The History Department Mourns the Loss of Robert Paynter
Friday, May 5, 2023
Friday, May 5, 2023
The UMass Amherst Department of History is deeply saddened by the loss of Robert Paynter '75MA '80 PhD. Bob received his MA and PhD from the Anthropology Department at UMass Amherst before teaching here for most of his career. Bob made essential contributions to the Public History curriculum, offering courses in historical archaeology, overseeing the Summer Field School in Archaeology, and supervising exam fields in historical archaeology for numerous history graduate students. He was also a generous and perceptive reader of his history colleagues’ scholarship, and always happy to engage in deep, substantive, and wide-ranging conversation about the local past. And we here in History were always grateful and appreciative when he proposed we join the exam and dissertation committees of Anthropology students—wonderful opportunities to advance rich interdisciplinary conversation that expanded intellectual and scholarly horizons for us all.
Bob was also a longtime valuable member of the larger Western Massachusetts public history community, facilitating the repatriation of Indigenous artifacts in museum collections, serving on the board of Historic Northampton, and collaborating with staff at historic sites across Western Massachusetts, including Historic Deerfield and Old Sturbridge Village. Beginning in 1983, Bob conducted archaeological investigations at the W.E.B. Du Bois Homesite in Great Barrington, which has yielded approximately 30,000 artifacts documenting African American life in the rural north at the turn of the 20th century. Bob also was a tireless advocate for making the Du Bois Homesite into an international tourist destination, teaming with public history faculty David Glassberg to co-write the grants that funded an interpretive plan in 2009 and an interpretive trail with seven wayside exhibits, which Bob and David co-authored, in 2014, and mentoring history PhD students Felicia Jamison and Camesha Scruggs on leading guided tours.
Bob Paynter will be very much missed, on campus and in the community, but his impact on all of us will not be forgotten.
Photo: David Glassberg and Bob Paynter at the W.E.B. Du Bois Homesite