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 »

Human Library Project Returns to Williams College

Human Library Project at Williams College
Promoting Dialogue, Reducing Prejudice
Friday & Saturday, February 27 & 28, 2015

Founded in 2001 in Denmark to promote human rights and social cohesion, the human library project seeks to create greater understanding between people and provide a safe space where we can learn more about each other and work through stereotypes and discrimination present in our community in order to ultimately to forge new connections between people. Williams College invites all members of the community to experience the Human Library, Friday, Feb. 27 and Saturday, Feb. 28 from 1-4pm  at Paresky Center on the Williams College campus. This is a free, interactive event and reservations are not required.

The best kind of learning takes place experientially, when we get to interact with materials and navigate situations in a way that allows us to make discoveries. However, we can’t learn everything experientially – sometimes, we have to simply take someone’s word to be true when it’s not possible to have a lesson for ourselves. And what do we do when an experience isn’t accessible and nobody around us has any useful input? We head to the library, and find a book to provide us with the information that we desire. There’s just one problem with books, though – as information-filled as they are, they can’t answer your questions!

This Friday and Saturday, Williams College in Williamstown, MA, presents a unique (and very rare!) opportunity to not only learn from books, but to have them answer your questions, too! The 2015 Human Library is, as its name implies, made up not of actual books but of human books – human beings whose unique life experiences make up volumes and volumes of information, stored amongst a network of brain cells and synapses instead of a stack of bound pages. Open from 1-4pm on Friday, February 27th and Saturday, February 28th, the Human Library offers nearly forty different human books who can be checked out for periods of up to half an hour. Each human book will begin by answering a few (3-5) predetermined questions before allowing their borrower to ask their own questions… Read the rest of this entry »

Historical Exhibit in Hatfield Gives Glimpse Into Civil War Life in Western MA

The Things They Left Us

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.

RELATED EVENTS

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 »

Human Library Project at Williams College Promotes Dialogue and Reduces Prejudice

Human Library Project at Williams College
Promoting Dialogue, Reducing Prejudice
February 28 & March 1, 2014

Founded in 2001 in Denmark to promote human rights and social cohesion, the human library project seeks to create greater understanding between people and provide a safe space where we can learn more about each other and work through stereotypes and discrimination present in our community in order to ultimately to forge new connections between people. Williams College invites all members of the community to experience the Human Library, Friday, Feb. 28 and Saturday, Mar. 1 from 1-4pm  at Paresky Center on the Williams College campus. This is a free, interactive event and reservations are not required.

The best kind of learning takes place experientially, when we get to interact with materials and navigate situations in a way that allows us to make discoveries. However, we can’t learn everything experientially – sometimes, we have to simply take someone’s word to be true when it’s not possible to have a lesson for ourselves. And what do we do when an experience isn’t accessible and nobody around us has any useful input? We head to the library, and find a book to provide us with the information that we desire. There’s just one problem with books, though – as information-filled as they are, they can’t answer your questions!

This Friday and Saturday, Williams College in Williamstown, MA, presents a unique (and very rare!) opportunity to not only learn from books, but to have them answer your questions, too! The 2014 Human Library is, as its name implies, made up not of actual books but of human books – human beings whose unique life experiences make up volumes and volumes of information, stored amongst a network of brain cells and synapses instead of a stack of bound pages. Open from 1-4pm on Friday, February 28th and Saturday, March 1st, the Human Library offers more than sixty different human books who can be checked out for periods of up to half an hour. Each human book will begin by answering a few (3-5) predetermined questions before allowing their borrower to ask their own questions… Read the rest of this entry »

Irish Legacy Exhibit Blends Local Immigration History with Artifacts at Springfield Museums

Irish Legacy Exhibit at Springfield Museums this Summer

Mother John Berchmans, left, a Sister of St. Joseph of Springfield, whose secular family name was Somers, established Our Lady of the Elms College in 1928 with the Most Rev. Thomas O’Leary, diocesan bishop. Sister Mary Cecelia Lucey, an accomplished musician and diocesan music teacher, succeeded her at the Elms. This photo was taken in 1948 on the Elms campus. (Photo courtesy of Sisters of St. Joseph of Springfield/Mont Marie Archives)

The Pioneer Valley’s history is deeply entwined with the stories of thousands of Irish immigrants.  Local culture and industries were shaped in part by the growth in population that Irish immigration to the United States sparked along the Connecticut River.  The influence of this can still be seen amongst communities throughout the Valley.

To honor the rich cultural, geographic, and economic history of Irish immigrants, the Springfield Museums are offering an exhibit titled, “The Irish Legacy: Immigration and Assimilation in the Connecticut Valley During the Industrial Revolution.”  The exhibit, which will be open to visitors from June 11th through August 25th, blends historical information and data with photographs, books, and other artifacts including a St. Brigid cross, a traditional Celtic dance dress and shoes, and a bodhrán, and Irish instruments.  The museum will also offer scheduled special events for games, stories, performances, and other family-friendly activities to help younger visitors to absorb and understand the information displayed within the exhibit.

Read the rest of this entry »

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