Though Dr. and Mrs. Norman Vincent Peale have been gone for some time now, their legacy lives on in the newly created Museum memorializing Dr. Peale’s life and good works and Mrs. Peale’s famed and stalwart support and influence.
“A great partnership”, says Elizabeth Peale Allen, daughter and well known Pawling resident. She will maintain her office at the museum site, which occupies the original building with its entrance on Rt. 22. Although the largest portion of the building complex is in process of being sold, the museum’s location is in the section that rings with historical significance.
George Hart, the museum archivist, curator, director, and Peale historian was kind enough to give me a personal tour of this new and important addition to our community, and his wealth of knowledge about the life and times of this towering figure and his family is inspiring. George was instrumental in the organization and cataloguing of the 398,000 personal archives that have been brought here and will be on display in rotation, to commemorate Dr. Peale’s ministry and influence throughout the world of the 20th century.
When the museum officially opens, (an opening and dedication is in the planning stages), visitors and researchers will have access to 750 sermons on audio and 150 sermons on video, dating as far back as the 1920’s, available in two separate rooms designated for viewing and listening purposes. On display is the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor, given to Dr. Peale in 1984 by Ronald Regan; archival material relating to family history; professional and ministerial history, as well as Dr. Peale’s personal library where one can sit quietly and read the very books that were important to this iconic figure. One may peruse volumes that are dog eared with personally written, penciled comments jotted in the margins.
A research library is also on premises with many volumes catalogued and computerized. This library is “a work in progress,” according to Mr. Hart. However, when completed, it will be a remarkable resource for Christian and non-Christian scholars alike. The Prayer Chapel is also available for viewing and quiet meditation, and the stained glass window that was a favorite of Mrs. Peale’s remains intact, as do Dr. and Mrs. Peale’s offices on the upper level of the museum.
Lowell Thomas invited Dr. Peale to Christ Church on Quaker Hill in 1943 to speak as a guest minister, and Mrs. Peale very quickly fell in love with Pawling. Soon after they moved here and Pawling became their home. Almost eighty years later, Pawling remains the beneficiary of their rich and wonderful legacy. The Peale Center’s new museum is an extraordinary gift that the Pawling community will cherish for years to come.