Over 25 Walking Tours Support Community-Based Education in Western MA

Learn About Western Massachusetts Communities & History on Foot with Self-Guided Walking Tours!

We’re rich in walking tours here in western Massachusetts, an excellent community-based educational learning activity families can do together. Unlike scheduled tours guided by interpreters, self-guided walking tours offer  lots of flexibility. Families can use walking tours as a way to expand on a subject that children learn about in school. Alternately, families can utilize available tours as a means of answering questions that they’ve stumbled upon together.

Spring is here! Alongside the longer days and afternoons filled with sunlight comes warmer weather, and as the out-of-doors draws us from our winter hibernation, each day brings opportunities to explore our community. All over western Massachusetts, community organizations have organized self-guided walking tours, helping to add a new layer to the discoveries made while meandering through a neighborhood or district. Using paper maps and brochures, as well as tech-y resources like QR codes and interactive tablet and smartphone maps, families can use a spring walk as an opportunity to learn more about the fascinating history behind buildings, monuments, neighborhoods, and communities as a whole.

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Historical Exhibit in Hatfield Gives Glimpse Into Civil War Life in Western MA

The Things They Left Us

While most of the major events of the Civil War took place further south than New England, the war plays a major role in the history of communities all over western Massachusetts. Not only did the area serve as part of the Underground Railroad and a home to abolitionists, but agrarian towns changed drastically during the Civil War, as men and boys who farmed in order to sustain their families left home to fight in the war.

Thanks to a new exhibit at the Hatfield Historical Museum, families can learn much about local ties to the major events that took place during the Civil War. A newly installed exhibit at the museum includes a variety of Civil War-era artifacts, including a blood-stained bible that once belonged to a soldier, the Civil War diary of Hatfield resident Daniel White Wells, a knapsack worn by soldiers in the Union volunteer infantry, a 32+2 star American flag, and a Confederate tourniquet, taken as a souvenir by a young Hatfield soldier.

A visit to the exhibit is educational and informative for students of all ages, even if they don’t have any background on the Civil War yet. Young students can compare the items displayed to their modern equivalent, so as to reflect on changes in technology, culture, and use of items, and they may also begin to think about what late 19th-century Hatfield must have been like with many of the men and boys gone to fight in the war. Older students who have already begun to learn about the Civil War in school can develop a better idea of what Civil War life was like for those who fought – the objects displayed in the exhibit convey the hard work, long distances traveled, and terrifying battles endured by those who left Hatfield (and communities just like it all over New England) to join in the war.


In celebration of the new exhibit, the Historical Society will be hosting two exciting opening events. On Saturday, April 5th, 2014, from 9:30am-12:30pm, families can visit the museum to meet members of the 15th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry at an encampment, sample Civil War foods, and see demonstrations of drills that Civil War soldiers took part in. The Historical Society will host a similar event on Sunday, May 25th, 2014, from 10am-12noon as part of the town’s Memorial Day celebration – this event will feature a larger number of reenactors – three tents in all! Both events are free, and present a unique opportunity to experience living history. Read the rest of this entry »

Legacy of Music, People and Place: Holyoke 1800 – 1950

Wistariahurst Museum is launching a new historical and cultural project entitled, Legacy of Music, People and Place: Holyoke 1800 – 1950. With funding support from the Holyoke Cultural Council and the Country Dance and Song Society, Jacqueline Cooper is collaborating with the museum as the Project Director and is working to develop sketches of Holyoke’s past to form a collective of local music culture from 1800-1950.

Cooper and Wistariahurst are seeking to include community members of Holyoke and nearby towns to participate by sharing personal music-related memories. They are looking for community members, elders, descendants of earlier settlers, immigrants, and travelers who can share stories or family anecdotes related to particular songs that were listened to, played, sung, danced to and enjoyed in households, factories, at gatherings, or in clubs, churches, community centers, etc. They are looking for stories that not only represent local culture, but also reflect what working people at the heart of the community thrived on.

Do you, your parents, your grandparents, have a memory to share? Being interviewed for this project is an inspiring opportunity to have a music-related memory as part of Holyoke’s cultural heritage collection.  The research is the foundation for Legacy of Music, People and Place: Holyoke 1800 – 1950, a live music and storytelling production to be performed at Wistariahurst in July of 2014.
Click here to find out how to participate…

A Textile Artist’s Take on Western MA Labor History

A Textile Artist’s Take on Local Labor History
Wistariahurst Museum in Holyoke, MA
March and April 2014

Western MA native, Deborah Baronas, has an exhibit at the Wistariahurst Museum in Holyoke, now through April 2014. Baronas will show a body of work that examines the lives of 19th century laborers, highlighting the work of textile mill workers, domestic servants, and tobacco farm field hands. This exhibit is more than an art show; it immerses viewers in history and can be used as an educational tool to recreate the past and delve into the lives and experiences of 19th-century working-class laborers.

Artist Deborah Baronas grew up on a farm in western Massachusetts, encouraged to pursue her interest in art when she wasn’t helping her parents in the fields. Years later, with a degree from the Rhode Island School of Design and many years of experience in textile design, she has begun to explore the dichotomy that has defined her life – that of a “gritty work culture” versus the “world of glamour” – and the “duality [of] manufacturing and production,” through her art.

In an upcoming exhibition at Wistariahurst Museum in Holyoke, MA, Baronas will show a body of work that examines the lives of 19th century laborers in Rhode Island and Massachusetts. The exhibition highlights the work of textile mill workers, domestic servants, and tobacco farm field hands through hand-stenciled and screen-printed images on the strong, coarse fabric known as “scrim,” as well as paintings, historical artifacts, and other materials. This exhibit is more than an art show; it immerses viewers in history and can be used as an educational tool to recreate the past and delve into the lives and experiences of 19th-century working-class laborers.

“We are always in a state of having lived in the past, residing in the present and looking to the future. We mark the passage of time by examining our presence in the present,” says Baronas. For her, the creation of these pieces – these juxtapositions of her adult work as a textile designer with her younger work as a painter and farmhand – illustrate her own past, present, and future, as well as the past, present, and future of the workers who populated the mills and farms in the Pioneer Valley a century earlier.

Click here to see discussion questions related to the exhibit…

UMass Exhibition Examines Changes in Historical American Landscapes

A Genius for Place: American Landscape of the Country Place Era
A Panel Exhibition from the Library of American Landscape History

The UMass Amherst Libraries are hosting a traveling exhibition called “A Genius For Place,” on view now through May 10th, 2014.  Organized by the Library of American Landscape History (LALH), the exhibition illustrates and analyzes the chronological development of North American landscape design throughout the “Country Place Era,” or the period of time (1890 to 1930) between the Gilded Age through the end of the Great Depression.  During that time, many wealthy American families, convinced that their hectic, crowded, and unclean city lives required periodic retreats to the fresh air and far-ranging vistas of the countryside for renewal and recovery, erected country “cottages” (some of which were more extravagant than the average mansion today).  Of course, these homes were not complete without elegantly sculpted garden paths, man-made reflecting pools, outdoor courtyards, and a spectacular view to top off the experience of nature-filled country life.  Landscape architects creating the perfect outdoor environments for their clients employed a wide range of techniques, structures, and both modern and historical iconography in their designs.  It was a transitional moment, both for the country as a whole and for the practice of landscape design.

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Robin Karson, founding director of LALH, sees the Country Place Era as a significant time in the history of American landscape architecture: balancing on the cusp of the twentieth century, still weighted with the ideas and traditions of bygone years.  One such was the notion of the genius loci, or the “spirit of the place.”  While in some cultures this spirit takes the form of a protective, guardian-like presence, Western cultures more commonly use the phrase “spirit of the place” to refer to a site’s distinctive energy or aura.  In her book A Genius for Place: American Landscapes of the Country Place Era, Karson suggests that landscape architects during this time were guided by the genius loci to preserve the natural beauty and quirks of the original landscape while injecting more modern, experimental architectural elements into their designs… Read the rest of this entry »

Historical Lecture Series at Wistariahurst Museum: Made in the Happy Valley

Made in the Happy Valley
A Historical Lecture Series at Wistariahurst Museum
Holyoke, MA

Wistariahurst Museum presents a Historical Lecture Series: Made in the Happy Valley, Feb 24-May 19, 2014. This series of Monday evening lectures focuses on industrial and handcrafted material culture that historically took place in the Pioneer Valley, or that is currently taking place. All lectures are held Monday nights in the Carriage House at 6pm.

The Pioneer Valley is home to an abundance of artists, writers, craftsmen, artisans, and tradesmen of all types – a fact that has long been true about the area. Ever since the first European settlers made their home in the Valley hundreds of years ago, the presence of a wide variety of craftsmen and artisans within the community has helped to shape local culture. Creativity – and its expression – is significant in the Pioneer Valley today, and has been throughout its history.

This late winter and spring, families have an opportunity to learn about many things locally handmade (past and present!) thanks to the Wistariahurst Museum’s 2014 Spring Historical Lecture Series, Made in the Happy Valley. Held on Monday evenings at 6pm (beginning on February 24th) in the museum’s Carriage House, the lectures will offer useful information and local history surrounding everything from letterpress printing to the Holyoke merry-go-round, custom footwear to child labor in milltowns.

The first event in the series, titled Life of a Mill Hand, will focus on an Irish family living in Holyoke during the Civil War…  Read the rest of this entry »

Children of the Swift River Valley: 19th and Early 20th Century Images

 Children of the Swift River Valley

Underneath the depths of the Quabbin Reservoir is ground upon which a rich history of industry, agriculture, community, and culture took place. While the physical remnants of the Swift River Valley’s past were stripped to make way for flooding, the people and memories of the place live on thanks to local museums and historians.

On Saturday, February 8th, from 1-3pm, an exhibit of photographs of children from the Swift River Valley will be unveiled and celebrated at the Great Falls Discovery Center. Curated by the Swift River Valley Historical Society’s Elizabeth Pierce, Children of the Swift River Valley features early tintype photographs and carte-de-visites, as well as 20th century photographs taken not long before the community disappeared. In addition to the photographs, students from the Hallmark Institute of Photography will take antique-style portraits of families visiting the exhibit – prints can be ordered after the event for a small fee.

The exhibit celebrates the lost-but-not-forgotten communities that once populated the towns of Dana, Enfield, Prescott, and Greenwich, and does so in a way that is easily accessible for children. While it may be difficult for children to conceptualize the cultural and technological changes that have taken place since the photographs were taken, they definitely understand what it’s like to be a kid. By comparing the similarities and differences between them and the children in the photographs, they will be able to gain an understanding of what life for a child may have been like in the Swift River Valley between 100 and 150 years ago! Read the rest of this entry »

A Teachable Moment in Sochi

A Teachable Moment in Sochi

This week, the United States will signal its opposition to anti-gay laws in Russia when a number of openly gay athletes join the official U.S. delegation at the Sochi Winter Olympics. By transforming the world’s greatest athletic stage into a powerful showcase for political equality and human rights, these athletes are guaranteed to inspire hundreds of millions of people around the world – while serving as a powerful reminder of the long line of activist athletes who came before them.

As attention turns to the Olympics on February 7, 2014, don’t miss cultural historian Dave Zirin’s stirring look at this tradition of activist athletes in Media Education Foundation’s film Not Just a Game: Power, Politics & American Sports.

Click here for film availability, study guide & links…

Jewish Immigration History Exhibit

No One Remembers Alone: Memory, Migration, and the Making of an American Family
Through March 2014

Keeping the history and cultural ideals of the 1900s versus the present era in mind, have your family or group consider the differences between the immigrant experience, then and now.

On view at the Yiddish Book Center in Amherst, MA, now through March 2014, is an up-close look at the life-work of a Jewish immigrant couple in the early 1900s. “No One Remembers Alone: Memory, Migration, and the Making of an American Family,” a selection of postcards and other historical materials curated by Patricia Klindienst, explores the story of Abram Spiwak and Sophie Schochetman. Abram, a successful flower-grower in Queens, NY, and Sophie, a renowned dressmaker with a sense of “artistry” when it came to flowers, became quite prosperous and, in many ways, lived the ideal of the “American Dream.”

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Meaningful Ways to Celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

Meaningful Ways to Celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in western Massachusetts

No matter what kind of activity you choose to do to celebrate MLK Day, it’s important to be sure that your family shares an understanding of the significance of the act. Of course, children will need to know some of the history behind the holiday, but the amount of depth with which they understand it will vary based on their age. In addition to learning about Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life and accomplishments, try to identify together some of the themes threaded through his work. A discussion of the importance of kindness and gratitude alongside an examination of your family’s role within the community can be especially useful – children will be inspired to find ways to share some of King’s big ideas with those around them. Once your family is inspired, transfer their enthusiasm into accomplishments and further learning!

Next week, the celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on Monday, January 20th, 2014, presents families with a three-day weekend. Instead of spending your extra day off sleeping in and lazing around the house, highlight the historical significance of the holiday for your family and find a way to make it meaningful. Families can find special events and service opportunities taking place across western Massachusetts, each of which presents students with the chance to learn experientially about the history of oppression in our country, community activism, and the importance of kindness and a commitment to serve others.

Mass Audubon will be hosting the annual Martin Luther King Day of Service at both Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary in Easthampton and Laughing Brook Wildlife Sanctuary in Hampden. Both events will begin with readings of King’s writing about justice and service, and families will learn how to relate his ideas to environmental justice. Afterward, families will be able to do hands-on work to help maintain the sanctuary, such as trail clearing and maintenance, upkeep of buildings, and invasive species removal. The events at both sanctuaries will begin at 9:30am, and will include outdoor work – so dress warmly! Productive participants of all ages are welcome to volunteer at Arcadia, however the work at Laughing Brook is more appropriate for older teens and adults.

Families interested in participating in a community service project that directly serves other community members can participate in the North Berkshire Community Coalition’s MLK Jr. Day of Service in North Adams. Open to teens and adults, the event will include tasks like home insulation and winterizing, painting, knitting, cleaning, and organizing. The event will take place from 9:30am-12:30pm, and includes lunch. Volunteers should meet for the event as Mass College of Liberal Arts’ Church Street Center (61 Main Street, North Adams), but may participate in projects at other locations during the event.

Discover more events…

History Exhibition Recalls Holyoke’s Industrial Past

Echoes of Industry:
The Death and Rebirth of Holyoke’s Mills
Jan – Feb, 2014

With 25 mills near the end of the 19th century, Holyoke was the largest paper manufacturer. Today these mills are reminders of another age – victims of fire, demolition or a new purpose. What remains offers a silent dignity that demands to be recorded.

This January and February, Wistariahurst Museum in Holyoke remembers the city’s past through a display of artwork by Eric Broudy. “Echoes of Industry: The Death and Rebirth of Holyoke’s Mills” contains photographs Broudy took of the old, run-down mills – their exteriors and vast interiors, the “architectural details with rubble and shattered windows” – and a video installation featuring footage of Holyoke mills being given new life, through the development of creative spaces like art galleries, dance and yoga studios, offices, restaurants, even homes, in these once-mighty industrial structures…

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Holidays & the History of Toys

toy history

While toys are a constant theme throughout childhood, during the holidays the purchasing of toys happen more than any other time of year. Looking forward to the arrival of Santa, many children fantasize about all of the new exciting playthings they might receive as holiday gifts while parents are inundated by internet advertisements, big box sales, e-mail offers, and specially printed catalogs bombard us with lists and lists of things that we could buy for our children.

During the holidays, when we are more aware of the commercial toy industry than ever, that it can be empowering for children to consider the history of toys and the role that they play (and have played) within our society. This theme can be explored on many different levels with children of all ages, and learning about the history of toys can help children to gain perspective on the toys with which that they themselves play. In addition to serving as a lens through which to consider American history and culture, a study of toys can help children to reflect on the role that toys play in their lives – helping them to recognize their preferred activities and unique learning style. Read on…

I Need That Record! The Death (or Possible Survival) of the Independent Record Store

Fast Forward: New Filmmakers
at Historic Northampton

In our modern society, most of us (even a lot of kids, and certainly many teens) are well aware of the effect that corporately-run big box stores have on small businesses, tightly knit communities, and local economies. Filmmaker Brendan Toller’s documentary, I Need That Record! The Death (or Possible Survival) of the Independent Record Store, tells the story of the national impact that big media, big business, and internet-based purchasing has had on a very specific part of our economy and our culture.

Focused on the sharp decline in independent record stores nationwide during the past decade, as well as media consolidation and changes in technology, the film features interviews with music industry greats such as Thurston Moore (iconic Sonic Youth frontman), the Talking Heads’ Chris Frantz, activist and author Noam Chomsky, and Pat Carney of the Black Keys. Toller weaves these interviews (and many more) together alongside staggering statistics about the state of the record industry and tales of media consolidation, homogenized radio, big box stores, and – most importantly – greed, in order to pay homage to the iconic indie record shop and to shed a bright light on the frustrating and destructive effect that corporate media has upon the record industry.

Families with older students can see I Need That Record! at Historic Northampton on Sunday, December 15th, 2013, at 3pm. Shown as part of Historic Northampton’s series Fast Forward: New Filmmakers at Historic Northampton, the screening presents a community based opportunity to examine one of today’s biggest economic and cultural issues through a unique lens. The film can help teens and tweens learn how to make good choices about where (and from whom) they choose to buy or access music, and makes the importance of supporting local businesses really hit home. Independent record stores, which can be a pop culture reference for specific sub-cultures, are often portrayed with an air of invincibility about them. They’re often portrayed in the media as being so against the mainstream that they’re unaffected by it; however, quite the opposite is true. The smaller, less represented parts of our culture are generally the most vulnerable – and record stores are not exception.

“Backstairs” Tour to Illuminate the Lives of Early 20th-Century Servants in the Berkshires

The Mount Creates “Backstairs” Tour to Illuminate the Lives of Early 20th-Century Servants

Taking a Backstairs Tour will allow families to learn about the story of the home and Edith Wharton’s place in literary history; more importantly, however, it will shed light on the class divisions that existed during the Gilded Age in the United States. Students can ponder the ethics of keeping servants, and can think about fair working conditions and wages when they consider the servants’ employment. Older students can also consider the current debate over raising minimum wage in our state when they think about the servants’ working conditions – how does the service industry today compare to its early 20th century equivalent?

The Mount, former summer home of Edith Wharton, is one of the Berkshires’ many beautiful, historic homes. From the sculpture garden and woodlands to the ornately decorated interior, the house embodies all that was high society during the early part of the 20th century. But how was Wharton’s lavish lifestyle sustainable? Who kept the house clean, cooked meals, and orchestrated parties and other social gatherings?

Families can learn about the “behind the scenes” workers of The Mount on a special new tour. Titled the Backstairs Tour, the new addition to the estate’s regularly scheduled tours and events is exactly what the name implies. The Backstairs Tour takes visitors to the otherwise unseen parts of the home – literally to the backstairs, as well as the servants’ quarters in the main house, stable, and gatehouse. Visitors will learn about the role of Wharton’s staff who, in addition to cooking and cleaning, were responsible for driving, extensive gardening, secretary tasks, and other household jobs… Read the rest of this entry »

New Filmmakers Series at Historic Northampton

New Filmmakers Series at Historic Northampton
Sunday, November 10th

The challenges of parenting are not unique to any particular culture or geographical location. Raising children (and being raised) includes some of the same obstacles no matter where you live, and these challenges cross cultures, continents, and generations. However, it is in approaching these obstacles that we perhaps learn the most about ourselves, our children, our parents, and our relationships with one another.

Historic Northampton is hosting a screening of two films that address this idea in two very different ways. Fast Forward: New Filmmakers at Historic Northampton includes work by Masami Kawai and Sasha Hsuczyk, women whose films examine their own relationships with their mother’s. Held on Sunday, November 10th at 3pm, the screening addresses themes of immigration, migrant labor, and mother-daughter relationships…

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Wendell Minor’s America: Premier Historical Picture Book Illustrator on Exhibit at Norman Rockwell Museum

Exhibition Celebrates 25 Years of Work by Historical Picture Book Illustrator Wendell Minor
Saturday, November 9, 2013 – Monday, May 26, 2014

Image credit: Wendell Minor, “Abraham Lincoln Comes Home,” 2008. Cover illustration for “Abraham Lincoln Comes Home” by Robert Burleigh, Henry Holt and Co. Watercolor, gouache and pencil on paper. Norman Rockwell Museum Collections. ©Wendell Minor. All rights reserved.

The Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, MA, invites families to “Wendell Minor’s America,” a special exhibition featuring more than 150 original artworks, artifacts, and references from illustrator Wendell Minor’s distinguished portfolio.

The award-winning illustrator drew his way through childhood in Aurora, Illinois, inspired by the richly illustrated magazines that were so much a part of American life during the mid-twentieth century. The exhibition celebrates his many cover illustrations and his 25th anniversary illustrating children’s books, each of which has been inspired by Minor’s love of history, art, science, and the natural world…

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Maps of Massachusetts: Supporting Social Studies & Local History

Digital Maps of Massachusetts: 1819-1940

While old maps are interesting on their own, they provide an excellent entry point for studies of local history. The state department of education includes local history in their frameworks for third grade social studies, but local history is a topic that can be learned about at varying depths by students of all ages…

Maps can say a lot about a place. Not only are they useful for navigating webs of city streets and miles of bumpy country roads, but they offer a perspective not otherwise often seen or accurately conceptualized (except with the help of airplanes, of course). Seeing your community from a birds eye view can put a lot of things into perspective. What might seem like a small village might actually be a good sized town, while a maze of suburban streets might really be only short stretch of populated roads surrounded by more wild space than you had imagined.

In addition to adding perspective on the way that your community looks today, maps can help us to learn about what our communities have looked like in the past. Thanks to the Massachusetts State Library, archives of thousands of maps of communities all over the state from the 19th and 20th centuries are now available online

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Dig Up Local History at Historic Deerfield’s Archaeology Day!

Archaeology Day at Historic Deerfield

Archaeologists don’t just dig up dinosaur bones and arrowheads, they work to recover building foundations, fragments of tools and dishes, and other evidence of life and human culture.

Dig up some local history at Historic Deerfield’s Archaeology Day on Saturday, October 19th! Families with children of all ages can learn about the role that archaeology has played in explorations of local history at this free event, which features special exhibits, tours, lectures, and hands-on activities.

Held from 10:30am-4pm, Archaeology Day is hosted by Historic Deerfield in conjunction with the Massachusetts Archaeological Society, the Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association, and the University of Massachusetts. Families can learn about local history and local archaeological digs by taking part in an archaeological tour of the historic village, searching for artifacts in a mock dig site, attending a lecture on digs that have taken place at the former site of the Pocumtuck Fort, or visiting a display of artifacts that have been recovered from two local sites – Sanford Tavern and Taylor’s Fort.

The event presents a unique opportunity for students to learn about the role of archaeology in piecing together history. The context in which students most often learn about archaeology is in studies of prehistoric beasts and primitive cultures, but archaeology is used in order to learn more about the plants, animals, and people who lived during nearly any time period in history and in any part of the world. Archaeologists don’t just dig up dinosaur bones and arrowheads, they work to recover building foundations, fragments of tools and dishes, and other evidence of life and human culture…

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“Holyoke Remembers the Civil War” Exhibit at Wistariahurst Museum

Museum Volunteer’s Research Results in Commemorative Civil War Exhibition at Wistariahurst

Artifacts featured are from the Museum Archive Collection and include a period carte-de-visite portrait of George H. Smith, who later became a well known local physician and held municipal positions in the city of Holyoke. On display through Oct 31, 2013.

Wistariahurst Museum in Holyoke, MA, commemorates the one hundred fiftieth anniversary of the Civil War with a new display of artifacts from the Museum’s Archive Collection, entitled “Holyoke Remembers the Civil War.”

One hundred and fifty years ago, Holyoke residents left their homes and families in Massachusetts to join in the fight for the Union. Visitors can look at these brave civilians’ belongings on display now at Wistariahurst – a carte-de-viste portrait of George H. Smith, a well-known figure in Holyoke’s history, as well as a Bible dating back to the 1860s that Smith carried during his war experience that contains a personal note, in addition to uniforms, newspapers and other documents dating from the period, and veterans’ medals – and immerse themselves in the rich history of the time period.  This exhibition is the result of research compiled by James Ubertalli, an archive volunteer at Wistariahurst with a particular passion for Civil War history.

Students of American history – and people of all ages hoping to learn more about Holyoke and Pioneer Valley history – will find this an enriching experience. Saturdays-Mondays, noon-4pm, through October 31, 2013. Holyoke, MA.

In addition to this exhibition, Wistariahurst offers house tours, and their calendar is full of other local history lectures and events happening this fall. For more information: www.wistariahurst.org. 413-322-5660. 238 Cabot St. Holyoke, MA.

Sojourner Truth Memorial: American and Western MA History

Sojourner Truth Memorial Statue Committee Offers Educational & Cultural Events to Support History Curriculum

A guided walking tour of African American and Abolition Era History takes place on Saturday, October 5th, 2013. Meet at the Sojourn Truth Memorial Statue at 10am (130 Pine Street, Florence, MA). Rain location at the David Ruggles Center (225 Nonotuck St., Florence, MA).

As an area rich with history, it is no surprise that the Pioneer Valley has deep connections to the movement that eventually lead to the ending of slavery in the United States.  Sojourner Truth,  an African-American woman famous for her anti-slavery and women’s rights activism, lived in Florence for nearly fifteen years during the mid-19th century.  Born a slave and freed after more than 25 years of labor, Truth used her experiences as an enslaved woman to fuel her passion for speaking out for human rights.

Families can learn about Sojourner Truth’s important role in American history (as well as local history) and the details of her life in Florence by utilizing the many resources offered by the Sojourner Truth Memorial Statue Committee.  Of these resources, the most easily accessible of them is a walking tour, which families with kids of all ages can take with the help of a downloadable map.   Outlined on the committee’s website, the self-guided tour begins at the Sojourner Truth Memorial Statue, located at the corner of Pine and Park Streets, and follows the African-American Heritage Trail on an educational journey through town…

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House Calls to Hoaxes: Early Medicine Exhibit at Hatfield Historical Museum

Behind the Scenes of Creating a Museum Exhibit
By Kathie Gow

Check out the opening of From House Calls to Hoaxes: The Changing Face of Health Care at the Hatfield Historical Museum on Sunday, October 6th from 11am-3pm during the Hatfield Fall Festival. (Free)

The most exciting thing about creating a museum exhibit is getting to learn about (or learn more about) a new subject. At the Hatfield Historical Museum, myself, as curator, and a handful of volunteers are putting up an exhibit on the history of medical care in our town, and it’s been quite a trip: From House Calls to Hoaxes: The Changing Face of Health Care in Hatfield.

We have been warmed by stories of house calls and dedicated doctors traveling by horse and sleigh through snow to attend their patients’ ills in their homes; as well as, fascinated, surprised and repulsed to learn what techniques and tools were considered standard in earlier times…

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Maize: Mysteries of an Ancient Grain at Smith

Maize: Mysteries of an Ancient Grain

Maize is the largest production crop in the world and plays a central role in all of United States agriculture and food production. Explore the science of maize, one of the most significant crops to humankind for thousands of years, and why it continues to surprise us today.

For thousands of years, corn has been a staple in the diet of countless cultures. Today, corn is the largest produced crop in the world, and the United States is no exception – large scale agriculture in our country revolves around corn production. What’s so great about corn, though? How is it that the yellow, red, blue, and white kernels have persisted in their importance to humans?

Find an answer to this question (and many others!) at the Smith College Botanical Garden’s fall exhibit, Maize: Mysteries of an Ancient Grain. Open through December 15th, 2013 at the garden’s Lyman Plant House, the exhibit features history and cultural significance of corn, as well as lots of information about changes that the grain has undergone – both naturally and as a result of genetic engineering.

While visiting the exhibit, families with younger students can focus on the history and use of corn throughout history…

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Museums Trace Jewish Community’s Rise “From Shtetl to Suburb”

“From Shtetl to Suburb: One Hundred Years of Jewish Life in the Valley”
Illustrates Jewish Experience in the Pioneer Valley at the Springfield Museums
Through March 2nd, 2014

“The story of Jewish immigrants and their work to develop a thriving community over the last century is a fascinating tale of courage, hard work, and perseverance,” states Guy McLain, Director of the Wood Museum of Springfield History. “Their story is unique, but also emblematic of the challenges faced by so many immigrant groups throughout America’s history.”

The Lyman and Merrie Wood Museum of Springfield History, in conjunction with several noted local organizations and guest curator Dr. Stuart Anfang, invites you to learn about the history of the Jewish community in Western Massachusetts from the late 19th century through the present.  By combining artifacts, photos, film, and personal histories, the exhibition offers multidimensional insights into the experiences of Jewish immigrants fleeing the pogroms of Czarist Russia in the late 19th century.  The exhibit also illustrates the growth of their community in the North End of Springfield, the eventual decline of such inner-city neighborhoods in the aftermath of World War II, and the 1960’s relocation of Springfield’s Jewish community and synagogues to Longmeadow and other parts of Western MA following a major urban renewal project in the North End…

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The Black Man in Song: 18th Century Music & History in Deerfield

The Black Man in Song
Memorial Hall Museum in Deerfield, MA

The Old Deerfield Sunday Afternoon Concert Series will conclude it 2013 season August 25th with a special concert in tribute to Lucy Terry Prince, Deerfield’s 18th century African American resident and America’s first African American poet who was also known for her singing and story telling.

This Sunday, August 25th, is the 267 anniversary of the last of the Indian raids which took place in Deerfield, MA. Known as the 1746 Bars Fight, the event helped to shape the community of 18th century Deerfield’s relationship with their Native American neighbors. The event is chronicled in the only surviving work of Lucy Terry Prince, a notable African-American poet, songwriter, and storyteller of early Deerfield. A former slave, Prince’s unusual life has become an important part of western Massachusetts folklore.

At this week’s Old Deerfield Sunday Afternoon Concert, Prince’s life and work will be celebrated in song, marking the first annual Lucy Prince Tribute. Titled The Black Man in Song, the concert will include both traditional and contemporary music, including a commissioned piece based on letters written by George Washington Carver. Songs will be performed by tenor Irwin Reese and pianist Julia Bady, and the concert will take place in the Victorian Music Room of the Memorial Hall Museum, allowing concertgoers to enjoy historic surroundings while celebrating the village’s past.

While 18th century music may not be the typical favorite genre of most kids, the concert presents a unique musical lens to learn about American history. Older students who have some preexisting knowledge about early American history and the Revolutionary War can expand their learning with specific historical details through song, and will be able to broaden their understanding of artistic expression in early America…

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New England’s Largest Revolutionary War-era Military Reenactment Celebrates 10 Years!

Old Sturbridge Village ‘Redcoats & Rebels’
New England’s largest military reenactment in New England celebrates 10 years!
August 3rd & 4th, 2013

Forget history books with boring dates and dry facts. One of the best ways to learn about the Revolutionary War is to talk to a military reenactor. Most of the soldiers participating in the Redcoats & Rebels have meticulously researched the Revolutionary War history of the actual units they portray.  These amateur historians can tell you what it feels like to fire a musket or cannon, what the food tasted like, what it sounds like in battle, and how hot the uniforms were. And they know lots of interesting, little-known facts about military life when our country was young.

The Redcoats are coming, the Redcoats are coming! Old Sturbridge Village (OSV) will be transformed into a Revolutionary War-era military encampment on August 3rd and 4th, offering families a chance to learn about the soldiering life in the 18th century – up close and personal! Redcoats and Rebels is an annual event at OSV, and features reenactment groups representing both the British and American armies.

As the largest reenactment event in New England, Redcoats and Rebels offers a myriad of demonstrations, performances, and other educational events, all designed to completely immerse visitors in the culture, sights, and sounds of war-era early New England…

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Civil War Sesquicentennial

Civil War Sesquicentennial

This year is the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, and although not much of the action took place in Western Massachusetts, there are plenty of online resources to help you learn about the war and commemorate its 150th anniversary.

The first of these is a Civil War EarthCam.  The Battle of Gettysburg took place from July 1-3, 1863, and EarthCam has a live webcam of a reenactment of Pickett’s Charge, Wednesday July 3 at 3pm.  The Gettysburg EarthCam transports you to the site of this historic battle, which was a turning point in the Civil War.

Another great online resource is the Civil War Trust.  They have interactive maps, photos, games, descriptions of battles, soldier biographies, and much more.  The maps on the site are useful for understanding specific battles and how they went.  Newer, animated maps show the course of battle and specific steps taken, complete with historical reenactment footage and narration.

In addition to these interesting online resources, there are a couple of events happening in the region that can help teach about and commemorate the Civil War:

Saturday, July 6 – 2pm – HISTORY: As part of their Civil War: 150 Years series, Western Gateway Heritage State Park is giving an illustrated lecture on Gettysburg – the site of the war’s pivotal battle and Abraham Lincoln’s famous Gettysburg Address.  Confederate General Robert E. Lee will “come to life” and share his story of how and why the Confederacy lost this battle and subsequently the war itself.  413-663-6312.  115 State Street #4.  North Adams, MA.

Saturday, July 13 – 7pm – HISTORY/FILM: Ron Maxwell’s new Civil War era film Copperhead (PG-13) is screening at Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center.  The film follows an Upstate New York family during the Civil War.  Maxwell will be at the screening to answer questions and discuss the film.  He has directed two Civil War films before this – Gettysburg (PG) and Gods and Generals (PG-13).  Call ahead for tickets.  413-528-0100.  14 Castle Street.  Great Barrington, MA.  $

Historic Museum in Western MA Hilltowns Celebrates 50 Years!

Kemp-McCarthy Museum: Historic Museum in the Hilltown Highlandss

Families can learn all about the history of life in the Hilltowns at the Kemp-McCarthy Museum, the town of Rowe’s fantastic resource for learning about local history! The Museum with be celebrating its 50th anniversary on Sunday, June 30th from 2-4pm!

A typical weeknight in a modern day Hilltown household might include driving to sports practice, using the internet to complete homework assignments, cooking dinner together on an electric stove in a well-lit kitchen, and searching for constellations in the night sky using a cell phone app.  Nothing unusual – just some typical childhood activities and family downtime in a modern day society…

Rewind a full century.  What would this typical weeknight have looked like during the early 20th century?  Or what about fifty years earlier than that, even?  Families in the Hilltowns during generations past similarly spent their evenings together at home, but their time was filled with very different activities.  Instead of electricity- and technology-dependent pastimes, they played musical instruments together, did laborious household chores, and relied on woodstoves in order to do their cooking…

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Irish Legacy Exhibit Blends Local Immigration History with Artifacts at Springfield Museums

Irish Legacy Exhibit at Springfield Museums this Summer

Mother John Berchmans, left, a Sister of St. Joseph of Springfield, whose secular family name was Somers, established Our Lady of the Elms College in 1928 with the Most Rev. Thomas O’Leary, diocesan bishop. Sister Mary Cecelia Lucey, an accomplished musician and diocesan music teacher, succeeded her at the Elms. This photo was taken in 1948 on the Elms campus. (Photo courtesy of Sisters of St. Joseph of Springfield/Mont Marie Archives)

The Pioneer Valley’s history is deeply entwined with the stories of thousands of Irish immigrants.  Local culture and industries were shaped in part by the growth in population that Irish immigration to the United States sparked along the Connecticut River.  The influence of this can still be seen amongst communities throughout the Valley.

To honor the rich cultural, geographic, and economic history of Irish immigrants, the Springfield Museums are offering an exhibit titled, “The Irish Legacy: Immigration and Assimilation in the Connecticut Valley During the Industrial Revolution.”  The exhibit, which will be open to visitors from June 11th through August 25th, blends historical information and data with photographs, books, and other artifacts including a St. Brigid cross, a traditional Celtic dance dress and shoes, and a bodhrán, and Irish instruments.  The museum will also offer scheduled special events for games, stories, performances, and other family-friendly activities to help younger visitors to absorb and understand the information displayed within the exhibit.

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Two Bike Tours of Holyoke Mills & Canals and Mansions

Bike Tours of Holyoke Mills & Canals and Mansions: June 1st & 8th

Teens & adults can take to the streets via bike and join Wistariahurst Museum for two historical bicycle tours around Holyoke. Tours will be led by historian Craig Della Penna who will share his insights of historical buildings, landmarks along Holyoke’s streets.

The Wistariahurst Museum is holding two bicycle tours around the city of Holyoke, one exploring the city’s mills and canals, and the other exploring the mansions of the Fairfield Avenue Historic District.  Teens and their parents can spend quality time together while learning local history and developing a greater sense of place by becoming better acquainted with the history and current landscape of this first planned industrial community in the U.S.

The first ride, taking place from 11am-12:30pm on Saturday, June 1st, leads cyclists along the many mills and canals of Holyoke.  Local historian Craig Della Penna will be there to teach you about the history of these waterways, as well as the historic buildings built along them.  The ride begins and ends at Holyoke Heritage State Park (221 Appleton Street).

The second ride is on Saturday, June 8th from 11am-12:30pm.  Cyclists will ride around the Holyoke Highlands and Fairfield Avenue Historic District while learning about the architecture of the area’s Victorian mansions, as well as the architects, builders, and families connected to them.  This tour begins at Kennedy Park (Waldo Street) and ends at Jones Park (Oxford Road).

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HFVS History Through Stories & Songs Episode with Guest DJ, David Grover (Radio Show/Podcast)

Hilltown Family Variety Show
History Through Stories & Songs Episode
Guest DJ, David Grover

Listen to Podcast:

David Grover is our Guest DJ with a History through Stories & Songs Episode. David puts together an eclectic mix of favorite folk songwriters and singers that highlights the history of our country. – www.davidgrover.com

Saturday from 9-10am & Sunday from 7-8am
May 25th & 26th, 2013
WXOJ LP – 103.3 FM – Valley Free Radio
Northampton, MA

Pete Seeger – “Forever Young”

 Archived Podcasts Radio  Facebook Twitter


  • Where am I Going A.A. Milne/music Bob Reid
  • God’s Counting on You Pete Seeger/Lorre Wyatt
  • English is Crazy/Pete Seeger
  • If I Only Had a Brain/Liv Taylor
  • John Henry/David Grover
  • Ragtime Cowboy /Joe Dan Hicks & the Hot Licks
  • 4 Little Sailors/Bill Staines
  • The Declaration of Independence/Pete Seeger
  • To the South Pole/Bill Harley
  • The Gettysburg Address
  • Civil War Music/David Grover
  • America the Beautiful/David Grover

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