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Jones may house restored Amherst Civil War tablets

AMHERST — The continuing saga of how and where to publicly display six restored Civil War tablets is taking a new turn that may lead to the Jones Library as a possible destination.

With town officials deciding that putting the large plaques inside the Town Room at Town Hall is impractical and housing them in a new structure outside the Boltwood Walk building is too costly, the library is being eyed as the home for the marble tablets that include the names of 21 black soldiers from the famous 54th regiment. They are among the 300 soldiers listed.

Each tablet measures 56 inches by 75 inches and weighs about 800 pounds.

Associate Planner Nathaniel Malloy said whether the Jones Library is a better spot than the other locations considered is uncertain.

Library Director Sharon Sharry said trustees are expected to discuss the issue at a meeting May 1.

Town leaders have been seeking to get the tablets, once on display in Town Hall, back in public view for more than a decade. Town Manager John Musante had hoped to have placed in the Town Room following former Town Manager Larry Shaffer successful efforts to get the plaques restored in 2009. The tablets have been in storage at the Ruxton gravel pit, and on special occasions the public has been invited to the Pulpit Hill Road site to view them.

Prior to that, the idea of displaying the tablets outside Town Hall, or in another public space such as the Gates Lot on Main Street, where the Robert Frost and Emily Dickinson statues are located, were dismissed, in part because of possible damage to the fragile marble from the elements and vandals.

Before the 1990s renovation of Town Hall, the tablets, commissioned in 1893 by the local Grand Army of the Republic post, had been on display in the stairwell landings in Town Hall. That placement is no longer practical, officials say, because it would make them inaccessible to people who can’t climb stairs.

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