Cape Cod Museum Of Natural History

This is the first blog posting from the Cape Cod Museum of Natural History. This blog will be used to periodically “reprint” articles from The Cape Naturalist that began publishing in June of 1972. Prior to those postings we’d like to give you an overview of the Museum.

The Museum is located on the Old King’s Highway in Brewster, Massachusetts. The address is 869 Route 6A, Brewster, MA  02631-1032. You can find our Facebook presence here and you can join our ConstantContact list here.

Mission: To inspire appreciation and understanding of our natural environment through discovery and learning by integrating three strands of its organizational identity – as a museum of natural history, nature education center, and steward of conservation land.

  • As a small museum of natural history, we preserve, exhibit, and interpret our own collections of natural history artifacts and display relevant traveling and loan exhibits.
  • As a nature education center, we are a gathering place for citizen scientists and amateur naturalists, and as a forum for informed discussion of important issues related to the natural world, especially on Cape Cod.
  • As a steward of 400-plus acres of museum-owned land in Stoney Brook Valley and Brewster conservation land adjacent to the Museum, we monitor and protect the land and focus our programming on its varied habitats – our outdoor classroom and teaching tool.

There are several popular nature walks – around a salt mash, through the Lyn Peabody Wildflower garden (received the  2007 Homer Lucas Award for Public Gardens from the New England Wild Flower Society), or through a wooded path down to the beach; most of the Museum land (south of historic Route 6A) is within the Massachusetts Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Program Priority Site for Rare Species and Exemplary Natural Communities; Museum land is entirely within the Old King’s Highway Regional Historic District established by state law in 1973 and thought to be the largest in the country (as of a 2004 study); there is also a major herring run, Paine’s Creek, going through the property that most likely attracted Native Americans to the area long before colonists arrive – it is celebrated by renowned naturalist John Hay’s classic book, “The Run” published in 1959.

The Museum has also been responsible for an archaeological dig on Wing Island (town-owned land). The island is named for John Wing—the first English settler to live in this part of Cape Cod, and was part of the territory that the original Plimoth colonists reserved for themselves. It is also a microcosm of the archaeology of the Cape and provides clues of what the past of the region contains. Findings date back 9,000 years to prehistoric Cape Cod and demonstrates a slice of what the Cape was like prior to European settlement. There is also remnants of an old salt works that operated on the island. Wing Island is the inspiration for “Jack’s Island” in William Martin’s 1991 novel, Cape Cod.

Cape Cod’s one constant is change, and visitors see results of dramatic coastal erosion along with maps showing what the Cape looked like 10,000 years ago along with projections to 8,000 years in the future. The exhibits include archaeology, geology, bird banding, honey bee observation hive along with hives in the field; preserved bird collection highlighting indigenous species; aquarium; Marshview Room celebrating the wildlife living in “Our Own Backyard”; ongoing displays of photographs by friends of the Museum showing scenes from nature that give them a personal sense of wonder; an OspreyCam set up on the osprey nest in the marsh; the Clarence Hay Library; a gift shop, and a series of family-oriented lectures, hands-on activities and special exhibits on such notables as Rachel Carson, Henry Beston, John Hay and Robert Finch. We publish Tidings every other month to keep our members informed about new programs and Museum happenings. Information on membership, volunteering, Friends of the Museum, school group visits, group rates, and much more can be found on our Web site.

The 2009 special exhibit is Under One Sky: Why Animals Matter that documents the global work done by IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare) and their effort to protect animals and our shared environment.

Special programs include:

KidSummer – instilling a sense of wonder and discovery to last a lifetime. Offers a range of 4 programs for ages 3 to 12, encouraging learning and appreciation of the environment through age-appropriate indoor and outdoor activities led by educators/naturalists, and

Mudflat Mania! – a series of beachside explorations where visitors learn about the fascinating world of creatures living on, in, and under the Cape’s mudflats.

As previously stated, this blog will be used to periodically “reprint” articles from The Cape Naturalist that began publishing in June of 1972. Please bear with us as we learn this new technology and we hope you will find the authors and their articles describing Cape Cod in years past interesting.

The following introduction is from Vol. 1, No. 1 of The Cape Naturalist:


Welcome to the first edition of The Cape Naturalist, the new quarterly journal of the Cape Cod Museum of Natural History. This replaces our quarterly bulletin to members, and will be published in March, June, September and December of each year. We feel it could be a landmark in the history of the museum and, for that matter of the Cape itself. We hope that our new publication will help the museum spread the news of the local environment. Apart from news and information about the museum’s program, each issue will contain a feature article by a qualified writer on a subject of interest to naturalists on the Cape. As space permits, we will also include material by adults and children which may be of interest to our readers.

As the title indicates, we are concerned with the Cape environment in all its natural aspects, as experienced and observed by the people who live here. When we use the term Environment we are not only thinking of it with reference to surroundings that can be drastically altered, polluted and destructively treated by man. We do not merely hunt for disaster. The Man-Nature equation also involves living with a place. We think it of prime importance that the Cape should continue to be identified, through our eyes and ears and touch and study, at all ages, and in all parts of society. It should continue to be well known, by you, our readers and members, and everyone else we encourage. The detail in the life of any region is what is vital to the whole, and if there are enough people around who find that worth their concern and attention, then we can hope that Cape Cod will be treated with more respect than it will get merely by being occupied and overrun.

The editors are interested in your observations, whether you have counted birds in your backyard, box turtles in the woods, or seen a terrapin or otter in a marsh or estuary. So send your material to us, preferably typewritten, and we would be happy to consider it for publication; in any case, we would count it important to have such information on file at the museum.

On behalf of our hard working membership committee, please note the enclosed self-addressed envelope. If you are already a member give it to a friend. If you are not a member we invite you to join. We have at present over 1000 on our membership rolls and they constitute the backbone of our enterprise.


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