Community Renaissance Festival Makes History Come Alive!

Community Renaissance Festival Makes History Come Alive!

The 14th Annual Community Renaissance Festival hosted by The Massachusetts Center for Interdisciplinary Renaissance Studies brings history to life! There will be sword demonstrations, juggling, Tarot reading, dancing and music!

Living history and open-air museums and events provide interesting insight into the ways in which we engage with historical information. Renaissance fairs first emerged in the United States in the 1950s, as part of a larger interest in medieval culture and music, resulting is placemaking events that support learning through engagement.

Living history challenges actors and attendees to think about history beyond events, learning about customs, dress, accents and behaviors. Vendors sometimes sell foods and items traditional for the time period. Living history, unlike historical texts or documentaries, is hands-on and interactive. Some renaissance and other living history events provide demonstrations of skills such as blacksmithing, and early printing methods. People of all ages who enjoy dressing up can feel like a more active participant by donning their renaissance wear along with the actors.

The 14th Annual Community Renaissance Festival hosted by The Massachusetts Center for Interdisciplinary Renaissance Studies will be highly entertaining and educational. This event will take place on Saturday, May 1, 2016 from 11am-4pm. Attendees of all ages will have the chance to witness and learn about jewelry making, pottery, weaving, and woodworking. There will be sword demonstrations, juggling, Tarot reading, dancing and music. Plus, a book sale will allow for continued historical learning after the event.  Read the rest of this entry »

It is Your Right to Remain Silent!

Celebrate Law Day in Franklin County at GCC
Law Day 2016 Explores the Right to Remain Silent

On May 1 the United States officially recognizes Law Day. It is meant to reflect on the role of law in the foundation of the country and to recognize its importance for society. Before President Dwight D. Eisenhower declared May 1 to be Law Day, U.S.A., the first day of May was known in some parts of the world as May Day: a day to remember the struggles of workers in their fight for better wages and working conditions. Celebrate on May 4th in Greenfield!

Why do the police “read citizens their rights” when arresting them? The practice of informing citizens of their right to remain silent stems from a U.S. Supreme court decision, the case Miranda vs. Arizona, in 1966. This court decision is in accordance with the idea that your rights are of no use to you if you don’t know what they are. Once informed of your right to remain silent, if you willingly choose to speak, you are waiving this right by choice. In doing so, you consent to the fact that your words may be used against you in court.

In the case of Ernesto Mirando’s arrest and interrogation, he provided a written confession without being informed of his right to counsel or the fact that the confession would be used against him in court. When prosecutors tried to use the confession in court, the defense argued that his confession was not truly “voluntary.” Miranda’s case was overturned and today, the recitation of rights which most of us are familiar with from the media, is known as a “Miranda warning.”

Read the rest of this entry »

The Bicycle: Social Impacts, Past & Present

The Surprising Social Impact of Bicycles
and Local Learning Opportunities

Did you know that before inventing the world’s first successful airplane, Orville and Wilbur Wright owned a bicycle shop? They repaired and rented out bicycles and eventually went on to build their own bicycles and invent small improvements to the machines. In addition to gaining practice in engineering skills, this business funded their aviation experiments.

Simpler and less expensive than cars, bicycles can be a fun tool for tinkering. The fact that the parts of a bicycle are exposed can help people understand the physics driving the machine. Plus, owning a bicycle can give you an immense sense of freedom. Bicycles obviously do not travel as fast as cars (depending on traffic flow!) and can’t take you as far, but at the same time they are affordable to more people and they are driven by human energy. Biking allows you to take a closer look at the world around you and get exercise in a fun way.
Read the rest of this entry »

Local History: A Meditation on the Mill River Flood

Debris Flow: A Meditation on the Mill River Reservoir Disaster in 1874
Historic Northampton
March 11, 2016 through April 3, 2016

On May 16, 1874, an earthen reservoir dam in Williamsburg, Massachusetts broke, thanks to hubris and human error. One hundred thirty nine people died, and some 600 million gallons of water and debris destroyed factories, homes, and bridges along an 11-mile path, ending in a broad plain in Florence. The tragedy, the first major dam disaster in the United States, was a big story nationwide, and photographers flocked to document it.

The Debris Flow: A Meditation on the Mill River Reservoir Disaster in 1874 by Rebecca Muller at Historic Northampton is a mixed-media exhibition based on stereopticon images of this historic disaster. Through this exhibit, Muller showcases her artistic explorations, which often revolve around found material, scattered fragments of things lost, abandoned, eroded, or wrecked. Her showcase brings to life the symbolism of debris – physical, emotional, spiritual and energetic – and how it impacts our lives.

Through her art, Muller also shows us that there is beauty in debris, as it serves to mark time passing, the impact of weather, and its historic aftermath of events. This display features the masterful work of this talented Massachusetts artist while also educating viewers about the 1874 flood that held local and national significance. The exhibit runs March 11, 2016 through April 3, 2016 at Historic Northampton. 413-584-6011. 46 Bridge Street, Northampton, MA. (SUGGESTED DONATION $3)

Local History Through the Lens of Food: Nutritional Anthropology in the Pioneer Valley

Exhibit Chronicles Northampton History Through Food

Interested in the history of food? Take a peak at the new exhibit in Northampton. Come see how people produced and sold food and how people cooked and ate it, through the years. The exhibition is curated by Barbara B. Blumenthal, a member of Historic Northampton’s Board of Trustees. Barbara was a museum guide and hearth cook at Historic Northampton in the 1980s and early 1990s. Her passion for local history and food history led her to poke around in our collections looking for tasty tidbits to share with the public.

Historic Northampton offers a food-centric take on the city’s history through Table Talk: Food, Cooking, and Eating in Northampton Then and Now, an exhibit chronicling the production, purchase, and preparation of the foods enjoyed throughout two and a half centuries of Northampton’s history. With its focus lying on the city’s food-filled downtown, the exhibit offers a new take on the history of local food : rather than sharing the history of farming in Northampton, the exhibit emphasizes the role that local businesses – especially restaurants – have played in the local food chain.

On view from now until May 1, 2016, Table Talk: Food, Cooking, and Eating in Northampton Then and Now has much to offer. Made up of a collection of photographs, food-related objects and tools, and historical information and anecdotes, the exhibit speaks to more than just food history.

Read the rest of this entry »

HFVS Insect Episode with Jeff & Paige (Radio Show/Podcast)

Hilltown Family Variety ShowListen to Podcast:

Hilltown Family Variety Show
Insect Episode with Jeff & Paige

Go on a musical hike with guest DJs Jeff and Paige to explore insects. Through music and story you’ll learn: how to identify an insect, how insects connect with animals, how insects help humans, and how humans can help insects! Jeff and Paige will play some of their favorite songs as well as fun tunes from other children’s musicians and from a few adult acts. Make sure you have room to dance as you explore nature and science with Jeff and Paige. – www.jeffandpaige.org

Saturday from 9-10am & Sunday from 7-8am
January 30th & 31st, 2016

WXOJ LP – 103.3 FM – Valley Free Radio
Northampton, MA

Featured Video: “A Conversation Between an Entomologist and an Insect”


 

 Archived Podcasts Radio  Facebook Twitter

PLAYLIST

  • Jeff and Paige – “A Conversation Between an Entomologist and an Insect” [Get Outdoors]
  • Ayla Nereo – “Eastern Sun” [Hollow Bone]
  • They Might Be Giants – “Why Does the Sun Shine?” [Here Comes Science]
  • The Smurfs – “Poor Little Silly Shy Smurf” [The Smurfs All Star Show]
  • Banana Slug String Band -“Decomposition” [Singing in our Garden]
  • Jeff and Paige – “New Tree Grows” [21st Century Energy Superheroes]
  • Justin Roberts – “Pop Fly” [Pop Fly]
  • The Bell Hours – “Farther Apart [The Bell Hours]
  • Sarah Jarosz – “Little Song” [Song Up In Her Head]
  • Jeff and Paige – “Bats” [Get Outdoors]
  • Mikey Mike -“Likin’ the Lichen” [Mikey Mike the Rad Scientist]
  • Jeff and Paige – “Thank You Honeybee” [Songs from the Trail]
  • Blitzen Trapper – “Fur” [Fur] 4:08
  • Jeff and Paige “The Great Monarch Migration” [Mighty Wolf]

HFVS Martin Luther King, Jr. Episode (Radio Show/Podcast)

Hilltown Family Variety ShowListen to Podcast:

Hilltown Family Variety Show
Martin Luther King, Jr. Episode

Saturday from 9-10am & Sunday from 7-8am
January 16th & 17th, 2016
Original broadcast: 2008

WXOJ LP – 103.3 FM – Valley Free Radio
Northampton, MA


 

 Archived Podcasts Radio  Facebook Twitter

PLAYLIST

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

Hilltown Family Variety Show

Listen to Podcast:

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

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
January 9th & 10th, 2016

WXOJ LP – 103.3 FM – Valley Free Radio
Northampton, MA

Pete Seeger – “Forever Young”


 Archived Podcasts Radio  Facebook Twitter

Listen to Podcast:

PLAYLIST

  • 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

Graphite-Inspired Exhibit Sparks Studies of Local Connections to Pencil and Paper

Graphite-Inspired Exhibit Sparks Studies of Local Connections to Pencil and Paper

Lead by a visit to the Springfield Museums’ new exhibit, Leaving Our Mark: In Celebration of the Pencil, families can explore not only the role of pencils and paper in art-making, but their ties to the history of western Massachusetts!

Honoring one of the most well-known, well-loved, and well-used art-making materials known to man, the Springfield Museums’ exhibit Leaving Our Mark: In Celebration of the Pencil spotlights the graphite-based tool with which most great artworks begin. Filled with numerous works created with graphite on paper, the exhibit brings to light the role that graphite plays (and has played) in the art world, paying homage to this basic yet incredibly versatile utensil. By visiting the exhibit, families can learn about the use of graphite as an artistic medium and view works that explore its potential. Families can also explore the history of western Massachusetts by using pencil and paper as a catalyst for learning!

On view from now through March 27th of 2016, Leaving Our Mark is made up of 62 pieces of artwork, carefully curated by local artist Steve Wilda. Though made using what can sometimes be thought of as the most basic of materials, the works included in the exhibit speak to the true potential of graphite in art-making and include rich detail within complex images. Visitors to the exhibit can even leave their own mark with graphite, adding their own graphite-based works to the exhibit’s Community Drawing Wall.

Originally used for marking sheep to show ownership, graphite became a material for drawing and writing during the 1500’s, when a large deposit was discovered in England. Following this discovery, graphite evolved in its use (and its manufacture into more sophisticated drawing tools) – evidence of which can be seen within the exhibit.

In addition to exploring the artistic potential afforded to artists by graphite, families can explore the role that pencils and paper have played in local history – beginning with one of the country’s earliest mining operations. Read the rest of this entry »

Living History Sheds Light on the Holidays of the Past

Living History Sheds Light on the Holidays of the Past

Step back in time to a simpler day when holiday celebrations involved cooking over an open fire and illuminating homes with candlelight – the month of December offers opportunities to experience holidays celebrations of the past at three different historic villages! Families can explore, watch demonstrations, and engage in hands-on activities in order to learn about the ways in which the holiday season was honored in early New England.

Modern technology has certainly had an impact on the ways we decorate for and celebrate the winter holidays – early winter in New England now involves strings of lights and blow-up snowmen rather than windows lit by candles and evergreens adorned with cranberry strings. This holiday season, families can take a step back into the past, to a simpler time when holiday celebrations involved candles and open hearth cooking. By taking advantage of upcoming holiday-themed living history events, families can dive into the history and culture of western Massachusetts’ holidays past while adding a new tradition to their own celebrations!  Read the rest of this entry »

Knitting Supports Explorations of History, Agriculture & Mathematics

Cast On for Explorations of Math, Local History, and Service-Based Learning Through Knitting

An age-old skill, knitting provides us with some of our most treasured warm clothes. Learning the art of knitting can not only help to provide warmth, but can lead to explorations of local history, local agriculture, and complex math – and families can even engage in service-based learning by donating hand-knitted goods to help support people in need!

Winter means the wearing of layers – some of our most treasured of which have been hand-knitted with love. Mittens from nana, sweaters from mum, scarves from caring neighbors – all of these handmade warmth-giving items are precious, not only because of the love and care that went into making them, but because of their connection to our agrarian history and the learning opportunities that they can spark. Learning to knit (whether self-taught or guided by an expert) is a creative endeavor like no other, and can lead to explorations of history, culture, complex mathematical concepts, art, and even service-based learning!

Drawing upon western Massachusetts’ rich fiber culture, families can find numerous resources to support knitting-based studies of sheep and shepherding. While sheep usually steal the springtime barnyard show, sheep-based learning can take place any time of year with a few skeins of yarn and some needles! Once upon a time, all yarn would have come from hand-carded wool and been hand-spun, but these days, most woolen yarn is processed in a factory. Nevertheless, it’s still possible to get locally-sourced yarns (and even hand-spun local yarns!) by doing a little research and shopping locally. CISA offers a list of nearly twenty fiber-producing farms in western MA, proving that the tradition of local wool is still alive today!  Read the rest of this entry »

Halloween Links to Local History Learning Opportunities

7 Halloween-Themed Events that Spotlight Western MA History

As the hills and valleys of western Massachusetts brighten with the changing of seasons, the evenings become just a bit darker and a bit spookier. While we enjoy the harvest and enjoy our fair share (at least) of apples, squash, and all things pumpkin, the days shorten and darken around us – serving as a reminder that Halloween is creeping up on us. In addition to Halloween’s costume frenzy and the potential for candy accumulation that the holiday presents, the spooking season brings with it a myriad of ways to learn about local history!

This area of New England is rich with history, and much of it spooky and surrounded by mystery. Towns across western Massachusetts are home to potentially haunted historic buildings, controversial centuries-old community history, and cemeteries that are the final resting place of folks who may have met questionable ends. All of these eerie tales amount to more than a good, healthy scare – they offer entry points for learning about the history of many small communities, as well as the western portion of the state as a whole.

Additionally, an examination of the history of a single community can help children to understand the history of the region and country better, as it provides context for understanding the specifics of a large, broad look at the events and aesthetic of a particular era. Learning about Civil War-era community members, for example, can help students imagine life during that time period, as they’ll be able to imagine the surroundings in which such people existed. Trying to understand life in the past without context, on the other hand, may lead to more guesswork on the child’s part – something that exercises their imagination but may not lead to as thorough an understanding (and definitely will not lead to developing deeper ties to their local landscape!).

To begin exploring local history through the lens of spooky history, take advantage of one (or all!) of the many upcoming Halloween-themed events that spotlight local history:
Read the rest of this entry »

Scarecrows: An Autumn Icon Rich in History!

Scarecrow Studies Illuminate Cultural History and Creative-Free Play

Known around the world as mommets, hodmedods, spaventapasseri, vogelscheuche, fugleskremsel, and kakashi, scarecrows have been used to protect crops for over 3,000 years! Studies of this traditional autumn icon can reveal not only the international roots of the straw-stuffed beings, but can lead to creative-free play, intergenerational creative collaboration, and exploration of folk farming techniques used locally and around the world.

The history of scarecrows begins in Egypt, where the earliest records of the use of scarecrows have been found. Rather than using models of humans, farmers along the Nile River built wooden frames with nets in their wheat fields, and used their scarecrow-like devices to trap quail who would visit their fields to feast on wheat. So, rather than scaring away birds, these early scarecrow-users actually protected their crops and caught their dinner at the same time!  Read the rest of this entry »

Beyond Affliction: Disability-Centered Take on History

Radio Series and Online Museum Provide Disability-Centered Take on History

While learning the history of a place or a people, the most well-rounded understandings of gradual change are developed when history has been considered from multiple perspectives and through multiple lenses. These days, it is no longer uncommon to consider American history from the perspective of women, immigrants, and other groups whose experiences have been defined by historical context, and we teach students to consider the experiences of diverse groups of people – rather than the experience of a single group – in order to think critically about our history.

Thanks to the Disability History Project, a new resource is available for considering history from another perspective: that of people with disabilities. Beyond Affliction, a four-part radio series, serves as an auditory resource for learning about the experiences of people with disabilities since the beginning of the 1800’s. Created for broadcast on National Public Radio, Beyond Affliction features six hours of documentary radio centered around the experiences of people with disabilities and their families during the last two centuries. The project not only teaches about the lives of people with disabilities in times past but allows listeners to learn about the gradual change that has taken place by highlighting the contrast between the experiences of long ago and the experiences of today.  Read the rest of this entry »

Sewing Skills Connect Local Culture, Local History, and Self-Sufficiency

Sewing Skills Connect Local Culture, Local History, and Self-Sufficiency

While hand-sewn clothes have largely been replaced by factory-made ones, the ability to sew remains a useful skill. For children, learning to sew can present opportunities not only to learn a new skill, exercise creativity, and hone fine motor skills, but it can lead to community-based learning about local culture and local history, as well!

Learning to sew can be difficult, but by starting small, families can share (or learn together) the basic needle skills necessary for hand sewing. Adults or teens who are able to stitch using a simple needle and thread can share that skill with children, allowing them to learn how to patch together fabrics or perhaps mend their own clothes. Families who have sewing machines at home can share machine skills with older children who are able to control the machine’s pedals, buttons, and dials while still keeping a good stitch pace. Read the rest of this entry »

4 Outdoor Adventures for Exploring Geology and Local History

Community-Based Resources to Support an Interest in Geology & Local History

Digging deep into local history this summer can reveal opportunities for community-based learning about geology and early Hilltown industries. Western Massachusetts is home to some incredible gems like mineral dig sites, abandoned quarries, and former mines, studies and explorations of which can lead to valuable learning about the area’s history – both local and natural.

Western Massachusetts was once filled with numerous mining and quarry operations, and studies of geology and local history overlap with explorations of former mine and quarry sites! We’ve highlighted four such gems that families can easily visit this summer.  Read the rest of this entry »

Exploring Local History Through Textiles

Common Thread: Exploring Local Industrial History Through the Lens of Silk

Discover Northampton’s silk history via this handpainted silk quilt displayed at the Neilson Library at Smith College in Northampton, MA, one of many community-based resources to support an interest in local history and textiles. For a virtual tour, click on the quilt.

Once upon a time, the Pioneer Valley’s mills bustled with activity, producing all sorts of goods and providing a boost to the local economy. Today, many of these mills are filled with offices, art studios, and spacious high-ceiling apartments.

Despite the creative reuse of such industrial spaces, the area’s ties to industries of the past can easily be explored. In particular, the Pioneer Valley’s connection to the textile industry can be studied through self-guided explorations, museum visits, tree identification and hands-on learning opportunities taking place during the next few months. Read the rest of this entry »

The Fabric of History in Western Mass Weaves a Tale

Historic Deerfield Celebrates 50th Anniversary of Their Textile Collection

Early 19th-century tartan wool cloak.

On June 4, 1965, the brand new Fabric Hall was opened to the public at Historic Deerfield (then known as The Heritage Foundation).  Situated behind the Silver Museum in a renovated 1870s barn (now Historic Deerfield’s History Workshop), Fabric Hall showcased the museum’s growing collection of clothing, needlework and domestic textiles.  The gallery, which included innovative ambient lighting, air conditioning, and radiant floor heat, conveyed an early awareness of the need to monitor environmental conditions to protect fragile items.  Fabric Hall was the dream of Helen Geier Flynt (1895-1986) who, along with her husband, Henry N. Flynt (1893-1970), founded Historic Deerfield. No longer limited to the small spaces of the historic house museums, Fabric Hall allowed Mrs. Flynt free reign to display a range of items in the collection, from more exotic and opulent textiles to historic fashions and textiles demonstrating aesthetic or technical excellence. Read the rest of this entry »

Connect to Your Community & Follow the Path of History

Join the Dots of Local History Through
Place-Based Educational Walking Tours

Families can explore local connections to important moments in national history by participating in walking tours of Florence, offered by the Sojourner Truth Memorial Committee. Held monthly, tours weave stories together with exploration of local landmarks to make for a place-based exploration of history.

This summer, national history becomes place-based through a series of walking tours in Florence. Offered by the Sojourner Truth Memorial Committee, these tours will shed light on local connections to abolition, the Underground Railroad, and, of course, the many remarkable historical figures who spearheaded the radical movements of the 19th century.

Following the path of one of 25 great local walking tours, each expedition will include a thorough look at notable Florence landmarks and will tie each important location to people and events linked to some major parts of history. Among such locations are Park Street cemetery, final resting place of at least four former slaves; the Nonotuck Silk Mill dam, located near a mill where abolitionists processed sugar beets – grown as an alternative to sugar cane; and the Florence Congregational Church, where greats such as Frederick Douglass spoke beneath a 150-year-old old growth pine. Read the rest of this entry »

Digging Northampton’s History: A Community Archaeology Project

Digging Northampton’s History: A Community Archaeology Project

On Tuesdays through Saturdays from May 19 through June 6, 2015, an archaeological excavation is being conducted in Northampton at the site of the Parsons House, built in the early 1700s by Nathaniel Parsons, the grandson of Joseph Parsons, one of the founders of the city.

What good does collecting trash do when you’re studying history? A whole lot of it, if it’s the right trash! Local historians and archaeologists, both professional and amateur, will set about collecting historic trash for the community project, Digging Northampton’s History. An archaeological exploration of the history of Historic Northampton’s Nathaniel Parsons House, the project aims to collect artifacts so as to learn more about the lives of women and children in Northampton during the 18th century. Read the rest of this entry »

Hilltown Families on Mass Appeal: Celebrating Local Culture Through Sheep & Wool

Hilltown Families on Mass Appeal: April Segment
Celebrating New England Culture Through Sheep & Wool

Hilltown Families and Mass Appeal (a weekday, hour-long lifestyle program on NBC) have teamed up to offer a live monthly segment on WWLP 22News!  Each month, Hilltown Families’ Founder & Executive Director, Sienna Wildfield,  joins Mass Appeal host, Ashley Kohl, to talk about ways to engage in your community while supporting the interests and education of your children (and yourselves!).

This monthly segment continued on Thursday, April 23, 2015, highlighting community-based resources and events that use sheep and wool as a lens for learning about our local culture and history.  Sienna and Ashley talk about events and activities families can access to support learning this time of year as it relates to our cultural heritage and learning connections with sheep and wool:

In the early spring, New England history and culture come alive with the arrival of newborn lambs and the shearing of sheep for the production of wool. The wool industry has strong ties to western Massachusetts, with annual events that celebrate our historical past and other events which showcase modern day shepherds and their flocks.  Discover local events and resources that make connects and support learning in our post, New England Culture & Learning Through the Lens of Sheep & Wool.


Mass Appeal is a live weekday program that airs at 11am on 22News (Springfield, MA).  Our next visit to the Mass Appeal studios will be Thursday, May 28!

Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! Time for History Learning Through Music

New Album Inspires Civil War History Education Opportunity

Use music as a lens for learning about history – Lloyd Miller (of The Deedle Deedle Dees fame) has just released a new Civil War-themed album filled with traditional and original music. Using a curriculum created by Miller, as well as a wealth of other resources, families can use music as an entry point for learning about an important time period in American history.

Glory, glory, hallelujah! Lloyd Miller‘s newest album offers opportunities for learning about the Civil War through the lens of music! Titled, Sing-a-long History, Vol. I: Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!, the album is filled with a mix of traditional songs from the late 19th century, historic pieces of writing set to original music, and Civil War-themed songs created just for the album. Overall, the album provides an engaging musical examination of many of the big ideas involved in studying the Civil War – abolition, the Underground Railroad, warfare tactics, and the experience of slavery. Simply adding the album to a family CD rotation would spark lyrics-based learning, but thanks to a handful of other resources, families and educators can use Miller’s album to spark experiential, multidisciplinary learning about the Civil War! Read the rest of this entry »

New England Culture & Learning Through the Lens of Sheep & Wool

Sheep & Wool: Catalysts for Community-Based Education in Western MA

In the early spring, New England history and culture come alive with the arrival of newborn lambs and the shearing of sheep for the production of wool. The wool industry has strong ties to western Massachusetts, with annual events that celebrate our historical past and other events which showcase modern day shepherds and their flocks.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Four community events take place this spring that are rich in learning opportunities! Baby animals, history, animal husbandry, and even fiber arts, are all great catalysts for learning through community engagement at these annual events: Read the rest of this entry »

5 Community Walks Lead Towards Seeing a Hidden Landscape in the Hilltowns

Hidden Walls, Hidden Mills: Exploring the Plainfield Landscape

Click to enlargeJoin the Plainfield Historical Society for five free walks and talks exploring and interpreting our forested historical landscape this spring and summer! Starting on Saturday, April 25, 2015, with the Plainfield Aquaduct Company, the first commonly-held utility in Plainfield history.

Sinking deeply into spring mud, as most families living in the Hilltowns are doing, reminds us of the abundance of water that once made Plainfield a center of industrial farming, a boomtown of sorts in which land speculation went hand in hand with great civic efforts to build a community. In five guided talks/walks, learn to see old Plainfield in the landscape, about the mills, springs, and wells, “read” stone foundations and walls like so many tablets, interpret trees and plants to find cellar holes, and enrich your understanding of this beautiful Hilltown.

All tours meet behind the Shaw Memorial Library (Plainfield, MA) at 1pm and are free (donations welcomed). There will first be a “show and tell” of the historical research involved in creating the walk, followed by a walk or hike.  Read the rest of this entry »

Discovering History Through Pottery-Based Learning

Local Pottery Resources Provide History Education

A part of cultures around the world for thousands of years, pottery is fascinating – both as a functional art form and as an entry point for studying history. Utilizing local resources, children’s literature, and online tools, families can explore art, history, culture, and science through pottery-centric studies!

Pottery has been a part of human civilizations around the world ever since the Neolithic era – which was over 10,000 years ago! Much more than just a means of making dishes, pottery serves as a creative outlet for many artists, and the slow development of the art and technology surrounding pottery speaks volumes to the changes that human civilization has undergone, both long ago and more recently. Additionally, while pottery can be found in countless cultures all around the world, techniques, styles, and uses vary between cultures, and close study of various pieces of pottery can speak to the similarities and differences between cultures near and far. Read the rest of this entry »

Photographs: A Lens for Learning About the Past

Photographs as Primary Source Tools to Support Integrated Learning

Pictures are worth a thousand words, and are essentially invaluable in studies of history! Families can take advantage of a local exhibit and online archives in order to use the power of observation to learn about life in the past, both in western Massachusetts and across the country.

Though a bit cliché, the saying that a picture is worth a thousand words is entirely true – especially when it comes to using photographs as an educational tool. The power of observation alone can reveal a lot of information, making historic images an especially useful primary source resource for learning about the way people lived and looked in eras past. Available only since the mid-1800’s, photographs show real humans living within a very real – yet presently physically inaccessible – context, allowing us to visually access the time period in which they lived.

Utilizing online resources, families can support studies of the past by using the power of observation to gather information about life in a particular era or within a particular context. Whether examining photographs of Civil War soldiers in a Union encampment to imagine life as a 19th century soldier or inspecting a landscape photograph of a familiar location for signs of human-driven change over time, families have much to learn from the hundreds of thousands of photographs available online.  Read the rest of this entry »

Historical Lecture Series: Immigrant Communities in the Pioneer Valley

Paddy on the Railway: Irish Laborers and the Building of the Great Western Railroad

Were your ancestors immigrants? Are you finding a need to better understand the immigrant experience in Western Massachusetts? Wistariahurst Museum has lined up a series of historical lectures to examine various immigrant communities in the Pioneer valley and to better understand the cultural enrichment these folks brought with them.

As part of Wistariahurst’s Spring Lecture Series, Dennis Picard tells the story of the challenges of building the Western Railroad of Massachusetts linking the Boston & Worcester Railroad to the New York state line on Monday, March 16 at 6 p.m. at the Wistariahurst Museum in Holyoke.

The Western Railroad of Massachusetts was chartered in February of 1833. This transportation construction project was to link the Boston & Worcester Railroad to Springfield, across the Connecticut River and on to the New York state line. This undertaking, which only took five years to reach that goal, required hundreds of skilled and unskilled workers to complete. Though many ethnic groups were represented among the crews the vast majority of the labor was done by those of Irish birth or heritage.

On Monday, March 16 at 6pm, come hear some of the stories of the trails and successes of this unique and very mobile workforce that called our area home for a few months and then was gone.  Read the rest of this entry »

Clark Lifts Lid on Major 20th Century Modernist Movement

Machine Age Modernism Exhibit At Clark Art Institute Captures Turmoil & Upheaval

Clark Art Institute’s Machine Age Modernism exhibition explores groundbreaking printmaking and offers community-based learning opportunity on art history. Exhibition opens February 28, 2015 in Williamstown, MA.

The Clark Art Institute considers the history and politics that inspired many artists working during and between World Wars I and II in the exhibition Machine Age Modernism: Prints from the Daniel Cowin Collection. Influenced by such prewar movements as Futurism and Cubism, and using innovative techniques developed by artists associated with London’s Grosvenor School of Modern Art in the 1930s and 1940s, artists of the Machine Age defied aesthetic and technical conventions in order to convey the vitality of industrial society and changed printmaking in the process. Machine Age Modernism will be on view in the Clark Center February 28–May 17, 2015.
Read the rest of this entry »

Springfield Armory: A National Historic Site

Kids Can Learn About Local History and Become Junior Rangers at this Community-Based Resource

Tying local history with important national and international events, the Springfield Armory provides visitors with a glimpse into the history of military arms manufacturing and the history of the industrial revolution. In addition to opportunities to learn about history from exhibits, families can learn to be Junior Rangers.

Opened as an arsenal to support George’s Washington’s troops during the Revolutionary War, the Springfield Armory served as a major arms manufacturing center for over two centuries. Closed since 1968 – but designated as a National Historic Site – the armory provides families with opportunities to explore the intersection of local and national history. Weaving together the stories of major industrial innovations and the workers themselves with national and international military history, the armory’s exhibits and educational programs provide context for some of American history’s major events.

As part of the National Parks system’s Junior Ranger program, the Springfield Armory offers young visitors the opportunity to become Junior Rangers – a rank that requires visitors to first learn about the site’s history and relevance! Aspiring rangers ages 6+ can explore the museum’s exhibits guided by a special Junior Ranger packet that will lead them to make specific discoveries. As part of their self-guided training, Junior Rangers will learn about Civil War rifles manufactured in Springfield, the local inventors and inventions that helped drive the Industrial Revolution, and a special kind of counter-intuitive gun that saves lives!

The Springfield Armory is located at 1 Armory Square in Springfield, and is open from 9am-5pm Wednesday-Sunday during the winter. Participation in special programs is included in admission, and more information is available at 413-734-8551.

[Image credit: Springfield Armory Museum, Springfield MA]

Remembering the Lost Towns Through Swift River Historic Photos

What’s in a Name? Villages, Hamlets and Hollows of the Swift River Valley

An exhibit of historic photographs, What’s in a Name? Villages, Hamlets and Hollows of the Swift River Valley, opens at the Great Falls Discovery Center in the village of Turners Falls, MA, with a public reception on Saturday, February 7, 2015, 1-3pm.

Seventy-six years ago four towns in west-central Massachusetts were destroyed to construct the Quabbin Reservoir—to quench the thirst of the growing city of Boston to the east. In addition to the four “lost towns”— Dana, Enfield, Greenwich, and Prescott—land was purchased from nine other towns: Belchertown, Hardwick, New Salem, Orange, Pelham, Petersham, Shutesbury, Ware, and Wendell. These towns were made up of small villages and even smaller hamlets and hollows. People settled near each other for one reason or another— perhaps they were extended family, or worked in a mill or factory. Sometimes the name of the village or hamlet gives us a clue as to its origins, for example, the names Atkinson Hollow and Cooleyville came from families, Bobbinville from the factory that made bobbins, and Soapstone Station from the quarries nearby.

An exhibit of historic photographs of villages, hamlets and hollows, reproduced from the collection of the Swift River Valley Historical Society, is opening at the Great Falls Discovery Center in Turners Falls on Saturday, February 7th. The public is cordially invited to an opening reception from 1 to 3 pm. On view are images of families, houses, stores, mills, factories, schools, churches, and scenic vistas. The family-friendly exhibit includes an interactive area inspired by village schoolhouses and colorful 3-D art by Pioneer Valley Regional School District students under the guidance of their art teacher, Althea Dabrowski.

Read the rest of this entry »

« Older entries

%d bloggers like this: