For NH Historical Society, a huge donation means huge changes on the horizon

  • A tour group gathers on the second floor in front of the oculus, the circular opening defined by the skylight, at the New Hampshire Historical Society on Park Street in Concord on Feb. 17, 2017. Monitor file

  • The New Hampshire Historical Society building at 30 Park Street. Geoff Forester

  • Primary source documents are stored in stacks at the New Hampshire Historical Society in Concord on August 5, 2016. Library staff and volunteers are digitizing and cataloging documents to create copies of the works and make them more available to researchers. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz

Monitor staff
Published: 6/12/2022 4:51:46 PM

A $2 million private donation – given to the New Hampshire Historical Society last month by a member of a well-known Granite State family – will pay to build additional storage space for the landmark that’s bursting at the seams with archival material.

Bill Dunlap, the president of the state’s historical society, said this week that the gift represents the largest dollar amount in the organization’s history, adding, “We’ve had seven-figure gifts in the past, but without adjusting for inflation, this is the highest total we’ve ever received.”

Dunlap spoke for the man behind the money, Andy McLane, whose surname may sound familiar. He’s cousins with Congresswoman Ann McLane Kuster of Concord, and he’s also related to the late Susan McLane, who served for 26 years in the New Hampshire Senate and House of Representatives.

McLane, using Dunlap as an intermediary, declined to be interviewed for this story. His online bio says he has a home in the Boston area and another near Newfound Lake, now his primary residence.

He serves on the boards of the Cambridge Boat Club, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, St. Paul’s School and the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Team Foundation. He’s also a member of the Investment Committees of the Appalachian Mountain Club, Dartmouth College and Phillips Exeter Academy.

He works at TA Associates, a Boston-based private equity firm that manages $16 billion. He found time to serve two years in the Peace Corps in Central Africa.

“He loves the society,” Dunlap said, referring to McLane’s allegiance to the NH Historical Society. “This whole thing developed over several years. We want to have more exhibit space.”

Dunlap and the historical society certainly need it. According to Dunlap, the building on Park Street is home to 35,000 objects, like fine art, classic furniture, farm implements and one of the last surviving Concord Coaches.

Also, there are two million pages of manuscripts and letters, written by some of the Granite State’s former political heavyweights, such as David Souter, the former Supreme Court Justice, and Franklin Pierce, the 14th president of the United States.

“We have only a small fraction of our stuff that can be exhibited and we need more space to exhibit more,” Dunlap said.

Dunlap added that the historical society plans to lease long-term storage space in Concord. “There are still negotiations, so I can not talk about that yet,” Dunlap said. “But I’m confident it will allow us to expand our collections storage.”

The process that was needed to secure private funding from altruistic individuals like McLane and his wife, Linda, was a long road.

In this case, the pandemic certainly slowed things down and raised the degree of difficulty, said Dunlap, who added that he would see McLane at the historical society during events. He visited McLane at his home, both in New Hampshire and down in the Boston area.

The deal was sealed on about May 1, Dunlap said. And while he was confident that McLane would hop aboard, and Dunlap has accepted seven-figure donations in the past, receiving $2 million jolts the system no matter what circumstances exist, Dunlap said.

He said ideally, the renovation might take a year or two. The hard part, though, is done. “I would bring a colleague with me or a member of the board of trustees,” Dunlap said. “We worked on how to deploy the gift, how it would benefit the New Hampshire Historical Society. It wasn’t a complete shock, because we had been talking to him and building a relationship of trust.”

He continued: “The moment the commitment was made, there was an absolute feeling of both gratitude and euphoria.”

Ray Duckler bio photo

Ray Duckler, our intrepid columnist, focuses on the Suncook Valley. He floats from topic to topic, searching for the humor or sadness or humanity in each subject. A native New Yorker, he loves the Yankees and Giants. The Red Sox and Patriots? Not so much.

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