Beekeeping Exhibit

Sturbridge, early 1800s

Our newest exhibit not only highlights the historical story of beekeeping, but also relates it to the modern practices and concerns of keeping bees. Visitors to the exhibit will be able to closely examine a colony of bees at work building comb, storing nectar and pollen, capping honey, and raising young in an observation hive. Using illustrations from the 1830s, they can try to identify the queen, workers, and drones in the living hive.

The idea for the exhibit began "buzzing around" when Rhys Simmons, coordinator of Agriculture and Jean Contino, coordinator of Households attended "bee school" in order to re-establish hives at the Village and revitalize the orchards. Their excitement and enthusiasm for bees was shared by both staff and guests, especially Members who toured the hives in the Towne orchard. In order to share the secret lives of bees with guests beyond the limited times tours could be offered, the idea of an exhibit and an observation hive was born.

Beekeeping was a part of the agricultural story of the 1830’s. There were articles and letters printed in periodicals, chapters on bee-keeping in agricultural advice books, and entire books devoted to the topic. Much of this literature was directed to the progressive farmer, who supported the new ideas and scientific methods in agriculture. 

The building itself is original to the David Wight farm land on which OSV was built. It was built as a corn barn in the early 1800s and was originally located approximately where the Visitor Center is now located. It has previously housed glass, tin, and herbs exhibits, as well as a basketmaking shop.

This exhibit was made possible with the generous support of the Worcester County Beekeepers Association and the Frances R. Dewing Foundation.

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