Memorial Hall Museum in Deerfield Hosts Interactive Web Site for New England History

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.

The museum, which is one of the country’s oldest, also offers virtual educational resources.  In addition to offering information on much of the museum’s collection, their website includes resources for educators, a kids page, and links to educational interactive activities.  Interactive activities include:

  • 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.

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