Historical Markers Unveiled as Part of Sesquicentennial Celebration

Thom Kendall photos

Campus officials have unveiled three new historical markers along the walkway that runs from the Recreation Center and between the George N. Parks Marching Band Building and Dickinson Hall. The glass pillars are 7 feet tall and celebrate the founding of the Massachusetts Agricultural College. The monuments chronicle the history and development of the college that became known as Mass Aggie in its first 70 years.

Designed as an exhibition, each glass panel tells a different part of the college’s story, from its founding under the Morrill Act of 1862, to its student life and agricultural innovations in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The glass markers use original photos of real students, creating a congruous relationship to past and present students.

They were created as part of a collaborative effort between UMass Amherst and the design firms Sasaki and VHB.

“Students can look eye-to-eye at life size figures of earlier students from 100 years in the past, and come to realize that the story of the founding of their university continues today in them, and in their relationship to the greater community and environment,” says John Mathews, assistant director for campus projects at Design and Construction Management. “The monuments use original, historic photographs and maps, and are backlit with LED lights creating a remarkable display and presence on the east lawn of the Recreation Center, the original site of the Mass Aggie farm buildings. Nothing quite like them exists anywhere else.”

Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy formally dedicated the three monuments on Oct. 19 as part of Homecoming celebrations.

The illuminated glass structures feature life-sized photographs of students on one side and a series of stories about the college’s establishment, student life, and agricultural innovations on the other. Each monument has a QR code linked to a series of websites for students and others seeking more information on the history of the campus.