Since Scandiavian immigrants first brought the sport to the region, skiers and skiing have been a part of New England’s culture and soul. From weekenders and amateur ski clubs up through Olympians and World Cup champions, generations of New Englanders have grown up hitting the slopes with friends and family.
The New England Ski Museum collects and interprets these varied stories but had outgrown its original home at the foot of Cannon Mountain in Franconia, NH thanks to an abundance of artifacts and stories. A second branch was needed, and North Conway, NH was selected as the new site by the Museum. ObjectIDEA was chosen to conduct the interpretive planning and exhibit development, and immediately began this collaborative process with the institution and other interested stakeholders.
The research and development process introduced us to iconic stories and artifacts, including the swastika-stamped passport of instructor Hannes Schneider, who fled Nazi Germany to wind up teaching the revolutionary “Arlberg” ski technique to thousands of New Englanders. The 10th Mountain Division, formed to fight in the mountains and snow of World War II battlefields, is also interpreted here, as many of its members were experienced skiers and ski instructors who survived the war and went on to open and develop ski areas across the United States.
Another key topic interpreted within the museum’s walls is the lost ski areas of New England. Originally begun as a digital project by an interested board member of the Museum, this research was utilized to create a multimedia interactive component that allows visitors to explore the ski areas of New England that have closed due to changes in the economy, interest, or climate. Visitors can explore a map of New England, find an interesting lost ski area, and then view images and read the recollections of members of the public. This integration of digital public history makes for an even more meaningful museum experience for visitors who remember living near or traveling to these areas.
After this process of development, design, and construction, the Eastern Slope Branch of the New England Ski Museum opened its doors to the public on February 24, 2018. The new facility utilizes diverse artifacts, compelling stories, multimedia exhibit pieces, and a research library (complete with working fireplace) to interpret over a century of the sport’s presence in the Northeast.
Development partners included The Square Office, HER Design, Trivium Interactive, and 42 Design Fab Studio.