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Jane Tucker

ABOVE Jane Tucker with an album of family photographs.
BELOW Castle Tucker, Wiscasset, Maine. The house was built in 1807; the dramatic piazza was added by Captain Tucker in 1858.

The annals of preservation are studded with heroines, but few are more remarkable than Jane Tucker, doyenne of SPNEA's Castle Tucker in Wiscasset, Maine. Jane comes from a family of energetic, independent-minded people with persistent wanderlust. Her grandfather, who in the 1850s remodeled the Federal-style house into the eccentric form it has today, was a sea captain. Her three aunts in the 1880s and 1890s pursued careers far away from home, and she herself was raised on a mountaintop in California, where her father was an astronomer. After college, she became an accountant for an engineering firm and lived in Alaska, Germany, and the Middle East.

Yet throughout her career as an independent professional woman, Jane knew it would eventually fall to her, as the unmarried daughter, to move east to take care of her aunt at Castle Tucker, which she did in 1957. After her aunt died and Jane inherited the property, she considered selling but ultimately couldn't bear to break up the house and its family treasures. So, in her mid fifties-at a time when most people are planning their retirements-she decided to found a museum. Undaunted by starting a new career, Jane learned from scratch how to go about the task. She attended museum conferences and studied collections care. She organized and rehoused hundreds of objects in the house. She opened the house for tours, prepared promotional materials, and even did repairs. She contacted SPNEA about eventually taking over the property, set aside funds for an endowment and in 1997, donated the property to SPNEA. Her greatest legacy, besides the gift of the house, has been the body of careful research into the history of her family and of Wiscasset, based on a huge trove of letters as well as financial and other records, building a chronology and linking it to what was going on elsewhere in the town at the time. As a result, Castle Tucker offers one of the richest histories of any of SPNEA's house museums, all thanks to the determination and energy of one individual.

-Nancy Carlisle
Curator of Collections

My daily walk to Otis House winds through a city constantly under construction. The path changes regularly as new structures appear or old routes are blocked. It reminds me of the importance of the familiar, those landmarks that help us find our way, know where we have been, and where we are going.

Over the last months economic challenges have caused people to question why we invest in museums, historic sites, and cultural activities. Across the nation museums closed, or had hours reduced, and programs eliminated. Yet museums and their collections are our landmarks, places that demonstrate what is different about one community from another, the places that help us know where we have been so that we can better determine where we are going.

History. Decorative arts. Architecture. Archives. Preservation. Landscapes. SPNEA is involved in each. But each facet of SPNEA really contributes to a single purpose, telling the stories of New England and its people. Those stories continue to be written every day. Only by learning them can we understand what has been valued in our society in the past, to help us make sound decisions individually and collectively.

At SPNEA we live our values. We believe in preserving New England's stories, buildings, landscapes, and collections, and sharing them with others. With your help we do that in good times and in difficult times. We preserve and present history not for sentimental attachment to the past, but to help shape the future.

-Carl R. Nold

Jane Tucker