Four Museums in One Mile!
Downtown Amherst is just about a square mile and it’s easy to walk from place to place. We are lucky to have 4 museums with different focus in this mile: The Beneski Museum of Natural History, the Mead Art Museum (both on Amherst College campus), the Emily Dickinson Museum and Homestead and the Amherst History Museum at the Strong House. It would take a weekend to fully explore all of the museums and take advantage of the excellent programming offered.
In addition, there is a walking tour map of Amherst’s Public Art (available at the Visitors Information Center/BID office) and a map of distinctive trees distributed by the Garden Club of Amherst (available at AJ Hastings).
The Beneski Museum
The Beneski Museum of Natural History is one of New England’s largest natural history museums, boasting three floors of exhibits with more than 1,700 specimens on display, and tens of thousands of specimens available for use by scholars and researchers from across campus and around the world.
Step inside the museum and you’ll find:
- Dramatic displays of fossil skeletons, from fish to dinosaurs to Ice Age megafauna
- An extraordinary collection of dinosaur footprints
- Geological specimens and immersive exhibits that tell the history of the local landscape through geologic time, including when dinosaurs inhabited the area
- Dazzling mineral specimens from around the world and meteorites from beyond Earth
The Mead Art Museum
The Mead holds the art collection of Amherst College, celebrated for its American and European paintings, Mexican ceramics, Tibetan scroll paintings, English paneled room, ancient Assyrian carvings, Russian avant-garde art, West African sculpture and Japanese prints.
Emily Dickinson Museum & Homestead
The Museum was created in 2003 when the two houses merged under the ownership of Amherst College. Its mission is to educate diverse audiences about Emily Dickinson’s life, family, creative work, times, and enduring relevance, and to preserve and interpret the Homestead and The Evergreens as historical resources for the benefit of scholars and the general public.
In just a few short years the Emily Dickinson Museum has established a vibrant presence and ambitious program for encouraging a broad appreciation for this remarkable poet’s unparalleled work. A few of the Museum’s most noteworthy accomplishments include:
- creating four distinctive tours that present the story of Emily Dickinson from a variety of engaging perspectives.
- designing lively programs–from poetry marathons and an annual 19th-century children’s circus to rock concerts, lectures and hands-on workshops–to attract a wide and diverse audience.
- installing the Museum’s first professionally-designed interpretive exhibit, “my Verse is alive,” about the early publication of Dickinson’s poetry.
- establishing a national program of intensive professional development workshops for K-12 teachers.
- completing a series of planning documents to guide long-term restoration of both historic houses and the grounds.
- restoring the Homestead’s exterior to its authentic Dickinson-era color scheme.
- enhancing the mechanical systems, fire detection systems, and drainage systems to promote long-term safety and preservation of the historic houses and collections.
Amherst Historical Society and Museum
The Amherst History Museum opened in 1916 and is governed by the Amherst Historical Society, which was founded in 1899. Housed in the 1750-era Simeon Strong House, the Amherst History Museum takes visitors on a journey from the town’s colonial past, through its industrial age and into the computer-driven present.
The Museum is filled with decorative arts, paintings, household implements, agricultural tools and other pieces of history from the nearly three hundred years since Amherst was settled. The collections range from the ordinary to the unique, and capture a sense of every day life often missing from history books.
In addition to rotating exhibits and special programming, the Museum provides educational tours for school children and students throughout the year.
Downtown Amherst has wonderful murals and public art displays on display for free 24/7.