UNH Cooperative Extension exhibit celebrates 100 years

Bret Belden

By Abbi Sleeper, Staff Writer

The 100 year anniversary of the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension is celebrated this fall with an exhibit on the first floor of the Dimond Library. The exhibit, which will run through mid-December, honors both the extension’s rich history and current success with a combination of historical memorabilia and displays of recent achievements.

The UNH Cooperative Extension was founded in 1914 in conjunction with the passing of the Smith-Lever Act, which allotted federal funding for outreach programs at Land-Grant Universities such as the University of New Hampshire. Since then, the UNH Extension has worked with 4-H programs throughout the state to provide educational opportunities for the youth of New Hampshire and bring information and aid to students and professionals in the fields of agriculture, home economics, mechanical arts and other hands-on fields.  The centennial anniversary of the Smith-Lever Act was celebrated on May 8 of this year.

The University Museum on the first level of the Dimond Library opened their exhibit, “A Century of Extension: 100 Years of Service to the Granite State,” on Sept. 18, and will continue to display extension information and keepsakes until Dec. 12.  The exhibit features several pieces of antique craft-work, as well as photographs and displays of recent work done in conjunction with the cooperative extension.

Displayed outside of the university museum is the Merrimack County Extension Service Homemaker’s Advisory Council Bicentennial Quilt. Each panel of the quilt is hand-crafted and displays a piece of New Hampshire history or culture. Many landmarks are commemorated, such as the birthplace and childhood home of Franklin Pierce in a panel crafted by members of the Franklin Cooperative Homemakers Extension Group. Others depict important aspects of New Hampshire culture, such as the purple finch and the state seal. Displayed beside the quilt is a binder providing specific information on the individual panels and the scenes they provide.

Also flanking the doorway to the museum is a commemorative painting by Karen Busch Holman. The painting, entitled “Hands to Larger Service” in reference to the 4-H pledge, was completed in 2002 and depicts 4-H members working together in community agricultural pursuits. Beneath the painting, an informational card defines the Cooperative Extension as a program in which “youth and adults work together, investing in a better future for themselves and their communities.”

Inside the museum itself are photographs of extension staff and 4-H members over the past century, framed certificates and government documents concerning the founding and recognition of the cooperative extension and artifacts spanning the course of 100 years of service to the state of New Hampshire.  Among these artifacts is a copy of a 1948 edition of National Geographic magazine, which ran an extensive feature on the 4-H program which included New Hampshire 4-H member Henrietta Kenney. The informational card beside the issue notes that Kenney is still involved with the cooperative extension today. 

Hanging above the National Geographic display is a collection of 4-H pins awards from 1916 through the present day. In another corner of the room is a collection of artifacts as old as the Extension itself. In 1914, the UNH cooperative extension published a collection of songbooks, some of which are preserved in a small case. Presented beside the songbooks is one of the original printing plates, or “song-blocks,” used to create the books 100 years ago.

The University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension has provided consistent community outreach and educational opportunities since its beginnings in 1914, a fact that is exemplified by the University Museum’s exhibit. From a 100-year-old song block to a display of the work the Extension began in 2013 to combat the effects of invasive Emerald Ash Borer, the exhibit truly celebrates a century full of involvement and service.