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…
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…
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.
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…
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…
“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…
Historical Culinary Incidents
Lecture Series at Wistariahurst Museum
Come to Wistariahurst Museum in Holyoke this fall for a great lecture series featuring local scholars and experts discussing various aspects of the food of the Pioneer Valley and its history.
There are many different entry points for thematically investigating history. In studying the traditional dress of various time periods, we learn about the activities likely done by people based on their style of dress. We read and study classic art and literature as a means of understanding the historical context in which it was written or created. Architecture, similarly, can be examined in order to understand the resources (both material and monetary) of people in a particular place at a particular time.
This fall, the Wistariahurst Museum in Holyoke hosts Historical Culinary Incidents, a lecture series that examines local history through the role of food in the Pioneer Valley. Held at 6pm on Monday evenings – beginning September 9th – each lecture will focus on a different aspect of the area’s edible history. By attending the events, families can learn together about the important role that food has played throughout the area’s history. Lecture topics will focus on everything from the food enjoyed by college students to former valley vineyards…
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…
Now Dig This! Art and Black Los Angeles 1960-1980
Williams College Museum of Art
Opening Day: Saturday, July 20th at 2pm
By the early 1960s the West Coast became highly visible among the international arts community. African American artists such as Betye Saar made some of their earliest important works at this time. [Image credit: Betye Saar. Black Girl’s Window, 1969.]
Now Dig This! Art and Black Los Angeles 1960-1980 opens at the Williams College Museum of Art this Saturday, July 20th and will run through December 1, 2013. The exhibition chronicles the vital legacy of the African American arts community in Los Angeles, examining a pioneering group of black artists whose work and connections with other artists of varied ethnic backgrounds helped shape the creative output of Southern California.
Visiting this exhibition will give visitors first-hand exposure to a wide variety of works done by African-American artists who were active during this twenty year time period. Visitors will have a chance to consider how the art being made – and social perspectives about art – in this period underwent rapid change, as artists moved from traditional methods like painting and drawing to techniques like conceptual and performance art. The exhibition illustrates not only a major shift in American art but in American public thought – perfect for students of American history, civil rights movement, pop culture, and, of course, art.
On the opening day of the exhibition, join Kellie Jones at 2pm, exhibition curator and associate professor in Art History and Archaeology at Columbia University, for a first look at the show. Hear about the research and curatorial choices that made this exhibition possible, and learn more about the forms of art on display – through which many artists of the era critiqued the social, political, and economic state of the country…
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. $
Crash Course… six courses in one channel with 112 episodes! John Green teaches you US History and Hank Green teaches you Chemistry. Check out the playlists for past courses in World History, Biology, Literature, and Ecology too!
Research has shown that students can lose two months (or more!) worth of their learning in mathematics and language arts during the summer if they aren’t exposed to meaningful and enriching learning activities while they’re out of school. Of course, informal learning can take place for students in almost any situation where they have a little bit of freedom. They’ll learn while climbing a tree, they’ll learn while watching cars you pass on the highway during summer travel, and they can even learn while watching food cook on the grill at your 4th of July party. But when (and how) will they get to learn about things that they won’t or can’t experience? Perhaps they’ll read a book about a time in history or a scientific concept that interests them, but the knowledge that they can gain from reading is limited by their reading level and the accessibility of such materials.
This summer, try supplementing your child’s informal summer learning with some educational videos online. YouTube channel Crash Course! offers a plethora of educational videos focused on U.S. & World History, Biology, Ecology, English Literature, and Chemistry. Created using fun and funky graphics, bright colors, scientific charts, and historical photographs paired with fast-paced, high-energy narration, the videos are dense but exciting. Viewers are exposed to a huge amount of information fairly quickly (hence the name!), and may need to watch the video again in order to fully absorb all of it. However, kids watching the videos just out of curiosity will retain basic information about the War of 1812, stoichiometry, entropy, and the emergence of political parties in the United States…
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…
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).
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
Storrowton Village Host Interactive Tour: Civil War
West Springfield, May 28th
The storytelling tour at Storrowton Village in West Springfield, MA recognizes the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the Civil War on Tuesday evening, May 28th. Those who are intrigued and fascinated by Civil War history and want to learn more about life during this period, are urged to attend this unique and educational learning experience. Storrowton Village plans to present four such programs each year.
Storrowton Village will present an interactive, educational tour titled Storrowton and the Civil War, Tuesday, May 28, from 6-7pm, offering an inside look at how folks in the Northeast coped with the Civil War and the absence of our men who were called to duty or joined the patriotic fervor.
Participants will meet “townspeople” and hear their personal stories and points of view regarding the Civil War. Storrowton Village volunteers will be portraying the characters of the time as visitors travel through the Village’s historic buildings meeting residents, shopkeepers, farmers, family members, and tradesmen along the way, all with information and their own experiences to share.
Porter-Phelps-Huntington Museum Opens for 2013 Season
The rooms in the Porter-Phelps-Huntington Museum remain as they were arranged by members of the family to accommodate the procession of folks who crossed the house’s threshold. From farmers and businessmen, to religious leaders and social workers, to servants and slaves, the stories of many men, women, and children spanning 250 years of American History are told within the house.
The Porter-Phelps-Huntington Museum, an historic house museum dating to 1752 in Hadley, MA opens today (Wednesday, May 15) for its 64th season, and will continue their summer music engagement series, Wednesday Folk Traditionsand A Perfect Spot of Tea this summer.
Known as Forty Acres, the museum is an 18th-century farm on the banks of the Connecticut River that today interprets life in rural New England over three centuries. Through the words, spaces and possessions of the women and men who lived there, the Museum portrays the activities of a prosperous and productive 18th-century farmstead.
Pothole Pictures presents “Root Hog or Die”
May 17th & 18th in Shelburne Falls, MA
“Root Hog or Die” captures the lives and stories of the old time horse farmers in Franklin County in their own voices, faces, ingenious technology and well-tended land. According to Pothole Pictures coordinator, Fred DeVecca, “Rawn Fulton’s film provides a vibrant and down-to-earth historical context for the resurgence of local agriculture, CSAs and micro-farming in Franklin County today…It connects us to our neighbors, our history, the land and the farms we depend on and gives us all an opportunity to show our support for local agriculture.”
Nearly forty years after its first release, “Root Hog or Die,” the Franklin County documentary film on the last of the old time horse farmers in Western Massachusetts, re-appears on the big screen in Shelburne Falls. On Friday and Saturday, May 17th & 18th at 7:30pm, Pothole Pictures presents two screenings of “Root Hog or Die” in historic Memorial Hall Theater in downtown Shelburne Falls.
On Saturday, May 18, the film’s director, Rawn Fulton will present the recently re-mastered digital version of the original 56-minute film made in 1974, and will lead a community conversation about farming then and now together with a panel of local farmers. They include farmers and local families whose experience stretches back for generations and who are connected to many of the farmers featured in “Root Hog or Die” – Jim Wholey and the Dole family of Shelburne, and Al Pieropan of Ashfield.
Contemporary farmers with long family roots in Franklin County also include Faith and Peter Williams representing the Our Family Farms dairy cooperative and John and Carolyn Wheeler of Wheelview Farm. Newer arrivals to Franklin County farming include Paul Lacinski and Amy Klippenstein of Side Hill Farm in Hawley and David Fisher and Anna Maclay of Natural Roots CSA in Conway. New Roots brings the horse-powered farming tradition back to Franklin County in a new form – community supported agriculture. Recent Mohawk High School graduate will represent the new generation of young farmers revitalizing agriculture in Franklin County.
Chester On Track Celebrates 174th Anniversary
Saturday, May 18th, 2013
All aboard for Chester On Track, the railroad-themed family festival in downtown Chester, MA on Saturday, May 18 from 9am-4pm (rain or shine). A 10am parade sets the day’s pace along Route 20 and through the village. This free event gathers some of the very best early railroad, industrial, military and artisan talent from the across region.
Celebrate the 174th anniversary of the coming of the railroad to Chester, MA. Chester became a significant railroad hub during the age of steam. 150 men worked around the clock at the roundhouse maintaining the “pusher” engines to move passengers and freight up and over the Berkshire Hills westward.
Visit with living history re-enactors and explore the stories of the local landscape: 10th Massachusetts Regiment Civil War, blacksmithing, and Irish immigrant Western Railroad workers from Storrowtown Village, and tool demonstrations at a former granite stone finishing works.
Stop by the rail fan train show at the depot. Marvel at the Pioneer Valley Live Steamers ‘one-lung’ steam & gas engine demos, and classic cars. Displays include a number of 1920′s-era freight cars, wooden caboose, wooden velocipede, ‘Children’s Boxcar,’ Operation Lifesaver and US Fish and Wildlife’s Watershed On Wheels exhibit van.
Greenfield’s Lost Museum: Dexter Marsh and the Dinosaur Tracks
The town of Greenfield was once home to a world famous museum – it drew a stunning 3,000 visitors in just 7 years! The museum, opened during the mid-19th century by a local jack-of-all-trades named Dexter Marsh, was home to the first ever dinosaur tracks to receive a thorough and official scientific examination. What happened to the tracks? And what happened to the museum? Find out more about this fascinating piece of Pioneer Valley past at Greenfield Community College’s Sloan Theater on Wednesday, May 8th at 7pm. Presented by the Pioneer Valley Institute. 1 College Drive. Greenfield, MA. (FREE)
Many local people know that Dexter Marsh (1806-1853), quarrier — stonemason, janitor, handyman, and jack-of-all-trades in 19th-century Greenfield, MA — was among the first to discover dinosaur footprints, but how many know that he opened one of the first dinosaur museums in the country? In 1835, when he first saw the prints, he thought they had been left by very large birds — and professional geologists agreed with him. These became the first known tracks in the world ever to receive a thorough scientific examination, performed by a professor at Amherst College named Edward Hitchcock.
In the following years, the largely self-educated Marsh learned about paleontology and built an extra room onto his house to exhibit his collection. From 1846 to 1853, an astonishing 3,000 people signed the visitors’ register of his house-museum, including such famous Americans as Oliver Wendell Holmes and even travelers from Europe and the Near East. At his early death in 1853, Marsh’s museum was dispersed at public auction, split mostly between Amherst College and what is today the Boston Museum of Science.
By looking into his daybooks and visitors’ registry in the archives at Amherst College, Dr. Robert Herbert has given Dexter Marsh the most thorough examination to date, bringing the man and his museum from obscurity back into the light. On Wednesday, May 8th at 7pm, using maps, photographs, and illustrations, Dr. Herbert will give a lively talk about this brilliant day laborer whose curiosity moved him into another world. It is our great good fortune that Dr. Herbert, formerly an art historian at Yale University and later Mount Holyoke College, has long been interested in the history of geology. In recent years, he has written about Edward Hitchcock and Orra White Hitchcock and continues to delve into the history of dinosaur footprints in the Connecticut River Valley.
Dr. Herbert’s talk will take place at Greenfield Community College, Main Campus, Sloan Theater (Main Building, South Wing). For more info contact Cynthia Herbert at email@example.com
Submitted by Cynthia Herbert. Photo courtesy of the Historical Society of Greenfield.
Patriot’s Day Revolutionary Muster and Parade
Saturday, April 13th, 2013
Go back in time and learn all about the Revolutionary War at Historic Deerfield this weekend! The museum’s Patriot’s Day Revolutionary Muster and Parade offers a chance to immerse yourself in the sights, sounds, and smells of 18th century New England, just as the Revolutionary War was beginning. Families will find numerous ways to learn and experience history for themselves, and the event is filled with demonstrations and reenactments that will bring history to life!
The focus for this year’s muster is “The Shot Heard Round the World,” and the events in Concord and Lexington that officially began the country’s fight for freedom from England. Historical re-enactors will fill the grounds at Historic Deerfield with encampments of soldiers – both American and British – and will perform traditional fife and drum music and act out a small skirmish-style attack. Families can learn about the traditional dress of a revolutionary soldier, as well as the uniforms, weapons, and even behavior required of a member of the early American army.
Other educational opportunities include demonstrations of open hearth cooking and powder horn carving, house tours, a self-guided Revolution Walk tour, Colonial crafts, and more. Children can learn about the Revolutionary War through immersion – gaining an understanding of the events that lead to the war and experiencing the culture and traditions of those living during and participating in the war. They will learn about life as a soldier, as well as life as a villager contributing to the war effort. Older students can pair their pre-existing knowledge of the Revolutionary War with studies of 18th century life by learning more about the customs of early Americans.
The event takes place on Saturday, April 13th, 2013 from 10am-4pm, rain or shine – just as in Revolutionary times! Historic Deerfield is located on Old Main Street in Deerfield. Admission to the event is $12 for adults, and $5 for children ages 6-17. For more information, visit www.historic-deerfield.org/ or call 413-775-7214.
For an upcoming issue of Preview Massachusetts Magazine, I was in Northampton interviewing a chef and a restaurant owner this week. It’s a space he relatively recently took over and we were recalling together what it had been in its last incarnation.
That evening, my husband and I strained to recall what it had been before that. We couldn’t remember.
I arrived in the Valley in 1981 as a first year student at Hampshire College. Gauzily, hazily, I can recall waiting for the train—location, obvious—for its 2 AM pickup once or twice (that wasn’t fun). Where Moshi Moshi is, Wally’s Soda Bar was. There was another health food store in town and a groovy cotton-clothing store where Florence Savings Bank is now. The town had a hardware store and a Woolworth’s and an independently owned pharmacy on Main Street.
On it goes. There’s so much I cannot remember. I have to admit my personal institutional memory is spotty at best.
My dear husband and I think that someone—Chamber of Commerce, perhaps—should build some kind of interactive site that offers the history of each storefront in town.
What do you remember? Where’s the history-loving and tech-savvy design student to build a site for our adorable little New England city?
Sarah is a writer, who lives in Northampton with her husband and four children. She contributes to Preview Massachusetts Magazine, as well as other publications and writes a parenting blog Standing in the Shadows at the Valley Advocate. She moved to the Valley to attend Hampshire College—and found the Valley such a nice place, she stayed!
Planes, Trains, and Automobiles
History of Transportation in the Pioneer Valley
One of the best ways to learn about the changes that historical events and innovative inventions create is by studying local history. By learning about broad concepts and eras within history, we can gain an understanding of how things changed on a large scale. However, to really understand how these changes were played out on a smaller scale, we must examine the effect that they had on our own communities.
The Wistariahurst Museum is offering a series of lectures this spring on the history of transportation in the Pioneer Valley. Titled, “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles: Transportation in the Pioneer Valley,” the series aims to teach the community about how changes in technology, industry, and politics played out in they way that we get from place to place. Some of the topics addressed in the lectures will include:
Westover Field’s role in our country’s involvement in the Cold War
The short history of rail travel and transport in the Pioneer Valley, and its place in our future
Travel by foot or on bike, as supported by the many hiking trails and bike paths in the valley
The systems we’ve implemented in our waterways in order to accommodate changing energy needs and the upstream travel of fish
Best for older students, the lectures will explain lots of important local history and will focus on 20th century history (though a few of the topics deal with late 19th century history, as well). Each event will take place at 6pm in the museum’s carriage house, and they will take place on Monday evenings from March 4th-May 13th, 2013. The museum asks a small donation to attend the lectures. Wistariahurst is located at 238 Cabot Street in Holyoke, and can be contacted at 413-322-5660.
In honor of Black History Month I want to share an extraordinary book about an extraordinary human being:
Carver, a life in poems(Front Street, 2001) is an intimate portrait of the botanist, inventor, scientist, artist, musician, and teacher, known as George Washington Carver. Written by acclaimed poet, Marilyn Nelson, the book takes us through Carver’s life in a series of narrative poems told from the voices of the people who knew him, and from Carver himself. Wrought with emotion and meaning, Nelson gives us a biographical experience of a man whose imprint on the world is still felt today.
Born a slave in Missouri in 1864, and raised by the white family that owned his mother, Carver seemed to always have a special spark, a reverence and joy for life, a thirst for knowledge, and an independent spirit, which led him to leave home in 1877, to attend school and begin a life-long quest for learning.
Carver’s curiosity, his hunger for answers, his drive to find out why, what if, propelled him into his destiny, and Nelson captures that in the poem, “Drifter“: “Something says find out / why rain falls, what makes corn proud / and squash so humble, the questions / call like a train whistle so at fourteen, / fifteen, eighteen, nineteen still on half-fare, / over the receding landscapes the perceiving self / stares back from the darkening window.”
Carver put himself through high school and college, studying art and science, washing people’s laundry to support himself. His success was continuous. He became known for his green thumb and his artistic talent. His paintings were exhibited at the Chicago World’s Fair, he earned his B.A and M.A. degrees, and joined the faculty at Tuskegee Institute, where he stayed for the rest of his life working on ideas and inventions, from crop rotation and cotton seed to peanut recipes and paint colors. His generous nature dictated that he never profit from his discoveries, instead he gave them away for the benefit of all humankind.
In spare, lyrical language, Nelson takes us through moments in Carver’s life, some public, some private, and reveals a man of uncommon talent and faith. She shows his gifts of observation, his thirst for knowledge, his simmering, creative energy, his insights, and his deep spirituality.
And though Carver’s life was full of the complexities of science and nature, and he never lacked for work to do, the poems also show how he valued simplicity and contemplation. Poems like “Dawn Walk” and “Dimensions of the Milky Way” depict him in quiet conversation with the universe. And light-hearted poems like “The Lace-Maker,” “The Joy of Sewing,” and ”The Wild Garden” express the simple pleasures he took in doing handwork and gathering wild greens. Recurring details like the flowers Carver would wear in the lapels of his second-hand suits not only help us imagine what he looked like but are also tender expressions of his character.
Nelson’s poems do not shy from the harsh racial climate of the era. She portrays Carver’s dedication to the Negro people, and his reactions to lynchings and injustices, with powerful poems like “Goliath.” When his Bible study students ask after another lynching, “Where is God now?” Carver responds, “God is right here. / Don’t lose contact with Him. Don’t yield to fear. / Fear is the root of hate, and hate destroys / the hater … When we lose contact, we see only hate, / only injustice, a giant so great / its shadow blocks our sun. But David slew / Goliath with the only things he knew: / the slingshot of intelligence, and one / pebble of truth.”
Each poem in the book is complete and can stand alone as an exquisite piece of poetry. The poems beckon to be read aloud, and to be read over and over again, peeling back layers of meaning and nuance. Read together in a sequence that spans Carver’s life, with seamless transitions from one poem to the next, and thematic strands that connect the poems to each other, the whole collection creates a stunning portrait of Carver and illuminates the man who he was.
As the book draws to a close, Nelson is able to capture Carver’s divine message of conservation in the poem, “Last Talk with Jim Hardwick”: “When I die I will live again. / By nature I am a conserver. / I have found Nature / to be a conserver, too. / Nothing is wasted / or permanently lost / in Nature. Things / change their form, / but they do not cease / to exist … God would be a bigger fool / than even a man / if He did not conserve / the human soul, / which seems to be / the most important thing / He has yet done in the universe.”
The very last poem, “Moton Field,” connects the past and the present, and Carver to the poet herself. The year is 1943, and we see Carver at the end of his life, penning answers to the letters piled at his bedside. While outside his window the poet’s father, Melvin Moton Nelson, one of the first Tuskegee airmen, is piloting a p-40 airplane ”high as a Negro has ever been.” The book ends with the final image of airman Nelson doing a “sky-roaring victory roll.”
Carver earned over a dozen accolades and awards including the 2001 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award, a 2002 Newberry Medal Honor Award, and a 2002 Coretta Scott King Honor Award. Though this was Nelson’s first book for young adults, she was already an accomplished poet with several full-length poetry collections, chap books, and translations. Since the publication of Carvershe has written many more books for young people. You can read about her work at www.marilyn-nelson.com/.
Carver: A Life in Poems written by Marilyn Nelson. Published by Front Street, Asheville, NC, 2001. ISBN: 1-886910-53-7
Cheli has been involved with creative arts and education for most of her life, and has taught many subjects from art and books to yoga and zoology. But she has a special fondness for kid’s books, and has worked in the field for more than 20 years. She is a freelance writer and regular contributor to Valley Kids and teaches a course for adults in “Writing for Children.” She writes from Colrain, where she lives with her musician-husband, three children, and shelves full of kid’s books.
Blogging the Days in the Life of William Cobbett Skinner
1888 Journal is posted online as the year unfolds.
William Cobbett Skinner (1857 – 1947) 1888 Journal
In 1888, William Cobbett Skinner was 31 years old, working under his father’s guidance at Skinner and Sons Manufacturing in Holyoke, MA. Wistariahurst Museum’s blog entries will track Will’s 1888 journal. Each week new entries will be transcribed and uploaded to the Wistariahurst Museum website for interested readers to follow.
“The journal entries will unfold like a mystery” remarked Penni Martorell. “It is all new material to us. We’ve never had the time to transcribe this journal and we thought we would share the discoveries as they happen along in the year.”
Follow along as Will’s journal lends insights into his business dealings, family relationships and social life.
Dale Platenik, a select volunteer with skills at deciphering handwriting has stepped up to take on this time consuming and yet intriguing process. “I love the challenge of decoding Will’s handwriting and I am learning all sorts of things about Will and the Skinner Family. It is quite fun.”
Be Mine: Chocolate and Valentines
The Roots of Valentine’s Day Traditions
Old Sturbridge Village: Feb. 9th & 10th
Historians at Old Sturbridge Village will celebrate the history of Valentines in America and demonstrate old-fashioned chocolate-making with “Be Mine: Chocolate and Valentines,” a weekend program set for Saturday and Sunday Feb. 9-10, 2013. – UPDATE: Due to the impending storm, the Village will be closed, Friday, February 8 and Saturday, February 9.
[02/08/13 UPDATE: OSV will be closed Sat., Feb. 9th and opened Sun. Feb. 10th]
The tradition of having chocolate on Valentine’s Day is a longstanding one – it has been around since the early days of New England, even! Today’s Valentine’s traditions tend not to involve a lot of homemade chocolate or laborious preparations, however – usually we buy our chocolates at the grocery store or, in the most thoughtful of cases, from a local candy shop. However, early Americans spent a lot of time preparing their delicious chocolate foods – a tradition that families can learn about this weekend at Old Sturbridge Village!
The village’s annual Be Mine: Chocolate and Valentines offers families a chance to learn about the history of chocolate – how it was prepared, where it came from, and how it was eaten. Cacao beans were processed and ground by early New Englanders in order to create things like a spicy hot chocolate-style drink or a chocolate cake – with a surprising secret ingredient! There will be both displays and demonstrations from which families can learn about 19th century chocolate-making techniques. Do you know where the first Americans were supplied their chocolate from? Before visiting, watch a video on the history of chocolate to learn some useful background information on the process of acquiring and preparing cocoa beans!
Along with chocolate, Valentine’s Day brings the sharing of valentine cards! Since the roots of this tradition are local, the village will have special educational programs and hands-on activities on this topic, too! Families can learn about the Worcester resident whose humble handmade card business blossomed into a large card-making company and, eventually, the huge tradition of Valentine’s Day cards that we have today. Then, make your own valentines to share – inspired by images of antique cards shared by villages in the 1800’s.
Families can use a visit to the village to make this Valentine’s Day an educational one, rather than a commercialized one! Students can exerience the roots of some of the traditions that they participate in, and will learn to better understand early American culture. The village is open from 9:30am-4pm on both Saturday, February 9th and Sunday, February 10th. More information and a complete schedule of events is available on the village’s website. www.osv.org
Did You Know?
Spanish conquistadors brought chocolate from Central America back to Spain in the 16th century. From there, it traveled through Europe, to England, and back to America.
Early versions of “chocolate cake” do not actually contain any chocolate. The name means that the cake was intended to be enjoyed with a cup of chocolate, just as “coffee cake” today is meant to be served with coffee.
Boston pharmacists advertised chocolate as a medicinal remedy as early as 1712, and by the late 1700s, there were hundreds of chocolate vendors in the city.
Chocolate was drunk as a medicine during the Lewis and Clark Expedition, and by California Gold Rush miners, but later in the 19th century, with the addition of milk and more sugar, chocolate was preferred more as a confection than as a health tonic.
New manufacturing processes developed during the Industrial Revolution transformed chocolate from an expensive drink into an inexpensive food. By the late 1800s, chocolate was widely advertised to women and children through colorful posters and trade cards, and its iconic status as the world’s preferred candy was secured.
The best known legend about St. Valentine has that he was a Roman martyr killed for his faith on February 14, 269 A.D. He may have been a priest who married couples in spite of the Emperor’s ban.
Valentine’s Day, like Christmas and many other Christian holidays, was originally an attempt to Christianize popular pagan festivals. In pagan Rome, February 14 was dedicated to the goddess Juno (Hera in Greek mythology), wife of Jupiter (Zeus) and patroness of women and marriage.
Few New Englanders marked Valentine’s Day before its rise in the increasingly sentimental and economically prosperous 1840s.
As with other holidays, those who made money from Valentine’s Day encouraged its observance. In the 1840s when printing technology improved, sending handwritten notes and printed cards became even more popular. Enterprising shopkeepers encouraged the exchange of gloves, books, candy, and other gifts among a growing middle class.
Esther Howland, of Worcester, Mass. began designing fancy Valentine cards in 1848, and hired girls to help cut and paste together these small works of art. By 1850 she was advertising her cards in the newspaper, and by 1860 she was selling between $50,000 and $100,000 worth of Valentines annually.
The Kimball-Salisbury Women: Chicago to Tor Court
Local History & Fashion from the Gilded Age
Arrowhead in Pittsfield, MA
The Berkshire Historical Society at Arrowhead offers a glimpse of Pittsfield’s Gilded Age with an exhibit of exquisite fashions and photographs from Tor Court’s Kimball-Salisbury family. The exhibit highlights the gowns worn by four different Kimball women, all of whom spent summers at Tor Court, one of the Berkshire Cottages in Pittsfield. These “cottages” were actually mansions built by some of America’s wealthiest families in and around Lenox, Stockbridge and Pittsfield during the Gilded Age. These aristocratic manor houses came to be known as Berkshire Cottages.
Learn about the Gilded Age’s local influence at the Berkshire Historical Society at Arrowhead! The historical society is hosting an exhibit of items and artifacts from the lavish time period, including exquisite gowns worn by and photographs of the Kimball-Salisbury family, owners of one of the many Gilded Age “cottages” found in the Berkshires.
Though called cottages, the homes were really anything but – they were colossal, exquisite mansions built as summer homes in the Berkshires for families who lived in the city. The fashions included in the exhibition illustrate the changes in style that took place between 1910 and the mid-1920’s, as they change from beautiful gowns to sassy flapper dresses, illustrating the cultural changes that also took place at that time.
The exhibit illustrates history through fashion, and will help students learning about American history put their learning into a local context.
The Kimball-Salisbury Women: Chicago to Tor Court is open from Thursday-Sunday from 11am-3pm, from February 10th to March 31st, 2013. Arrowhead is located at 780 Holmes Road in Pittsfield. For more information call 413-442-1793 or visit www.mobydick.org.
Celebratory Opening Benefit Brunch happens on February 9, from 11am-1pm at Salisbury Estates Community House in Pittsfield, MA. Cost of brunch includes ticket to exhibit. For more information and to order your brunch tickets, call 413-442-1793 x10.
Our friends at the Hilltown Family Variety Show (HFVS) put together a special program all about the Underground Railroad. Our songs “Underground Railroad” and “Henry Box Brown” are on it. So are great versions of traditional songs by Taj Mahal and Bill Harley, a story read by Morgan Freeman and much more. Listen to it right now:
And listen carefully. That’s the only way you’ll pass the quiz we made up related to the show. The quiz is for 4th grade and up (or advanced readers of any age) and may require some extra research in addition to listening to the HFVS podcast. Post your answers on a blog or Facebook page or public Google doc and share your link here.
Try to avoid using Wikipedia. Searching songbooks, history books, Bibles, and other tomes you hopefully have on your family’s shelves — or in your local library — will be a much more enjoyable way to find the information you don’t know already (Western MA resources available here).
In our song “Underground Railroad,” what is the secret password needed to board? It’s actually three words.
Name three cities or towns that were part of the Underground Railroad — and that we mention in our song about it.
What is the “drinking gourd” described in the story read by Morgan Freeman and sung about by Taj Mahal?
In the traditional song “Wade In the Water,” (Bill Harley’s version can be heard on the podcast) who, as the lyrics ask, are “these children all dressed in red” and “that young girl dressed in white?” There isn’t one right answer — tell us what you’ve read and what you think. (Hint: Many spirituals and Underground Railroad songs contained coded lyrics and secret messages)
Henry “Box” Brown mailed himself to freedom in a box. In which city did he finally climb out of his box a free man?
A state and a musical instrument are mentioned in “Nelly Grey” (Phil Rosenthal sings the version you hear on the podcast). Which state? Which instrument?
Why was “Nelly Grey” written (Another question without one answer. We want your opinions as well as the results of your research)?
“Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” (Leadbelly and a choir close out the podcast with their version) describes a trip to heaven — or to freedom — in a real or metaphorical chariot. Which prophet left life on this Earth in a chariot according to the Old Testament?
The Work of 1,000
Screening at Wistariahurst Museum
Thursday, Jan 10th, 6:30pm
“This film provides unique learning opportunities and will enhance interest in the environmental science and engineering fields and leadership development for all.” — Larisa Schelkin, Executive Director of the DOME Foundation
Rivers are a vital part of our ecosystems, and have played a crucial role in much of industrial history. Rivers have provided a means of transportation and a way of moving goods, have powered mills and helped to provide hydroelectric power, and their watersheds help to nourish farmland that provides nutritive food to our community. Historically, however, our rivers have not been treated with as much respect and reverence as they should have been. They have been re-routed and polluted, and we have built to the very edges of their banks with bridges, factories, and parking lots.
The Trustees of Reservations is providing a valuable way for families and students to learn about the history of the Nashua River, a beautiful, healthy, once-polluted tributary of the Merrimack River. The Trustees will screen, The Work of 1000, at the Wistariahurst Museum in Holyoke at 6:30pm on January 10th, 2013.
The Nashua River was once filled with dyes and other byproducts from the manufacture of fabrics, but today – thanks to enormous community efforts – the river is clean and there are new laws and regulations that require proper treatment of rivers. Environmental advocate, housewife and mother, Marion Stoddart, along with other dedicated Massachusetts citizens, fought to help restore the river during the mid-1960’s, and helped to create the Massachusetts Clean Water Act.
The 30-minute screening of The Work of 1000 can supplement students’ studies of conservation, environmental science, New England history, and more. Pair the screening with a reading of Lynne Cherry’s book, A River Ran Wild: An Environmental History, which tells a story of the natural and human-impacted history of the Nashua River and it’s restoration and renewal. Though it is a picture book, the topic is sophisticated enough that even slightly older students can appreciate and learn from it.
Further information on the screening at the Wistariahurst Museum can be found at wistariahurst.org. The screening is free and open to the public. The Wistariahurst Museum is located at 238 Cabot Street in Holyoke, MA.
In celebration of International Women’s Day, Women’s Voices Worldwide, Inc. invites you to visit downtown Northampton, MA to witness a celebration of women’s speech from past to present. Through historical re-enactments, contemporary speeches, musical performances, and a celebratory reception, people of all ages and backgrounds will join together to recognize and honor the importance of women’s voices in the world.
Women all ages have powerful voices – and lots to say! Women’s perspectives on everything from politics to human rights, sustainability to public education are crucial to sound policy making and cultural change. Historically, women have put up a strong fight in order to make their voices heard – and Women’s Voices Worldwide is celebrating their voices and inviting girls and women to participate.
Women, teens and girls can craft and submit original speeches for “Celebration of Speech,” an event scheduled to take place in Northampton, MA on March 8th, 2013 – International Women’s Day! Submissions should be no more than 500-1000 words in length, and should be inspired by the prompts provided by the organization, focusing on the importance and power of women’s voices.
Girls ages 8-13yo are prompted with two questions: Why do girls matter? Why I love my voice.
Teens and women are prompted with three: What women’s voices aren’t being heard? Why is there a need for women’s voices? What changes are needed for women’s voices to be heard?
Participating in the event can be an incredibly powerful experience for both women and girls alike. Public speaking requires a lot of confidence and conviction, and is an excellent skill for young girls to learn. Speaking out about such an important topic is a great opportunity for girls to practice their public speaking skills – the topic is familiar to them, and they can use their own firsthand experience, thoughts, and ideas in order to support their speech. Participating in the Celebration of Speech can help girls and teens understand feminist ideals and learn about the women’s history by the powerful speeches they have given.
American Centuries: Views from New England
Memorial Hall Museum in Deerfield
Offers Online Educational Resources
on American Village History
Western Massachusetts today is home to scores of artists and artisans – a fact that brings visitors from near and far to see the unique and interesting products and pieces being created in the region. Art has been a common thread amongst local residents for decades, and it could perhaps be said that the roots of the local art community lie in the American Arts and Crafts Movement. Taking place around the turn of the 20th century, the movement was particularly prevalent amongst artists in Deerfield, MA. The movement stood largely as an effort to counter the lack of artistry and creativity in decorative arts that resulted from the cultural changes that took place during the Industrial Revolution. Artists in Deerfield created Colonial-inspired needlework, baskets, furniture, weavings, and more in the style of their New England settler predecessors.
Families can learn all about the movement’s local influence at the Memorial Hall Museum! Located on Memorial Street in Old Deerfield, the museum is full of beautiful pieces illustrating the particular artistic style embodying the historic spirit of the American Arts and Crafts Movement, as well as artifacts from Deerfield’s earliest days and exhibits on the history and development of early new England.
Dress Up: See, hear and learn about the unfamiliar clothes people wore throughout American history.
First Person: Twentieth-century history as told by people who lived it and made it.
African American Historic Sites: An interactive map of Deerfield reveals historic sites with information on enslaved African Americans in the eighteenth century.
Now Read This: Try your hand at reading and transcribing some old and unusual writing.
Magic Lens: Move the Magic Lens over old manuscripts to reveal what the writing says.
Objects in the Round: Rotate objects from the collection to see them from every side.
Demonstrations of Early American Tools: Watch brief videos to learn how tools from the past worked.
New England Architecture: Explore New England house styles though history.
Chronologies: Make a collection of items from the Digital Collection and place on a time line.
For those interested in learning more about the American Arts and Crafts Movement’s local influence, the Memorial Hall Museum’s curator, Suzanne Flynt, has created an informational and interactive website (www.artscrafts-deerfield.org) to accompany her new book, Poetry to the Earth: The Arts and Crafts Movement in Deerfield. The site breaks down the plethora of information available into sections detailing important artifacts, artists and artisans, and places of interest. Also included is an incredibly detailed timeline, matching significant local events up with historic happenings on a national level.
The information available from these resources can be adapted for use with students of any age, and can be used to help create a place-based component to studies of the Industrial Revolution, art history, American cultural history, and more.
Welcome to Hilltown Families, an online grassroots communication network in Western MA working to build community engagement through families by highlighting community-based educational opportunities. Hilltown Families was established in 2005 by Hilltown mother and long time activist, Sienna Wildfield.
Have you checked our eNewsletter giveaway for this week? Check your inbox, open it up and take a look at what we're giving away! Not yet subscribed? Sign up here:
Hilltown Families’ Events
"Hilltown Families keeps us connected with all the amazing educational and cultural activities and resources that abound here in W. Mass and curates them in a way to let us know just what’s out there for the many varied interests of our young families and communities,while creating networks of support and growth." - Kara Kitchen (Plainfield, MA)
Posting a comment to Hilltown Famiies will automatically add you to the Hilltown Families mailing list to receive our weekly update. Email address are never rented or sold. To be removed from our mailing list, email firstname.lastname@example.org to be removed.
Information provided on Hilltown Families (HF) is for informational and entertainment purposes only. Reasonable efforts are made to provide the most accurate information, but no guarantees of any kind can be made. Information can be changed without prior notice. Please check with 3rd parties to confirm all listings for date/time, cost, location and age appropriateness before attending. Opinions expressed on HF are that of the writer and not necessarily that of HF. In no event shall HF be liable (directly or indirectly) for any losses or damages causes (or allegedly caused) in connection with HF. All health and wellness related information is for entertainment purposes only and should not be used to substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. All provided links are provided as a courtesy and not as an endorsement.
The exhibit will be on display at the Forbes Library in Northampton for the month of February 2013, and at the City Hall Gallery in Easthampton from Sept 13-Dec 11, 2013. - We're currently booking shows for the Spring/Summer of 2013 and for 2014. Each exhibit is a unique showcase of images that correspond with the season and venue. Contact us to inquire about hosting this fundraising exhibit for Hilltown Families in your town/venue.