Historical Lecture Series: Immigrant Communities in the Pioneer Valley

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

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

As part of Wistariahurst’s 2015 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, 2015 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 , 2015 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 »

Legacy of Music, People and Place: Holyoke 1800 – 1950

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…

Historical Lecture Series at Wistariahurst Museum: Made in the Happy Valley

Made in the Happy Valley
A Historical Lecture Series at Wistariahurst Museum
Holyoke, MA

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 »

History Exhibition Recalls Holyoke’s Industrial Past

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…

Read the rest of this entry »

“Holyoke Remembers the Civil War” Exhibit at 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.

Trash-to-Treasure: Upcycling Craze in Holyoke

Trash-to-Treasure Workshops
Wistariahurst Museum Hosts Kids’ Crafts

Join Wistariahurst Museum in Holyoke in the upcycling craze with kids’ craft events this month as part of a series of Trash-to-Treasure workshops! First, on Wednesday, July 24th at 11am kids will construct their own kaleidoscope from materials found in everyone’s own home at “Kaleidoscopes for Kids.” “Trash” you can bring to upcycle into this treasure: Pringles can or paper towel tube.

Return on Wednesday, July 31st at 11am for “Bottle Cap Crafts: Jewelry, Magnets and More” where you can fashion a neat necklace, a spectacular keychain, or a marvelous magnet. “Trash” you can bring to upcycle into this treasure: found objects, broken jewelry, buttons and more!  All other supplies will be provided and reservations are suggested.

Can’t make it to the Museum?  Both projects are fun to do at home.  Learn how to make bottle cap necklaces (or magnets & keychains) using expoxy stickers in this DIY video:

Read the rest of this entry »

Victorian Valentines Workshop & Era Days at Wistariahurst Museum

Victorian Valentines Workshop
Wistariahurst Museum in Holyoke
Sunday, February 10th, 2013

Join museum staff for an afternoon of crafting valentines for friends, family and sweethearts on Sunday, February 10th. Antique valentines, bygone love poems and enchanting phrases will be on display for inspiration.

On Sunday, February 10 from 1-3pm, come to Wistariahurst Museum for this fun and creative program that will inspire the artist in everyone! In 1847, the year she graduated from Mount Holyoke Female Seminary, Esther Howland of Worcester, Massachusetts received her first Valentine’s Day card. She was so pleased with this English novelty that she tried making some valentines of her own. With the help of her brother, a salesman who carried her cards with him along with his other samples, she received $5,000 worth of orders her first year in business!

Esther was able to handle the large volume of orders by employing friends and using “assembly-line” techniques for the production of her cards. Her cards were covered with an array of linen lace, colored paper, hand-painted birds and flowers and hand-inscribed, rhymed messages.

Esther found herself a true businesswoman by the end of 1849. She continued to make valentines for two decades. She eventually would profit $50,000 -$100,000 annually from the sale of her cards. Esther Howland’s business success made her one of America’s first “modern woman.”

Channel your inner Esther by creating your own beautiful, unique card for special friends, family and sweethearts. Antique valentines, bygone love poems and enchanting phrases will be on display for inspiration. Reservations for the workshop are suggested. $5 per person.

Victorian Era Days

Holyoke: From Monday, February 18 to Thursday, February 21 from 11am – 12pm, step out of the winter doldrums and back in time at Wistariahurst Museum! The museum is offering daily craft workshops for interested Girl Scouts and other young women. Victorian Era days is a program designed to educate young women on pastimes of yore. $5 per person per activity. Reserve online at www.wistariahurst.org

Monday, February 18, 11am-12pm: Decorated Diaries
Each member of the Skinner family kept countless journals, diaries and scrapbooks. Help keep the tradition alive by binding and decorating your own diary and learning a bit more about what was in the heads of the Skinner family.

Tuesday, February 19, 11am-12pm: Build a Bookmark
Before Kindles & Nooks there existed books! Often acting as mini-scrapbooks, bookmarks were more than just a placeholder. Join us for story-time and the opportunity to make your own bookmark keepsake.

Wednesday, February 20, 11am-12pm: Historic Hats & Hatboxes
First, take a peek at some of the antique hats Wistariahurst has gathered over time in its archives. Then, after being inspired by such ornate headwear, decorate your own miniature hatbox to take home with you!

Thursday, February 19, 11am-12pm: Fancy Fans
Become bilingual in the language of the fan with an afternoon at Wistariahurst! Scouts can see some examples of antique fans and then have the chance to decorate their own. Ending the hour of fun is a lesson on the art of communicating with your fan.

Wistariahurst Museum is located at 238 Cabot Street in Holyoke. For more information, please call 413-322-5660 or go online at www.wistariahurst.org.

-Submitted by Marjorie Latham [Photo credit: (ccl) SLV]

The Holyoke History Walk: A Virtual Tour of the City

The Holyoke History Walk: A Virtual Tour of the City

“Holyoke, Massachusetts is marked as one of the first planned industrial cities famed for its paper manufacturing,” writes Penni Martorell, City Historian. “The City’s rich past is reflected in its architecture: remnants of the paper mills topped with wrought iron widow’s walks; the stunning City Hall, buffeted on all sides by stained glass windows; and the central train depot, originally designed by H.H. Richardson. The Holyoke History Walk was created to engage the public with the history of the city through their direct geographic interaction with its architecture, monuments, and historic landscapes while at the same time utilizing historical collections and materials present in the city’s archival records.”

Have you ever walked, biked, or driven through downtown Holyoke and wondered about the history of the city’s numerous old buildings?  Each empty mill, towering church, and brick rowhouse tells a story of the city’s past.  An exploration of Holyoke’s history reveals a rich, diverse, and complicated history.  Visitors to Holyoke can now learn about the city’s history themselves – from home or while exploring the city’s streets thanks to the Wistariahurst Museum!

The Museum has recently added a gigantic community resource to its repertoire- the Holyoke History Walk, available on the museum’s website, offering a comparative look at the city and many of its streets and buildings as they once were (up to 125 years ago). Read the rest of this entry »

Houdini’s Magic Comes to Holyoke

Houdini’s Magic Come to Holyoke
Opening Night: Friday, Sept. 14th
Wistariahurst Museum

Select pieces from the Magic Collection of Sidney Radner are highlighted by many items of Harry Houdini memorabilia. The exhibit, ” Houdini, Holyoke and the Sidney Radner Collection” explores Radner’s connection to the history of magic and Houdini, through his collection which contains handcuffs, tools, posters, documents, and ephemera. There will be an opening reception on Friday, Sept 14 from 6-8pm to view significant pieces of magic and Houdini memorabilia. Roving magicians and slight of hand practitioners will keep all delighted and entertained. ($)

During the months of September and October, the Wistariahurst Museum in Holyoke will house a special exhibit filled with magic history – featuring specifically many items used by the world famous magician Harry Houdini!  The exhibit includes many different objects, including handcuffs, tools, posters, documents, and more, all from the collection of Houdini enthusiast and fellow magician Sidney Radner (known otherwise as Rednar the Magician).

The opening night of the exhibit (September 14th) will include exciting events between 6 and 8pm.  There will be roving magicians (pockets literally full of illusions to share), and a chance to see some of the most exciting Houdini memorabilia up close and personal.

By visiting the museum, families can learn about the history of performed magic and its evolution over time, as well as the secrets behind some of Houdini’s favorite tricks.  Older students can use a visit to the exhibit as a logic lesson, especially when learning about card tricks.  Looking at the history of magic can also help supplement studies of American history and cultural change.  Kids can compare the portrayal of magicians in posters and print material to the ways in which magic is introduced and portrayed today.

The Wistariahurst Museum is located at 238 Cabot Street in Holyoke, MA. For more information, visit www.wistariahurst.org or call 413-322-5660.

Victorian Lawn Games & Intro to Classical Music in Holyoke

Wistariahurst Museum Hosts Victorian Game Day & Beethoven’s Wig

Marjorie Latham of the Wistariahurst Museum in Holyoke, MA writes:

Are you and your kids looking for some great ways to have fun this coming weekend? We would love to see you!  Wistariahurst Museum is hosting two free youth events this Saturday and Sunday, June 2nd & 3rd!

Victorian Game Day on the Lawn at Wistariahurst: On Saturday, June 2, from 1 to 3pm, Wistariahurst is hosting an afternoon of old-fashioned outdoor games on the lawn. Visitors of all ages are welcome to play a rousing game of croquet, volley the birdie with an invigorating match of badminton, let kites soar as high as they’ll go, or keep their elegance intact with the Victorian favorite, “Graces.”

Richard Perlmutter as “Beethoven’s Wig” in Concert: On Sunday, June 3 at 2pm, we’ll keep up the exciting pace with an energetic concert for kids! As you may know, Wistariahurst has a proud musical history. The Italianate music room that Miss Belle Skinner had built in 1914 housed a rare collection of instruments and welcomed guests to enjoy both their beauty and sound. On that musical note, we welcome Richard Perlmutter into Belle’s Music Room. His 4-time Grammy nominated “Beethoven’s Wig” is a fabulous introduction to classical music for children of all ages. Perlmutter was inspired by Beethoven’s 5th Symphony and the rhythmic phrase “Beethoven’s Wig is very big.” He has continued creating silly lyrics and has many an album’s worth of classical songs with added humorous lyrics. Bring your family, your friends and have a great time on the lawn and in the Music Room this coming weekend at Wistariahurst Museum.

Saturday’s Victorian Game Day and Sunday’s Beethoven’s Wig Concert are FREE! Wistariahurst Museum is located at 238 Cabot Street, Holyoke, MA.  For more information call 413-322-5660 or visit online at www.wistariahurst.org.

[Image courtesy Wistariahurst Museum via BBC Primary History.]

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