Joseph Peter Spang III Memorial Fund
We are saddened to share the news that Peter Spang passed away in his sleep at home in Beverly, Massachusetts on May 7, 2020 – just short of his 86th birthday.
Usually there is one, generation by generation, who brands what is important to remember. In Deerfield, for the past sixty years, that person is Peter Spang. As Historic Deerfield’s founding curator, he began work for Henry and Helen Flynt on September 19, 1959 at 3:30 p.m. His legendary attention to detail and his memory, forged as a staff member and then a long-time trustee, became both a signature and tool.
Peter was first and foremost a steward of his adopted town. He valued tradition, collectors, and collecting anything–especially ocean liner memorabilia and architectural pattern books, the latter now housed in our Joseph Peter Spang III Rare Book Room at the Memorial Libraries. His commitment to Deerfield was the central thread of our institutional history for three generations of museum visitors, supporters, trustees and staff members, and most particularly students.
Peter loved to participate in scholarship. He mentored every one of the 450+ Historic Deerfield Summer Fellows since the program’s founding in 1956, and surely none have ever forgotten him. Peter also mentored generations of staff members at both Historic Deerfield and the Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association. He shaped the how behind the what for many of us in the arts, humanities, and antiques marketplace. Peter knew the value of storytelling and documentation, and he wedded them together “in the best documented small town in America.” His roles in shaping the museum’s collections, the Memorial Libraries, and the antique houses along The Street are clear today in America’s Town, America’s Story. Memory is our most important and least applied tool in sustaining cultural importance. The life work of Peter Spang brought them both together along The Street in Deerfield and created the national reputation that we enjoy today.
A memorial service for Peter is being planned in Deerfield—details to follow. In the meantime, many have asked about making a gift in Peter’s memory. In response, we have established the Joseph Peter Spang III Memorial Fund to support the preservation of Deerfield’s deep cultural history and the dissemination of the town’s most inspired national stories for generations to come. Thank you for your thoughtful tribute to Peter’s legacy.
Yours in friendship and in shared appreciation for one of Deerfield’s greatest treasures.