and mounted, and two cases of birds from Mrs. Babcock. In January 1897 there was an exchange of some of the shells for fossils with "a gentleman from Indiana". In April 1897 Andrew G. Weeks, Jr., a summer resident of Marion, donated a selection of approximately 1,000 butterflies from his extensive collection and in June of 1897 Captain O. Briggs built the case we now see at the museum.
In 1872 Elizabeth Taber urged members of the Society to "press onward to higher and higher attainments till they become unitedly a praise and a power in the community". In 1892 Society President James C. Brigg's called on members to "do what you can to establish the Natural History Society in Marion and to leave this legacy to those who shall come after you".
The Marion Natural History Society has provided natural history programs for the area since the museum was first opened in 1872 and continues to do so to this day. The museum continues to serve the community by acting as a field trip resource for schools, hosting after-school nature programs and evening programs for adults and families and a very active summer nature program. We hope to continue with the support of our members.