March 9, 2015 at 9:00 am (Community Based Education, Hampden County, History)
Tags: ancestory, History, Immigration, Pioneer Valley, western massachusetts, Wistariahurst Museum
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 »
January 13, 2015 at 8:00 pm (Hilltown Families, History, Suggested Activity, Volunteer Opportunity)
Tags: Civil Rights Movement, Community Service, History, Jr. Day, Martin Luther King, Martin Luther King Day of Service, MLK Jr. Day of Service
Meaningful Ways to Celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in western Massachusetts, 2015
Next week, the celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on Monday, January 19th, 2015, presents families with a three-day weekend. Instead of spending your extra day off sleeping in and lazing around the house, highlight the historical significance of the holiday for your family and find a way to make it meaningful. Families can find special events and service opportunities taking place across western Massachusetts, each of which presents students with the chance to learn experientially about the history of oppression in our country, community activism, and the importance of kindness and a commitment to serve others. Here are six ways to celebrate with your community and family in meaning ways in western MA: Read the rest of this entry »
January 13, 2015 at 12:00 pm (Franklin County, Hilltown Families, History)
Tags: American History, Cheapside, Connecticut River Valley, History, Massachusetts History, Museum of Our Industrial Heritage, pioneer valley history
When the Connecticut River Dammed Us All To A Different Topography
In centuries past, before car travel was the norm and the Connecticut River had been dammed to generate electricity, boats and barges on the river helped to connect communities in the Pioneer Valley to the small cities and towns further down the river’s bank. Throughout the Pioneer Valley, there are traces leftover from the days before automobile and if you know where to look, these traces can help to teach about the development of these local communities.
One such place that gives clues as to its past is a village in the southeastern end of Greenfield. Originally called Cheapside, all that’s left of this early 19th century hub is a street bearing the former port’s name. Cheapside Street runs parallel to the western shore of the Connecticut River, and marks what was once Cheapside Port, a bustling barge stop. Read the rest of this entry »
October 1, 2014 at 12:00 pm (Berkshire County, Franklin County, Hampden County, History, Suggested Activity)
Tags: Cemeteries, Gravestones, Graveyard, Graveyards, History
Learning Lurks Amongst the Gravestones in Historic Cemeteries
Rich with community history, cemeteries across western Massachusetts offer families a variety of rich learning experiences this fall. From gravestone rubbings to tours of historic burying grounds, there are many ways in which families can tap into the knowledge buried amongst the graves.
Accompanying fall’s spook-filled Halloween celebrations come opportunities to explore and learn about cemeteries and graveyards across western Massachusetts. Filled with stone markers that chronicle a community’s history, local cemeteries can provide visitors with a look deep into the past. Some local communities have been existed for over 300 years, and gravestones in such places speak volumes about centuries past. Everything from the names of buried people to the style of the stone can tell visitors something about the time period to which that a headstone dates back. And on top of learning about the history of a place, visitors can celebrate and honor the things that members of generations past have contributed to their present day community.
A study of a local cemetery (or a few of them!) can help students to understand how individuals’ life stories contribute to the re-telling of history. For young cemetery explorers, making gravestone rubbings is a fun way to introduce the study of headstones, and can help children learn that cemeteries don’t have to be scary. Turning the beauty of hand-carved headstones into a similarly beautiful art-producing activity adds to the intrigue of a cemetery, but decreases the fear factor.
To broaden and deepen independent cemetery studies, browse through resources offered by The Association for Gravestone Studies. The locally-based organization offers resources for learning to preserve and conserve cemeteries, support for decoding the symbolism found on headstones, and extensive online archives. For a look at cemeteries a bit further from home, apply what you’ve learned by exploring nearby burial grounds to images historic headstones from around New England.
In addition to self-guided studies of cemeteries are many upcoming opportunities for community-based learning surrounding cemeteries. From walking tours to stone carving, these intergenerational community events offer a wide range of exciting learning opportunities! Read the rest of this entry »
September 10, 2014 at 9:00 am (Community Based Education, Franklin County, History)
Tags: Experiental Learning, experiential education, fall history, Fall in Western Massachusetts, History
Immerse Yourself in Fall & Uncover Its Traditions
Late summer and autumn were busy times in early American kitchens. The abundance of fresh produce needed to be processed and preserved for the winter. This fall, Historic Deerfield interpreters will be cooking dishes featuring apples, pumpkins, and corn.
As brightly colored leaves replace the lush green of summer, sweaters and sweatshirts emerge on chilly mornings, and fresh, local apples become a daily staple. A full calendar of events at Historic Deerfield offers families countless ways to learn about fall in early New England. Families can visit the 350-year-old village for demonstrations and hands-on experiential activities so as to learn – through immersion – about the changes that fall brought to some of western Massachusetts’ earliest settlers.
Of course, some fall traditions remain a part of New England culture today. Exploring Historic Deerfield can help families to uncover the roots of some of their own fall activities and traditions, and can help children to understand the season-related reasons for the timing of certain cultural events. Harvesting the last of the summer’s bounty, for example, and celebrating the changing of the seasons through food of all kinds is a seasonal activity that families will easily relate to. A visit centered around learning about the settlers of Deerfield’s open-hearth cooking style and the crops that they harvested in fall can help children to compare and contrast the things that happen during their own lives in the fall with the events of autumn for early New Englanders. Read the rest of this entry »
July 28, 2014 at 12:00 pm (Berkshire County, Franklin County, Hampden County, Hampshire County, History, Suggested Activity)
Tags: community education, community learning, historical heritage, History, Massachusetts History, Western MA history, Western Mass History
Summer is History-Exploring Season in Western MA!
This summer, the Sheffield Historical Society hosts the Milt Barnum All American Tool Exhibit, an extensive show of tools used by workers of all kinds throughout the past few centuries. Check out our list of 15 historical societies and history museums below and find out what these community-based educational resources have to offer and discover your local history while nurturing a better sense of place in your kids and in yourself!
Nestled amongst the hills of western Massachusetts are pockets of history – the streets of cities and towns are lined with historic buildings, fields are dotted with centuries-old cemeteries, and even the landscape itself tells stories of generations past, its shape hinting at human influences. It’s obvious that our communities’ history surrounds us, but the challenge in learning about local history is learning how to access it in a meaningful way. Luckily, historical societies and museums across the region offer families a wide variety of ways to learn about the history of their community. From wartime tales to walking tours, resources for learning about local history abound during the summer in western Massachusetts.
An added bonus of the easy accessibility of local history resources is that children will be supported in learning about the history of their own community and a familiar landscape, but they’ll also learn about major historical events – events that took place on a national or international level – and the ways in which they affected folks here in western Massachusetts. In allowing children to learn about large-scale events or cultural shifts on a small scale, families can support learning about broad topics on a level that meets children where they’re at developmentally, while strengthening their sense of place. Adding familiar context to an unfamiliar or confusing topic can help children to understand it – and they’ll develop a deeper connection to their history once it becomes personal. Many local historical societies only open their doors to the public during summer months (for many reasons, including the availability of volunteer staff and the lack of heat in many old buildings), so don’t miss this year’s history-exploring season! In addition to open museum hours, many historical societies and museums offer interactive activities, speakers and educational events, and other special programming – be sure to check out your local society’s calendar for learning opportunities that extend beyond a visit to the local museum or archives. Here are history museums, historical societies and events to consider this summer with your family throughout the region: Read the rest of this entry »
June 3, 2014 at 6:00 pm (Community Based Education, Hampshire County, Museum, Poetry, Suggested Activity)
Tags: Emily Dickinson, Emily Dickinson Museum, History, Language Arts, Literature, Pioneer Valley, Poetry
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.
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 »
June 3, 2014 at 3:00 pm (Hampshire County, History)
Tags: educational tours, experiential education, Experiential Learning, History, Worthington Historical Society
Community learning opportunity for the family in local history treasure trove
Some parts of local history are easy to access, no matter what community you live in. Families can learn about an area’s past informally by walking through cemeteries, reading plaques and memorials around town, and by looking for construction dates posted on signs and buildings. There are some things, though, that are nearly impossible to discover on your own. Stories about the people whose names mark graves, photographs of events held at local landmarks, and information about the inhabitants of historic homes or the former uses of old buildings could fill in the blanks, and the resources offered by local historical societies help us to do just that.
Of particular interest to local families are the resources offered by the Worthington Historical Society. A very active community resource, the Worthington Historical Society offers a museum full of local artifacts, frequently hosts educational tours and events, publishes a periodic blog of stories and photographs, and has an extensive library of books and DVD’s all about Worthington history.
May 28, 2014 at 9:00 am (Franklin County, Greenfield, History, Suggested Activity)
Tags: Agriculture, Architecture, Greenfield, History, Innovation, Pioneer Valley, Solar Energy, transportation, Western Massachusetts History
Take an educational trip right into Greenfield’s innovative past, present and future
Taken from the upper story front porch of the Grand Trunk Hotel in Turners Falls, this image shows the trolley near Second Street and Avenue A (c.1890), an example of trolly use in the Pioneer Valley. – Courtesy Image.
The Pioneer Valley Institute is offering a day tour of the highlights of Greenfield on Saturday, June 7: “Spring into Greenfield: A Trolley Ride Through our Town’s History and Architecture.” The town’s trolley bus will be the mode of transportation for the day, and is a reminder of the active trolley system available 100 years ago throughout the Connecticut River Valley.
Greenfield, its buildings, its industries, and farmland, offers a complex story. This hub town for Franklin County is the site of fine examples of architectural design, of industrial innovation, and of current efforts to retrofit Greenfield’s fine older buildings to conserve energy for the coming decades. Greenfield was a crossroads for train freight service and will soon see restored passenger service. Waterpower and fine farmland attracted early settlers and investors, and innovators and businesses continue to recognize opportunities in the town.
May 27, 2014 at 3:00 pm (Berkshire County, Hampshire County, History, Suggested Activity)
Tags: Berkshires, Field Farm, History, May 31, Mission HOuse, Naumkeag, The Trustees of Reservations, William Cullen Bryant
Home Sweet Home: Open House Day at The Trustees of Reservations Historic Homes
From early 1700’s missionaries to mid-20th century architecture, The Trustees of Reservations’ Home Sweet Home: Open House Day offers families a chance to learn about lots of fascinating history. Opening the doors of historic homes across Massachusetts all day long on Saturday, May 31st, the Home Sweet Home event will allow visitors to certain Trustees properties access to spaces not often open to the public – this opportunity is not to be missed!
Locally, families in western Massachusetts can choose from five different properties to visit. Each historic home is related to both local and national history, and has its own unique story to tell. The tale of each place uses architecture, landscape, material culture, and the stories of the people who inhabited it in order to put historical eras and events into context for visitors. Covering everything from the Mohican Indians and abolition to to The New York Evening Post, visits to western Massachusetts’ historic homes are a fantastic way for families with children of all ages to learn and explore together.
May 25, 2014 at 8:00 am (Guest DJ, Hilltown Family Variety Show, History, podcast, Video)
Tags: American History, david grover, Family Music, Family Radio Show, History, music, Pete Seeger, podcast, Radio Show
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 24 & 25, 2014
Original Broadcast: May 25th & 26th, 2013
WXOJ LP – 103.3 FM – Valley Free Radio
Pete Seeger – “Forever Young”
Archived Podcasts ♦Radio ♦ Facebook ♦ Twitter
- Where am I Going A.A. Milne/music Bob Reid
- God’s Counting on You Pete Seeger/Lorre Wyatt
- English is Crazy/Pete Seeger
- If I Only Had a Brain/Liv Taylor
- John Henry/David Grover
- Ragtime Cowboy /Joe Dan Hicks & the Hot Licks
- 4 Little Sailors/Bill Staines
- The Declaration of Independence/Pete Seeger
- To the South Pole/Bill Harley
- The Gettysburg Address
- Civil War Music/David Grover
- America the Beautiful/David Grover
May 14, 2014 at 12:00 pm (Community Based Education, Hampden County, History, Suggested Activity)
Tags: Civil War, History, interactive tours, Living Museum, patriotism, Storrowton Village
A comprehensive experiential educational program for families to gain insight into major American historical event.
The American Civil War obviously had huge impact on the field of battle. At Storrowton Village, families are offered an interactive insight into the challenges people faced during the war beyond the battlefields.
Often generalized as the war that ended slavery, the Civil War was an incredibly challenging time for Americans – whether or not they were fighting on the front lines. In both the north and the south, communities experienced many wartime difficulties. Many supplies were scarce, community members were absent, and many lives were lost.
On Tuesday, May 20, 2014, Storrowton Village in West Springfield, MA, will offer an informative and experiential educational program for families. Storrowton and the Civil War is an interactive tour of the historic village, providing an inside look at what wartime life was like for villages in the north. While exploring the village, visitors will meet various community members – all of whom will share stories of how they’ve experienced the effects of war, despite remaining at home in Massachusetts. more on the tour
April 23, 2014 at 10:00 am (Franklin County, History, Suggested Activity)
Tags: Bog, History, Industry, Logging, Pioneer Valley Institute
History of Logging & Hawley Bog
Pioneer Valley Institute Features Local Industry & Natural History Events This Weekend
Western Massachusetts is rich with both local and natural history – both of which are topics that Greenfield Community College’s Pioneer Valley Institute highlights in its educational programs. Blending topics like geology and natural biodiversity with the study of local agriculture, industry, and culture, the Pioneer Valley Institute offers intriguing programs that allow community members to explore their surroundings while also learning about their natural and cultural significance. Read the rest of this entry »
April 2, 2014 at 12:30 pm (Hampshire County, History)
Tags: Civil War, Civil War soldiers, Hatfield Historical Museum, Historical Society, History, Primary Source
While most of the major events of the Civil War took place further south than New England, the war plays a major role in the history of communities all over western Massachusetts. Not only did the area serve as part of the Underground Railroad and a home to abolitionists, but agrarian towns changed drastically during the Civil War, as men and boys who farmed in order to sustain their families left home to fight in the war.
Thanks to a new exhibit at the Hatfield Historical Museum, families can learn much about local ties to the major events that took place during the Civil War. A newly installed exhibit at the museum includes a variety of Civil War-era artifacts, including a blood-stained bible that once belonged to a soldier, the Civil War diary of Hatfield resident Daniel White Wells, a knapsack worn by soldiers in the Union volunteer infantry, a 32+2 star American flag, and a Confederate tourniquet, taken as a souvenir by a young Hatfield soldier.
A visit to the exhibit is educational and informative for students of all ages, even if they don’t have any background on the Civil War yet. Young students can compare the items displayed to their modern equivalent, so as to reflect on changes in technology, culture, and use of items, and they may also begin to think about what late 19th-century Hatfield must have been like with many of the men and boys gone to fight in the war. Older students who have already begun to learn about the Civil War in school can develop a better idea of what Civil War life was like for those who fought – the objects displayed in the exhibit convey the hard work, long distances traveled, and terrifying battles endured by those who left Hatfield (and communities just like it all over New England) to join in the war.
In celebration of the new exhibit, the Historical Society will be hosting two exciting opening events. On Saturday, April 5th, 2014, from 9:30am-12:30pm, families can visit the museum to meet members of the 15th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry at an encampment, sample Civil War foods, and see demonstrations of drills that Civil War soldiers took part in. The Historical Society will host a similar event on Sunday, May 25th, 2014, from 10am-12noon as part of the town’s Memorial Day celebration – this event will feature a larger number of reenactors – three tents in all! Both events are free, and present a unique opportunity to experience living history. Read the rest of this entry »
March 31, 2014 at 2:00 pm (Community Based Education, Franklin County, Hilltown Families, Museum, Suggested Activity)
Tags: American Craftsman, American History, Arts & Crafts Movement, Arts and Crafts Movement, gender studies, Hipster Culture, History, Pocumtuck Basket Makers, Women's Studies
Early Twentieth Century Craftwork and Artisans Featured at Historic Deerfield
Sarah Cowles (1845-1922), a member of the Pocumtuck Basket Makers, wove an image of Deerfield’s iconic c. 1699 Old Indian House in her basket. Cowles was one of a number of women who was swept up by the William Morris craze for making handmade goods. Founded in 1902 by Madeline Yale Wynne, the group made baskets principally of raffia, a product of Madagascar, and used natural dyes to color their work. Wynne chose the name Pocumtuck to reference the Native Americans who first lived in Deerfield.
The early 1900s sparked a renewed interest in the materials and craftsmanship roughly associated with the colonial period in the United States. Known in the US as the “American Craftsman” school of thought or as the “Arts & Crafts Movement,” this interest in traditional methods, materials, and styles of craftwork was part of an international design revolution against the mass-production that new industry and machinery had made possible. The movement, which began in the British Isles in the late 1890s, was initially a socialist rejection of the mechanized, assembly-line-style work that had all but eliminated the creativity and skill that craftsmen (and women) had demonstrated prior to the rise of industry. By elevating the aesthetic significance of these unique, unassuming, artisan-made objects, the Arts & Crafts movement created a new niche for craftworkers and pushed back against the increasing sense of excess in the design world. Ironically, these humble objects inspired by craftsmen of old were not accessible to everyone. Because the materials, time, and skill needed to create high-quality, authentic arts & crafts objects were harder to come by than what the factories produced, each object was competitively priced.
Artists in New England were particularly drawn to the resurgence of traditional handicrafts, and many joined the arts and crafts community that had sprung up in Deerfield. These artists – ranging from metalsmiths, potters, and furniture makers, to photographers, embroiderers, and basket makers – were heavily inspired by the history of the Deerfield area, and incorporated references to the town’s history in their work. Several Deerfield artists even achieved national recognition for their crafts. It is these artists and their work that Historic Deerfield celebrates in their current exhibition, “A Community of Craftwork,” on view now through February 2015. Read the rest of this entry »
March 17, 2014 at 3:00 pm (Hampshire County, History, Museum)
Tags: folk stories, folks songs, History, Holyoke, Immigration, music culture, Pioneer Valley, Storytelling, Wistariahurst Museum
Wistariahurst Museum is launching a new historical and cultural project entitled, Legacy of Music, People and Place: Holyoke 1800 – 1950. With funding support from the Holyoke Cultural Council and the Country Dance and Song Society, Jacqueline Cooper is collaborating with the museum as the Project Director and is working to develop sketches of Holyoke’s past to form a collective of local music culture from 1800-1950.
Cooper and Wistariahurst are seeking to include community members of Holyoke and nearby towns to participate by sharing personal music-related memories. They are looking for community members, elders, descendants of earlier settlers, immigrants, and travelers who can share stories or family anecdotes related to particular songs that were listened to, played, sung, danced to and enjoyed in households, factories, at gatherings, or in clubs, churches, community centers, etc. They are looking for stories that not only represent local culture, but also reflect what working people at the heart of the community thrived on.
Do you, your parents, your grandparents, have a memory to share? Being interviewed for this project is an inspiring opportunity to have a music-related memory as part of Holyoke’s cultural heritage collection. The research is the foundation for Legacy of Music, People and Place: Holyoke 1800 – 1950, a live music and storytelling production to be performed at Wistariahurst in July of 2014.
Click here to find out how to participate…
February 25, 2014 at 12:00 pm (Books, Cheli Mennella, Reading Lists)
Tags: African American History Month, American History, Black History Month, Book Review, Children's Literature, History, Literature, Picture Books, Reading List, Year of the Horse
Five New Picks for Kids and One Just for Grown-Ups
In honor of Black History Month, I’ve selected five new kids’ books that bring history alive. Courageous individuals, unsung heroes, and influential, but little-known, events, reach through pages of text, photos, art, and poetry, and connect young readers to the struggles and achievements of the civil rights movement. And as a special addition this month, I have a book recommendation just for grown-ups, because I can’t help spreading the word about a wonderfully outrageous book related to abolitionist John Brown.
Malcolm Little: The Boy Who Grew Up To Become Malcolm X, written by his daughter, Ilyasah Shabazz, and illustrated by AG Ford, tells the story of Malcolm’s boyhood, with a special focus on his parents, Earl and Louise Little, who raised their children with love and “unstoppable optimism and faith.” The enchanted world of his mother’s garden and the stirring speeches of his father help shape Malcolm in his early years. When his father dies and Malcolm and his siblings become wards of the state, his upbringing helps forge an indomitable self-reliance, which carries him through difficult times, and eventually helps him become a zealous leader of equal rights. Lots of emotionally wrought text and rich-hued oil paintings throughout the book’s 48 pages create an intimate portrait of Malcolm’s boyhood. A good read for middle graders and beyond.
Read the rest of this entry »
February 25, 2014 at 9:00 am (Art, Community Based Education, Hampshire County, Hilltown Families, History)
Tags: American Landscape, Architecture, Art Studies, Community Based Education, Country Place Era, History, Landscape Architecture, Library of American Landscape History, Photography, Sense of Place, Spirit of Place, UMass, University of Massachusetts, W.E.B. Du Bois Library
A Genius for Place: American Landscape of the Country Place Era
A Panel Exhibition from the Library of American Landscape History
The UMass Amherst Libraries are hosting a traveling exhibition called “A Genius For Place,” on view now through May 10th, 2014. Organized by the Library of American Landscape History (LALH), the exhibition illustrates and analyzes the chronological development of North American landscape design throughout the “Country Place Era,” or the period of time (1890 to 1930) between the Gilded Age through the end of the Great Depression. During that time, many wealthy American families, convinced that their hectic, crowded, and unclean city lives required periodic retreats to the fresh air and far-ranging vistas of the countryside for renewal and recovery, erected country “cottages” (some of which were more extravagant than the average mansion today). Of course, these homes were not complete without elegantly sculpted garden paths, man-made reflecting pools, outdoor courtyards, and a spectacular view to top off the experience of nature-filled country life. Landscape architects creating the perfect outdoor environments for their clients employed a wide range of techniques, structures, and both modern and historical iconography in their designs. It was a transitional moment, both for the country as a whole and for the practice of landscape design.
Robin Karson, founding director of LALH, sees the Country Place Era as a significant time in the history of American landscape architecture: balancing on the cusp of the twentieth century, still weighted with the ideas and traditions of bygone years. One such was the notion of the genius loci, or the “spirit of the place.” While in some cultures this spirit takes the form of a protective, guardian-like presence, Western cultures more commonly use the phrase “spirit of the place” to refer to a site’s distinctive energy or aura. In her book A Genius for Place: American Landscapes of the Country Place Era, Karson suggests that landscape architects during this time were guided by the genius loci to preserve the natural beauty and quirks of the original landscape while injecting more modern, experimental architectural elements into their designs… Read the rest of this entry »
February 19, 2014 at 1:00 pm (Hampden County, Hilltown Families, History, Museum, Suggested Activity)
Tags: Happy Valley, Historical Trades, History, Pioneer Valley, western massachusetts, Wistariahurst Museum
Made in the Happy Valley
A Historical Lecture Series at Wistariahurst Museum
Wistariahurst Museum presents a Historical Lecture Series: Made in the Happy Valley, Feb 24-May 19, 2014. This series of Monday evening lectures focuses on industrial and handcrafted material culture that historically took place in the Pioneer Valley, or that is currently taking place. All lectures are held Monday nights in the Carriage House at 6pm.
The Pioneer Valley is home to an abundance of artists, writers, craftsmen, artisans, and tradesmen of all types – a fact that has long been true about the area. Ever since the first European settlers made their home in the Valley hundreds of years ago, the presence of a wide variety of craftsmen and artisans within the community has helped to shape local culture. Creativity – and its expression – is significant in the Pioneer Valley today, and has been throughout its history.
This late winter and spring, families have an opportunity to learn about many things locally handmade (past and present!) thanks to the Wistariahurst Museum’s 2014 Spring Historical Lecture Series, Made in the Happy Valley. Held on Monday evenings at 6pm (beginning on February 24th) in the museum’s Carriage House, the lectures will offer useful information and local history surrounding everything from letterpress printing to the Holyoke merry-go-round, custom footwear to child labor in milltowns.
The first event in the series, titled Life of a Mill Hand, will focus on an Irish family living in Holyoke during the Civil War… Read the rest of this entry »
February 4, 2014 at 12:00 pm (Suggested Activity)
Tags: Esther Howland, History, Valentine, Valentine card, valentine history, Valentine's Day, Valentine's Day cards, valentines
Valentine History & Events in Western MA
Esther Howland, a Mt. Holyoke graduate and Worcester native, began designing fancy valentine cards in 1848 and hired young women to help cut and paste together these small works of art. By 1850 she was advertising her cards in the newspaper, and by the 1860s she was selling up to $100,000 worth of valentines annually. – This cloth and lace Valentine card was made by Esther Howland, ca. 1870s.
Every year, Americans exchange an average of 142 million Valentine’s Day cards – making the holiday near the top of the list of holidays where large amounts of cards are exchanged (second only to Christmas). Valentines come in many different shapes and sizes, and can be handmade or store bought, clever and creative, or very traditional. Whatever form they come in, the valentines that we exchange each year have their roots right here in western Massachusetts!
The American valentine industry was started during the mid-19th century by Esther Howland, a Mt. Holyoke graduate and Worcester native. Often called “The Mother of the Valentine,” Howland was inspired by the beautiful, ornate valentines imported from England and suspected that there might be a market for them in the United States, as well. Through her father’s paper company, she sold her first valentines in 1848 and within a few years was able to begin her own business, the New England Valentine Company.
True to Howland’s plan, the valentines sold by the company included lots of lacy, cut paper and fanciful images of all kinds. Today, Mt. Holyoke College’s Archives and Special Collections house a variety of valentines created by Howland’s company. Seen in a video offered by the college, the valentines embody the spirit of the Victorian era with their intricate designs and elaborate decorative features. Eventually, Howland sold her company to a competitor and left the valentine industry. However, her legacy lives on in the tradition that we practice every Valentine’s Day! Monday, February 10th through the end of the month the Archives & Special Collections will feature a student-curated exhibit case of valentines in the Library’s courtyard (next to Rao’s coffee shop inside the building). You can see examples of many valentines from the Mount Holyoke collection on their valentines Pinterest board.
Find out about events happening this weekend that celebrate the history of the valentine…
January 14, 2014 at 12:00 pm (Hilltown Families, History, Suggested Activity, Volunteer Opportunity)
Tags: Civil Rights Movement, Community Service, History, Jr. Day, Martin Luther King, Martin Luther King Day of Service, MLK Jr. Day of Service
Meaningful Ways to Celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in western Massachusetts
Next week, the celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on Monday, January 20th, 2014, presents families with a three-day weekend. Instead of spending your extra day off sleeping in and lazing around the house, highlight the historical significance of the holiday for your family and find a way to make it meaningful. Families can find special events and service opportunities taking place across western Massachusetts, each of which presents students with the chance to learn experientially about the history of oppression in our country, community activism, and the importance of kindness and a commitment to serve others.
Mass Audubon will be hosting the annual Martin Luther King Day of Service at both Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary in Easthampton and Laughing Brook Wildlife Sanctuary in Hampden. Both events will begin with readings of King’s writing about justice and service, and families will learn how to relate his ideas to environmental justice. Afterward, families will be able to do hands-on work to help maintain the sanctuary, such as trail clearing and maintenance, upkeep of buildings, and invasive species removal. The events at both sanctuaries will begin at 9:30am, and will include outdoor work – so dress warmly! Productive participants of all ages are welcome to volunteer at Arcadia, however the work at Laughing Brook is more appropriate for older teens and adults.
Families interested in participating in a community service project that directly serves other community members can participate in the North Berkshire Community Coalition’s MLK Jr. Day of Service in North Adams. Open to teens and adults, the event will include tasks like home insulation and winterizing, painting, knitting, cleaning, and organizing. The event will take place from 9:30am-12:30pm, and includes lunch. Volunteers should meet for the event as Mass College of Liberal Arts’ Church Street Center (61 Main Street, North Adams), but may participate in projects at other locations during the event.
Discover more events…
December 31, 2013 at 6:01 am (Art, Hampden County, History, Holyoke)
Tags: History, Holyoke, Industry, paper manufacturers, paper mill, Pioneer Valley, The Paper City, Wistariahurst Museum
Echoes of Industry:
The Death and Rebirth of Holyoke’s Mills
Jan – Feb, 2014
With 25 mills near the end of the 19th century, Holyoke was the largest paper manufacturer. Today these mills are reminders of another age – victims of fire, demolition or a new purpose. What remains offers a silent dignity that demands to be recorded.
This January and February, Wistariahurst Museum in Holyoke remembers the city’s past through a display of artwork by Eric Broudy. “Echoes of Industry: The Death and Rebirth of Holyoke’s Mills” contains photographs Broudy took of the old, run-down mills – their exteriors and vast interiors, the “architectural details with rubble and shattered windows” – and a video installation featuring footage of Holyoke mills being given new life, through the development of creative spaces like art galleries, dance and yoga studios, offices, restaurants, even homes, in these once-mighty industrial structures…
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December 11, 2013 at 11:42 am (History)
Tags: American History, History, Springfield Museums, toy history, toy industry, Toys
While toys are a constant theme throughout childhood, during the holidays the purchasing of toys happen more than any other time of year. Looking forward to the arrival of Santa, many children fantasize about all of the new exciting playthings they might receive as holiday gifts while parents are inundated by internet advertisements, big box sales, e-mail offers, and specially printed catalogs bombard us with lists and lists of things that we could buy for our children.
During the holidays, when we are more aware of the commercial toy industry than ever, that it can be empowering for children to consider the history of toys and the role that they play (and have played) within our society. This theme can be explored on many different levels with children of all ages, and learning about the history of toys can help children to gain perspective on the toys with which that they themselves play. In addition to serving as a lens through which to consider American history and culture, a study of toys can help children to reflect on the role that toys play in their lives – helping them to recognize their preferred activities and unique learning style. Read on…
November 5, 2013 at 8:00 am (Art, Berkshire County, Hilltown Families, History, Museum, Suggested Activity, Western MA Events, Western Massachusetts Events)
Tags: History, Illustrator, Norman Rockwell, Norman Rockwell Museum, Picture Books, Wendell Minor
Exhibition Celebrates 25 Years of Work by Historical Picture Book Illustrator Wendell Minor
Saturday, November 9, 2013 – Monday, May 26, 2014
Image credit: Wendell Minor, “Abraham Lincoln Comes Home,” 2008. Cover illustration for “Abraham Lincoln Comes Home” by Robert Burleigh, Henry Holt and Co. Watercolor, gouache and pencil on paper. Norman Rockwell Museum Collections. ©Wendell Minor. All rights reserved.
The Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, MA, invites families to “Wendell Minor’s America,” a special exhibition featuring more than 150 original artworks, artifacts, and references from illustrator Wendell Minor’s distinguished portfolio.
The award-winning illustrator drew his way through childhood in Aurora, Illinois, inspired by the richly illustrated magazines that were so much a part of American life during the mid-twentieth century. The exhibition celebrates his many cover illustrations and his 25th anniversary illustrating children’s books, each of which has been inspired by Minor’s love of history, art, science, and the natural world…
October 14, 2013 at 9:00 am (Community Based Education, Franklin County, History, Suggested Activity, Western MA Events, Western Massachusetts Events)
Tags: Archaeology, Community Based Education, History
Archaeology Day at Historic Deerfield
Archaeologists don’t just dig up dinosaur bones and arrowheads, they work to recover building foundations, fragments of tools and dishes, and other evidence of life and human culture.
Dig up some local history at Historic Deerfield’s Archaeology Day on Saturday, October 19th! Families with children of all ages can learn about the role that archaeology has played in explorations of local history at this free event, which features special exhibits, tours, lectures, and hands-on activities.
Held from 10:30am-4pm, Archaeology Day is hosted by Historic Deerfield in conjunction with the Massachusetts Archaeological Society, the Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association, and the University of Massachusetts. Families can learn about local history and local archaeological digs by taking part in an archaeological tour of the historic village, searching for artifacts in a mock dig site, attending a lecture on digs that have taken place at the former site of the Pocumtuck Fort, or visiting a display of artifacts that have been recovered from two local sites – Sanford Tavern and Taylor’s Fort.
The event presents a unique opportunity for students to learn about the role of archaeology in piecing together history. The context in which students most often learn about archaeology is in studies of prehistoric beasts and primitive cultures, but archaeology is used in order to learn more about the plants, animals, and people who lived during nearly any time period in history and in any part of the world. Archaeologists don’t just dig up dinosaur bones and arrowheads, they work to recover building foundations, fragments of tools and dishes, and other evidence of life and human culture…
October 7, 2013 at 1:00 pm (Community Based Education, Hampden County, Hilltown Families, History, Suggested Activity)
Tags: Civil War, George H. Smith, History, Holyoke, Pioneer Valley, Wistariahurst Museum
Museum Volunteer’s Research Results in Commemorative Civil War Exhibition at Wistariahurst
Artifacts featured are from the Museum Archive Collection and include a period carte-de-visite portrait of George H. Smith, who later became a well known local physician and held municipal positions in the city of Holyoke. On display through Oct 31, 2013.
Wistariahurst Museum in Holyoke, MA, commemorates the one hundred fiftieth anniversary of the Civil War with a new display of artifacts from the Museum’s Archive Collection, entitled “Holyoke Remembers the Civil War.”
One hundred and fifty years ago, Holyoke residents left their homes and families in Massachusetts to join in the fight for the Union. Visitors can look at these brave civilians’ belongings on display now at Wistariahurst – a carte-de-viste portrait of George H. Smith, a well-known figure in Holyoke’s history, as well as a Bible dating back to the 1860s that Smith carried during his war experience that contains a personal note, in addition to uniforms, newspapers and other documents dating from the period, and veterans’ medals – and immerse themselves in the rich history of the time period. This exhibition is the result of research compiled by James Ubertalli, an archive volunteer at Wistariahurst with a particular passion for Civil War history.
Students of American history – and people of all ages hoping to learn more about Holyoke and Pioneer Valley history – will find this an enriching experience. Saturdays-Mondays, noon-4pm, through October 31, 2013. Holyoke, MA.
In addition to this exhibition, Wistariahurst offers house tours, and their calendar is full of other local history lectures and events happening this fall. For more information: www.wistariahurst.org. 413-322-5660. 238 Cabot St. Holyoke, MA.
September 30, 2013 at 5:00 pm (Hampshire County, History, Suggested Activity)
Tags: Hatfield Historical Museum, Health Care, History, Medicine, Museum Exhibit
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…
September 18, 2013 at 12:00 pm (Food, Hampshire County, History)
Tags: Corn, History, maize
Maize: Mysteries of an Ancient Grain
Maize is the largest production crop in the world and plays a central role in all of United States agriculture and food production. Explore the science of maize, one of the most significant crops to humankind for thousands of years, and why it continues to surprise us today.
For thousands of years, corn has been a staple in the diet of countless cultures. Today, corn is the largest produced crop in the world, and the United States is no exception – large scale agriculture in our country revolves around corn production. What’s so great about corn, though? How is it that the yellow, red, blue, and white kernels have persisted in their importance to humans?
Find an answer to this question (and many others!) at the Smith College Botanical Garden’s fall exhibit, Maize: Mysteries of an Ancient Grain. Open through December 15th, 2013 at the garden’s Lyman Plant House, the exhibit features history and cultural significance of corn, as well as lots of information about changes that the grain has undergone – both naturally and as a result of genetic engineering.
While visiting the exhibit, families with younger students can focus on the history and use of corn throughout history…
September 17, 2013 at 3:00 pm (Art, Hampden County, History, Springfield, Springfield Museum)
Tags: American History, Cultural Studies, Diversity, Exhibit, History, Immigration, Jewish 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…
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