Montshire Profile

Barbara Payson, March 2011

How are you connected to the Montshire?
I am a volunteer explainer and a member of the Montshire Corporation.

What is your favorite exhibit?
I think the leafcutter ant colony is fascinating!

What do you wish everyone knew about the Museum?
That it is NOT just a museum for children, but is a great place for people of all ages.

Is there one word you would use to describe the Museum?

When was the first time you came to the Montshire?
Way back when it was in the old bowling alley on Lyme Rd. in Hanover.

What do you wish we could do that we aren't doing now?
I wish we still had snakes. I really miss Victoria. She helped me grow, even in my old age. I have always had an aversion to snakes. When I used to take my girl scouts (I was a troop leader) to places where there were snakes, I did my best to not let the girls know how I felt about snakes. When I first started to work at the Montshire, I was told I didn't have to handle the snake—not everyone did. But, I decided to try. First I just watched someone else handle her, then I patted her, then I held her, and finally I became very comfortable with her. Like many people, I was surprised to find that she was not wet or slimy, but dry, and usually a little bit warm (because she had been lying near the heating unit). I loved how kids would describe her, "she feels like a basketball," "sort of bumpy and rubbery." It got to where my husband, when he told people I worked at the Montshire, would introduce me as "The snake lady." Victoria taught me that I could learn new things and be able to do things I never thought I could do, even as I get older.

What do you find most rewarding about volunteering at the Montshire?
Seeing kids and adults get really excited about the things they find and can do at the museum.

How long have you volunteered at the Museum?
I started working as an explainer in 1991, or 1992, after the hospital moved to Lebanon. I used to work at the clinic on Friday mornings, and after the move I stopped working there, and needed to find something else to do with my Friday mornings.

What is the best kept secret at the Montshire?
What I tell all the groups that come to the museum... That science can be fun!

What is your favorite Montshire story to tell?
I love telling people about the ants. One day I was giving my regular spiel about them... That they are female farmers, that the workers live about 3-4 months, that the queen is the mother of all the ants, that they don't eat the leaves we give them, but use them to feed their fungus garden, and so on and so on. There was a little boy, about five or six years old, who listened very closely to what I was saying. A few minutes later I saw him telling a younger boy, who had just come up to the exhibit, all the information I had just given about the ants.... and he got it all right, too.


Montshire Museum of Science Engage the Senses