Family Life of the Dinosaur Supports Lessons in Paleontology

Rare Look at the Life of Dinosaurs Through the Lens of their Eggs, Nests & Young

Young paleontologists unite! Resources for learning about dinosaurs abound here in western Massachusetts. From museum exhibits to hands-on paleontology activities to natural wonders, our region is rich with experiential and place-based opportunities for learning about the prehistoric creatures of the past.

Trends come and go, but there are some topics which fascinate children across generations. One such topic is dinosaurs! Extinct species tell us a lot about evolution, biology, and the history of the Earth. Dinosaurs are particularly interesting because of their, in some cases, massive size. While birds are modern day descendants of dinosaurs, it is a challenging and fun exercise to try to imagine bird-like creatures being much bigger than humans, like the Tyrannosaurus Rex, which stood up to twenty feet tall! See a life-sized replica at the Springfield Museums and an actual skull at the Beneski Museum at Amherst College (both in their permanent collections) for an exciting comparison of just HOW much bigger these creatures were! Read the rest of this entry »

Yiddish Language & Culture Celebrated at the Yiddish Book Center

Family Passover Celebration Connects Community to Jewish Culture & Heritage through Yiddish!

Learning about Jewish culture and history often leads parents and children to conversations about their own family’s history, culture, and traditions. In celebration of Passover, families can connect to Jewish culture or personal Jewish heritage by speaking Yiddish!

How do you think? Do your thoughts take the form of words, images, a combination of the two, or something else? In all likelihood, much of your thought processing takes the form of words. Even when you are not thinking in sentences, the syntax of your native language may influence the way you perceive the world around you. The idea that native language structure affects thought is known as the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis.

In English, for example, our sentence structure and patterns of speaking often ascribes an agent for a given action or event. If an object accidentally breaks, we may say something like, “She broke the plate.” In Spanish or Japanese, however, a native speaker may say something more akin to, “The plate broke itself.” (This Wall Street Journal article provides many more examples of linguistic differences and their affects.)

There is a chicken-and-egg problem with the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis. Does language really affect the way we think, or does the way we think influence our language?  Read the rest of this entry »

Museum Adventures: Emily Dickinson Museum

Step into Emily Dickinson’s World

Bee! I’m expecting you!
Was saying Yesterday
To Somebody you know
That you were due –

The Frogs got Home last Week –
Are settled, and at work –
Birds mostly back –
The Clover warm and thick –

You’ll get my Letter by
The Seventeenth; Reply
Or better, be with me –
Your’s, Fly.
Fr. 983

This poem by Emily Dickinson was written in 1865 during the most productive period of her writing life. By the time she turned 35 that year, she had produced more than 1,100 of the 1,789 poems we know of today.  Read the rest of this entry »

Museum Adventures: Hampshire College Art Gallery

Students Work is Center Stage at Hampshire College Art Gallery

Hampshire College opened in 1970, along with an art gallery in its library building designed to give students an opportunity to present their work and enjoy exhibitions of local, national, and international artists. Though it is primarily a teaching space, the gallery has become a great place to experience edgy, engaging works by both well known and lesser-known artists.

Read the rest of this entry »

Museum Adventures: Beneski Museum

Discovery and “Wow” Moments at the Beneski Museum

From February 16-19, 2016, families can enjoy student docent–guided tours at 11am and 1pm daily. Scavenger hunts for the whole family will be available throughout the entire month. Admission is always free.

The Beneski Museum of Natural History in Amherst is one of New England’s largest natural history museums, boasting three floors of exhibits with more than 1,700 specimens on display, and tens of thousands of specimens available for use by scholars and researchers from across campus and around the world!

At the Beneski, visitors can step inside the museum and see:

  • Dramatic displays of fossil skeletons, from fish to dinosaurs to Ice Age megafauna
  • An extraordinary collection of dinosaur footprints
  • Geological specimens and immersive exhibits that tell the history of the local landscape through geologic time, including when dinosaurs inhabited the area
  • Dazzling mineral specimens from around the world and meteorites from beyond Earth

Read the rest of this entry »

Museum Adventures: Mount Holyoke College Art Museum

Look, Learn, Explore: Family Fun at the Mount Holyoke College Art Museum!

Photograph by Laura Shea.

Going to an art museum can feel like an adventure, a chance to travel back in time through encounters with objects from faraway cultures. Many museums also give you the chance to unlock the magic of learning about your own local history and stories from closer to home.

In both cases, looking at art and material culture gives parents and children an opportunity to make discoveries together and create shared experiences. Here are some tips used by museum educators that can easily be used by family visitors as well. Read the rest of this entry »

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 »

Museum Adventures: 10 Learning Adventures with Museums10 this Holiday Season

10 Learning Adventures with Museums10 this Holiday Season

Don’t stay cooped up this winter! Museum adventures await you—make art with your children, enjoy contemporary art yourself, take in a gallery talk, or join in a game of table top nine pins. There is something to explore at each of the Museums10 member institutions during December, and beyond!  Read the rest of this entry »

Museum Adventures: The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art

The Carle Celebrates Picture Book Month in November

November is here with its flurry of leaves falling from the trees—or, who knows, maybe even snow flurries—and at The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, there will be a flurry of programs. Why? Because it’s Picture Book Month!

This international initiative celebrates picture books during the month of November, and The Carle has a wide array of programs and events, from storytimes and theatre performances to book events and special exhibitions, for families to enjoy. In addition to all of this, they are featuring their regular storytime programs in the Reading Library, hands-on art projects in the Art Studio, and family activity kits that can be checked out at the admissions desk.

Here are just of few of the many programs presented this month:  Read the rest of this entry »

Museum Adventures: Historic Deerfield

 Visit Historic Deerfield this October for Fun Seasonal Activities with your Family

Explore archaeology, open hearth cooking, colonial life, and so much more at Historic Deerfield this October. Who knew there were so many fun (and tasty!) ways to get to know history?

October is a wonderful month to visit Historic Deerfield with your family. From the crisp, cool mornings and the first months of school, autumn brings its own sense of renewal as the long, hot days of summer ebb away. At Historic Deerfield, the Old Main Street comes alive with fall color. A robust schedule of historic trade demonstrations, educational programs and events await visitors of all ages.

Highlights this fall for families include the Archaeology Lab program, offered as a drop-in activity on Saturdays and Sundays from 12-4pm through November 22, 2015. Visitors can explore the science behind historical archaeology; help clean, sort, and identify artifacts; and learn about soil during a “shoe box” dig. Make some clay marbles based on archaeological finds to take home.  Read the rest of this entry »

Museum Adventures: University Museum of Contemporary Art

Turning 40, the University Museum of Contemporary Art Continues to Shine

September is a hectic but exciting time of the year. As summer winds down and new routines set in, we invite you to explore what the University Museum of Contemporary Art (UMCA) has to offer!

Now in our fortieth year as a teaching museum at UMass Amherst, we continue to serve the community as a powerful resource. Through our outstanding exhibitions, visiting artists program, growing permanent collection, and varied educational programming, the museum is an amazing place to explore.  Read the rest of this entry »

DownStreet Art Promotes Community Engagement in the Arts in the Northern Berkshires

DownStreet Art Promotes Community Engagement in the Arts in the Northern Berkshires

Previously in our series spotlighting arts-based community organizations, we featured Easthampton City Arts+ , Pittsfield’s 3rd Thursdays, Turners Falls RiverCulture, and Holyoke’s Gateway City Arts, all of which support a community’s cultural identify. Across western Massachusetts, many communities have become havens for artists of all kinds. The area is chock-full of painters, photographers, sculptors, potters, performers, and other creative types, their work saturating our communities with artistic expression in a wide variety of mediums. Connecting these artists and their work to the the rest of the community are arts organizations, which serve as valuable resources for connecting families with events and community-based learning opportunities.

This month, we feature DownStreet Art, an arts organization in North Adams that works to facilitate dialog between the local community and the arts, with the goal of creating social and economic capital as a result. A town formerly dependent on industry, North Adams has seen a rise in the role of the arts in the city community – a change that has helped the city to increase in both tourism and resident participation in community events. Following, largely, the establishment of the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (Mass MoCA), the northern Berkshires have seen a rise in the role of the arts in the local community, and since its founding in 2008, DownStreet Art has connected over 100,000 people with arts-based events in North Adams’ downtown district, helping to fuel the cultural resurgence that brings the city to life.  Read the rest of this entry »

Illustration History: Online Educational Resource & Archive for the Art of Illustration

Online Resource Provides Close-Up Look at the Art of Illustration

All children are familiar with illustrations, even if just from noticing an illustrator’s name noted on the cover of a favorite picture book. Illustration as an art form encompasses much more than images for children’s books; the art of illustration includes the creation of images for everything from advertisements to comic books. Using the Norman Rockwell Museum’s newest online resource, Illustration History, families can learn about the numerous forms of illustration, notable illustrators, and the connections between the art of illustration and history, culture, economics, and technology.

Launched just recently, Illustration History serves as both an educational resource and an archive, broadening the possibilities for learning with an extensive database of images and information about artists and illustration history. Read the rest of this entry »

Museum Adventures: Smith College Museum of Art

Surprise your Eyes at the Smith College Museum of Art

Where do you begin your Museum adventure? For many visitors to the Smith College Museum of Art, their first stop is to check out the artist-designed restrooms! Designed by artists Ellen Driscoll and Sandy Skoglund as functional—and permanent—works of art, each is unique and beautiful. A popular spot for selfies, the women’s restroom features works from the Museum’s collection reproduced in a blue underwater world through etched glass panels. In contrast to the cool hues and mermaid paradise of Driscoll’s women’s restroom, across the way Skoglund intended to create a space that would incorporate “patterning and visual sizzle.”  The men’s room is black and white from floor to ceiling, creating the sensory experience of stepping into an optical illusion. For the wall tiles, Skoglund used imagery based on global creation stories with the common theme of liquid origins. From the fixtures to the floors and even the toilet bowls and urinals, visitors are invited to be part of the art themselves through the use of these unforgettable spaces.

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The artist-designed restrooms are located on the lower level of the Museum, which has been a hub of activity this summer.  While the restrooms will remain untouched, extensive renovations to the rest of the floor are underway. When completed in October, the Museum’s gallery updates and improvements will offer new ways to experience and interact with SCMA’s treasured collection of exceptional art.

Don’t miss these highlights on a visit this fall:  Read the rest of this entry »

Museum Adventures: Mead Art Museum

From Mead to You: Making Learning Connections at the Mead Art Museum

Experience, investigate, and explore world-class art and hidden treasures at Amherst College’s Mead Art Museum. In July, families can travel the world without ever leaving the area through the Mead’s family workshops and open house days. Enjoy art-making, guest performances, tours, and more—all of it free and open to all.

Search for secret doors in a seventeenth-century paneled room. Puzzle over a cuneiform inscription that praises a powerful Assyrian king. Marvel at a hanging sculpture spinning in a still gallery.

Visitors to the Mead Art Museum do so much more than see objects—at the Mead, art is experienced, investigated, and explored. Set on Amherst College’s beautiful main quadrangle and flanked by a fascinating, stand-alone stone steeple, the Mead offers a world of resources for connecting art across countless cultures, mediums, and eras.

Just as its south-up, equal-area map (on permanent display in the Kunian gallery) turns traditional worldviews “upside-down,” the Mead provides learning opportunities that encourage creative thinking and a global, culturally-aware approach to art history.  Read the rest of this entry »

Museum Adventures: Yiddish Book Center

Yiddish Book Center: Something for Everyone (and You Don’t Need to Speak Yiddish)

Learning about Jewish culture and history often leads parents and children to conversations about their own family’s history, culture, and traditions.

In the Yiddish Book Center’s kindervinkl (children’s corner), three-year-old Eli dons a white apron and begins whipping up an (imaginary) meal of brisket and, for dessert, homentashn. When he’s done, he and his mother settle on a red bench nearby and begin reading picture books.

In the welcome gallery, a dad and two preteen girls enjoy a short film about the history of the Center. When the film ends, they head over to a reproduction Yiddish print shop with vintage printing equipment, including a Yiddish Linotype, a hot-lead typesetting machine used for decades at the New York Yiddish newspaper the Forverts.   Read the rest of this entry »

Museum Adventures: Museums10 Turns 10 & Continues to Think Smart

Museums10 Deepens Western Mass Cultural Life Through Creative Collaboration

The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Arts in Amherst, MA.

Western Massachusetts is rich with opportunities for families to get out into their community to explore, to get to know the world better, and gain a deeper understanding of history. The museums in our region embody that richness to the fullest! Now in its 10th year, Museums10 can point to the fact that they host more exhibitions annually than at the Met, Lourve, and Guggenheim combined and house 1.3 million collection objects (equal to what you’d find at the Harvard Art Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Cleveland Art Museum put together!).

Who is Museums10? Ten years ago, 10 local museums came together to build a collaborative to foster greater cooperation. The hope was that by working together they could accomplish more than any could solo. During the past decade, they’ve hosted large joint exhibitions, worked with local organizations to create events, and built relationships with area schools to help make the museums part of children’s educational lives during the school day.  Read the rest of this entry »

Millennium Project in Pioneer Valley Integrates Art with Citizen Scientists

Exhibition to Document Next Millennium of Climate Change in History’s Slowest Photograph

Formed 200 million years ago in the Late Triassic and boasting hundreds of distinct microclimates, the Holyoke Range is a site selected to document the transformation of the environment over the next 1,000 years.
This spring, the Mead Art Museum at Amherst College will install a camera, designed by experimental philosopher and Amherst College graduate Jonathon Keats, that will take a millennium-long photograph of the evolving landscape. The museum will unveil the photograph in the summer of 3015. Prior to the camera’s installation at the Mead, it will be it will be on display in the exhibition Jonathon Keats: Photographing Deep Time, on view April 15 through May 31, 2015.

What will the landscape of the Pioneer Valley look like a millennium from now? The Mead Art Museum and artist Jonathon Keats are determined to find out. As part of an exhibition of Keats’ work, the museum will install a special camera that will take a 1,000-year-long photograph tracking the changes in the local landscape over the next millennium.

Created using the basic design for a pinhole camera, the Millennium Camera will use oil paint and the light that enters the camera through a tiny hole in order to create an exposure that will reflect changes in Amherst’s landscape over time. Mounted at the top of the Stearns Steeple, the camera will get something a bit like a bird’s eye view of its surroundings. In 3015, the image created by the camera will be unveiled and viewed by a community living in a very different world than today’s.

The exhibit that marks the camera’s start is titled Photographing Deep Time, and will showcase Keats’ other work in deep time photography, including a 100-year photographic survey of the changing cityscape of Berlin. Rather than being focused on the end result of any image, Keats’ deep photography process is focused on connecting photograph viewers with the changes that take place over time that, together, create the final product.

Older students and adults wishing to hear more about the monumental project and Keats’ artistic process can attend an artist conversation at the Mead Art Museum from 2-3pm on Wednesday, April 15th. Photographing Deep Time will be on display at the museum through May 31st, providing families with the opportunity to explore the intersection of art, science, and the future’s history. This Wednesday afternoon event is free and open to the public and is part of the Arts at Amherst Spring Festival.

The Mead will also produce 100 pinhole cameras, each with a 100-year exposure time, for the public to hide somewhere in the Pioneer Valley, invisibly monitoring changes in the surrounding landscape between now and 2115. The cameras will be available at the Mead for $5 each and will come with a registration card for visitors to document their camera’s location. Participating families can join is a art-based citizen scientists! Read the rest of this entry »

Hilltown Families on Mass Appeal: Maple Sugar Season

Hilltown Families on Mass Appeal: February Segment
Maple Sugar Season in New England

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 hosts, Ashley Kohl and Seth Stutman, 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, February 26, 2015, highlighting community-based resources and events that use the Maple sugar season as a catalyst for learning, celebrating local culture and building community. Sienna shares three community-based resources and two community events, highlighting two types of events:

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 »

10 Days of Play: A Multi-Sensory Experience To Energize The Mind

The Science of Play Opens Up Creative & Critical Thinking

Play comes in many forms, but whatever it looks like, it’s great for your brain! The Berkshire Museum celebrates the importance of play during their annual event, 10 Days of Play. Held now through February 22nd, 10 Days of Play celebrates the recreational and educational value of play amongst community members of any age. Read the rest of this entry »

Hilltown Families on Mass Appeal: Feeling Connected to Your Community

Hilltown Families on Mass Appeal: January Segment

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, will join Mass Appeal hosts, Ashley Kohl and Seth Stutman, to talk about ways to engage in your community while supporting the interests and education of your children (and yourselves!).

This monthly segment debuted on Tuesday, January 20, 2015, highlighting accessible community resources found throughout our region, including libraries, parks & trails, museums, historical societies and community service:

Find out more about these wonderful community resources found across the region in our recent post, Western MA Resources Support Community-Based Learning While Strengthening a Sense of Place.


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, February 26!

Western MA Resources Support Community-Based Learning While Strengthening a Sense of Place

A Diversity of Learning Right On Your Doorstep

Western Mass is home to an incredible array of community-based resources that offer a diversity of embedded learning opportunities. From historical societies to libraries, trails to art galleries, there are numerous opportunities to connect with your community and embrace your sense of place. Read on to see what treasures rest on your doorstep.

Community-based learning is not a product of simply one resource or another. Instead, it is the product of many different local resources, the offerings of which pool and connect in order to create a web of educational connections and opportunities. Families in western Massachusetts are lucky in that this web is especially strong, thanks to the many well-stocked libraries, beautiful trails and outdoor centers, active historical societies, gallery-filled museums, and supportive family centers. Together, these types of resources help to provide opportunities for unique and authentic community-based learning, wherein families are able to explore broad concepts within a local context.

LIBRARIES

With over 1,700 libraries in the Massachusetts Library System, families have access to thousands of book.  But our local libraries are not solely a book-based resource. In addition to volumes upon volumes of reading material, libraries offer opportunities to explore and discover new interests through more nontraditional resources like musical instruments, games, and exploration kits. Amherst’s Jones Library, for example, has instruments to lend, including child-size violins, ukeleles, guitars, and even a glockenspiel! The Meekins Library in Williamsburg offers discovery kits that promote hands-on exploration of interesting topics like salmon and local rivers, and important social reformers, civil rights, and human rights leaders in American history. Additionally, many local libraries allow patrons to borrow passes to local museums – helping to make these similarly valuable resources more accessible. And as for community sustainability, libraries are one of the oldest and most common forms of collaborative consumption that we’ve got here in western Mass! Read the rest of this entry »

Ragamala: Indian Exhibit Sings A Thousand Words

Miniature Paintings from 17th- and 18th- Century India Capture Moods of Music and Poetry at Williams College Museum of Art

Ragamala represents a dynamic intermingling of music, poetry, and painting in India. Ragamala is Sanskrit for a “garland of ragas,” which are unique musical compositions. Drawn from the museum’s rich Indian collection, this exhibition features sixteen ragamala paintings from the 17th and 18th centuries.

You’ve probably heard the saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words,” but what about a picture that illustrates those words… or even a song? How might you translate the mood evoked by an instrumental song into a picture, painting, or even a poem?

Between the 16th and 19th centuries in India, a classical Indian musical tradition called a raga, took on a new characteristic that did just that.  A raga, which translates roughly from Sanskrit into beauty, melody, and color, is similar to a musical scale: a selection of musical notes arranged specifically to convey, or color, a mood; discrete ragas are used to represent specific times of day and/or seasons.  These complex, richly textured melodies inspired poets to create poems based on the moods they evoked.  Artists then transposed these poems and melodies into paintings that visually convey the moods, events, and seasons represented by each raga and poem, and often include a few lines from the associated poem.

The Williams College Museum of Art will have a ragamala–a set of these miniature paintings–on display between September 27, 2014 through January 4, 2015.  Sixteen miniatures from the museum’s notable Indian art collection will be on view.  Read the rest of this entry »

Ceramic Exhibit Offers Rare Glimpse Into A Very Distant Past

Ceramics Exhibition Explores Craftsmanship Over 6,000 Years
At Mount Holyoke College Art Museum through May 31, 2015

A wonderful example of ceramics as an “objets d’art.”

Have you ever taken a ceramics class? The feeling of the clay molding into recognizable shapes like bowls and plates is so satisfying, matched only by the feeling of accomplishment once the piece has been fired and glazed and is ready to be used. The creation—and usage—of functional objects has been part of the human experience for as long as humans have existed, and the ways in which these objects are made and regarded has evolved over time. From the purely practical and utilitarian to veritable objets d’art, ceramics have served a wide range of people in an even wider range of ways. And as the world’s peoples grew, developed, and traveled, so did their tools and artwork; this allowed for further dispersion and interchange of ideas and techniques. Read the rest of this entry »

Multimedia Exhibit at MASS MoCA Brings Extinct Pigeon Back to Life

Video Installation Commemorates a Species’ Centennial of Extinction at MASS MoCA through Spring 2015

When you think about pigeons, what immediately comes to mind? Chances are, you’re remembering an encounter with a rock pigeon–a gray bird with black stripes on its wings, often spotted pecking at the sidewalks or perched on architectural features in urban areas. These birds are so eponymous with the word “pigeon,” and so closely associated with cities like Boston and New York, that it may surprise you to learn that this particular breed of pigeon is actually native to Europe – and that, long before the rock pigeon arrived in North America, a native breed called the passenger pigeon dominated the skies. Prior to the 20th century, this one breed was so populous – estimated at between three and five million – that they represented more than one-quarter of all the birds in North America. They lived and traveled in enormous flocks: their numbers were so great that a migrating flock could darken the sky, concealing the sun, for several hours at a time. By the end of 1914, however, the breed had become entirely extinct.

“I was so moved by this exhibit, and my daughter was fascinated!” – Sarah Rankin (Hilltown Families reader)

Eclipse, a new multimedia exhibition at MASS MoCA, explores the phenomenon of species extinction through the history of the passenger pigeon, a century after the death of the last known bird. On view through spring 2015, the exhibition is comprised of an immersive video and audio installation in the four-story “lightwell” at the center of the MASS MoCA complex. Read the rest of this entry »

Time Capsule: Extraordinary Exhibit Lifts Lid on Historical Education

Artifacts from a Historical “Time Capsule” Revealed at Old Sturbridge Village
Ongoing through Sunday, January 18, 2015

Hingham, Massachusetts., known as “Bucket Town” due to its prominence in the early New England coopering industry, was also the home of the first and largest community of professional toymakers in America.

Now through mid-January 2015, visitors to Old Sturbridge Village will have the opportunity to view artifacts from a recently-excavated workshop on the Hersey Family Farm in Hingham, MA.  The workshop spent a century undetected, hidden under vines on the historical farm property, before being discovered in 2008.  It had inadvertently become a time capsule, capturing the scene of an early twentieth century New England woodenware and toymaker’s workshop and lying undisturbed for decades.

The exhibit, Bucket Town: Four Centuries of Toymaking and Coopering in Hingham, is on view at Old Sturbridge Village’s Visitor Center Gallery for the next six months.  It contains objects from the Hersey Shop that have never before been seen by the public – an intriguing collection of tools, personal artifacts, and exquisite handicrafts – in addition to a generous selection of handcrafted toys and woodenware made by Hingham-based toymakers and coopers.

Read the rest of this entry »

Families & Flower Pots at Emily Dickinson Museum Garden Days

Garden Days at Emily Dickinson Museum welcomes families to explore and connect with the story and legacy of poet Emily Dickinson and her family

Next week, garden-loving families can get some historic dirt underneath their fingernails at the Emily Dickinson Museum in Amherst, MA. The museum’s annual Garden Days will be held this year from June 8th through 11th, and brings with them ample opportunities to learn, grow, and honor Emily Dickinson’s love of gardening – all while helping to maintain the museum’s beautiful and historic grounds.

Emily Dickinson Museum, Amherst

To kick off Garden Days, the Emily Dickinson Museum will hold Family Day on Saturday, June 8th from 1-4pm. Gardeners and plant enthusiasts of all ages and abilities are welcome at the museum, and there will be a plethora of gardening activities that anyone can easily participate in. Additionally, Family Day will include a special kid-friendly garden tour at 1:30pm, as well as a historic garden tour (better for older students) at 2:30pm, which will be lead by Marta McDowell, author of Emily Dickinson’s Gardens: A Celebration of a Poet and Gardener.

After learning about the gardens and helping out with some projects around the museum’s grounds, families can take Emily Dickinson’s love of gardening home with them – supplies will be available for beginning your very own herbarium, which Emily herself did as a child. Read the rest of this entry »

Springfield Museums’ New Exhibit Snapshots The Emergence of the 20th Century American Individual

Springfield Museums Explore Modern American Masterworks
Friday, June 6, through Sunday, August 31, 2014

Students and enthusiasts of art, art history, and American history will be interested to know that among the works on display in American Moderns are representations of Cubism, Synchromism, Precisionism, Expressionism, and Social Realism, as well as interpretations of folk art and early steam-punk style.

Beginning in June, the Springfield Museums’ Michele and Donald D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts will play host to a special traveling exhibition curated by and containing key pieces from the Brooklyn Museum in New York. American Moderns, 1910-1960: From O’Keeffe to Rockwell features over fifty paintings and several sculptures by well-known American artists whose works illustrate the multiple schools of thought and representational techniques that developed during the Modern period: Georgia O’Keeffe, Norman Rockwell, Joseph Stella, Marsden Hartley, Elie Nadelman, Rockwell Kent, and more. While the works in this exhibition are on loan from the Brooklyn Museum, their presence at the Springfield Museums is a good reminder of the masterworks by these artists and their contemporaries that belong to the Springfield Museums’ own collection.

Though the works by these artists may not seem to have much in common with one another at first glance, they each signify a reaction to a society undergoing rapid and dramatic change. The fifty years covered by the exhibition saw two world wars, the success of the women’s suffrage movement, the short-lived Prohibition, the Great Depression, the Civil Rights movement, and the birth of other youth and activist movements; while new technologies for travel, entertainment, communication, and household efficiency became commonplace over increasingly shorter intervals of time. The world felt smaller, and the United States had established itself as an international power, but not every U.S. citizen had achieved the American Dream.

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