Ruth J. Abram’s article, based on a plenary presentation at the 2015 New Jersey History and Historic Preservation Conference, discusses one unique museum’s revitalization of a struggling rural town.

The sleepy town of New Lebanon in upstate New York was quietly fading away, losing its people and businesses to other larger towns in the Northeast. One might never guess that this town had been a bustling hub of commerce and religious thought in the nineteenth century. Led by Abrams, a group of locals and weekend residents laid the foundation for the nation’s first living museum of contemporary rural American life to re-connect the area’s vital past with its contemporary resources.

Through generating positive publicity for the town, revitalizing community spirit, fostering shared connections to rural life, and spurring economic development, Behold! New Lebanon is changing the narrative of a town and the way we think about living and community museums.