The Natick Historical Society has uncovered all sorts of treasures as it prepares for the eventual reopening of its museum in the basement of the Bacon Free Library. The discovery at the end of last week of a Civil War artillery shell in his collection required special attention.
The Bomb Squad, a state police unit assigned to the state fire marshal’s office, visited the Natick History Museum on Monday to determine whether or not the shell was dangerous.
They x-rayed the object and discovered that although it did not contain gunpowder, it had an igniter that needed to be diffused. The Bomb Squad took him to nearby Hunnewell Field, where they took care of business. (MetroWest Daily News took some great pictures.)
“Now it’s perfectly safe,” says Mike Pojman, chairman of the company’s board. “We’ll figure out what to do with it, we didn’t know we had it.”
The shell has been tentatively identified as a Hotchkiss projectile, according to the Historical Society.
The paper trail of older collectibles isn’t always solid or even extant, and Pojman says the shell was of unknown provenance. He credits board member Kenneth Van Blarcom with the detective task of determining that it was a Civil War relic. “It would be wonderful to know if there’s a Natick connection,” Pojman said.
The company, which operated both in the museum and in the space across the street, is consolidating itself in the renovated museum. Society staff and volunteers scoured the collection to determine what should find its place in the museum’s display cases and cabinets. When the shell was discovered, NHS management “out of an abundance of caution” began contacting the authorities, starting with the Natick Police Department.
A spokesperson for the State Fire Department said “Older military orders appear more often than one would think (or hope)…The Bomb Squad…are regularly called in when loved ones who clean out a veteran’s home find ammunition or “souvenirs” from military service, or when fishing vessels drag these items in a net. Sometimes these items are alive, sometimes inert, sometimes they can contain some powder as part of the firing mechanism, and sometimes you can’t tell. For this reason, we recommend that anyone who finds such a device treat it as alive and dangerous. Leave it in place and call the local firefighters, who will notify the bomb squad.
If the shell has earned pride of place at the museum… we’ll just have to wait and see when the grand reopening takes place on a date to be determined.
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