Nashua Historical Society lauds Merrimack researcher for contributions

NASHUA – Barbara Comer, of Merrimack, knows more about farming in Nashua than she ever expected one year ago.

Comer, who has worked as a graphic artist, an assistant librarian at the former Chandler Library and as collections manager for the Nashua Historical Society for the last eight years, took on a project that would uncover the history of local farms and lead her to set up the latest exhibit at the NHS.

If you see her in action, you’d insist she is a historical one-man band, and for her work on behalf of the society, she was recently honored with the Florence Hyde Speare Award, the first to be presented.

Comer was lauded for excellence in carrying out her responsibilities as collections management technician and for the countless hours volunteering beyond that role.

She has cataloged artifacts, packed and stored collections, painted society rooms and exhibits, staged the post office room and military display cases, revamped the art collection room, applied her design background to volunteer projects, helped volunteers, secured furniture for collection rooms and located numerous artifacts for themed displays.

To add to her to-do list, Comer has commandeered her husband, Joe, for building projects and repair at the society for many years.

Comer’s most recent project was unveiled in September, an exhibit titled “Settling Old Dunstable: Agriculture and Farms in Early Dunstable.” Comer researched, designed and implemented the entire exhibit.

Comer said she always loved mysteries as a child and enjoys correcting mistakes and misconceptions about history. She combined her research on the farm exhibit with making connections to people throughout the city, from City Hall departments to people who were connected to the farms and farm families.

Comer studied early land grant documents and photographs to pinpoint boundaries and modern-day structures on the ancient farms. She uncovered a fascinating agricultural history of Nashua before and after a time when the city was mainly considered a manufacturing hub.

Comer is equally enthusiastic about every exhibit in the museum and wishes all visitors to “come in and smile and have a good experience.” And for workers like Comer, there is nothing more contagious than enthusiasm.

She particularly enjoys adding color and humor to her exhibits, and draws on her design background to bring her displays to life. She encourages people to be sure to read the captions, take their time and not pass them by. She adds that she is always on the lookout for something to enhance the society’s offerings and share “cool things about Nashua.”

Society President Joanne Ouellette praised Comer for her efforts way beyond her work hours and her extraordinary volunteer efforts.

In bestowing the award, Ouellette quoted the familiar, “Those who can, do. Those who can do more, volunteer,” befitting Comer’s approach to her work at the Nashua Historical Society.