New and Developing Partnerships
#BraveBuildings, and #UMassBrut: Brutalism and our public universities: The campus of UMass Amherst, like the campus at UMass Dartmouth, is home to a stellar collection of mid-century buildings that represent the Commonwealth’s commitment, by engaging the most celebrated architects of the post-WWII era, to its students. In October 2021, faculty and staff at both campuses will collaborate on a conference, unfolding across both campuses, that examines the past, present, and future of these iconic buildings. UMass public history students, in Spring 2021 and in Fall 2021, will work to document this history in preparation for an exhibition and documentary film, and mount a public history project to gather and preserve the ways in which these buildings have been experienced by the people who have lived and worked in these buildings through the years.
Forbes Library: In recent years, UMass Public History and the History Department has partnered with the Forbes Library on a range of important initiatives (see below). In Fall 2020, students in the Program contributed toward the planning and promoting a public crowd-sourcing campaign focused on transcribing sections of the Sylvester Judd Manuscript Collection, a collection of 56 bound volumes located in the Hampshire Room for Local History. Sylvester Judd (1789-1860) was a newspaper editor and local historian who created the volumes from the 1820s-1850s, filling hundreds of pages with information gathered from both archival material and oral histories, documenting local histor to the 1600s. Judd's extraordinary notes cover a wide variety of local history subjects, including content not preserved elswhere on Native American life, slavery in New England, King Philip’s War, Shay’s Rebellion, the natural landscape of the region, and everyday life in the Connecticut River Valley.
Mark Twain House: In Fall 2020, students in the Public History Program contributed to the planning of museum education programs while investigating the labor and economy of the nineteenth-century Connecticut Valley. The program in development--“Shop Local,” based on the contents of the Clemens family’s detailed check register--aims to help middle and high school students to explore the family’s home economy in Gilded Age Hartford, with a particular emphasis on local foodways and labor relationships.
Old Sturbridge Village: The nineteenth-century village continues to inspires public history students at UMass and graduate students have completed enriching internships at the site. In 2019, our relationship became more formal, as Professor Marla Miller joined a team contributing to an NEH-funded reinterpretation initiative, and students in Sam Redman’s graduate seminar “Introduction to Public History” worked to lay foundations for an oral history project associated with the museum’s upcoming 75th anniversary. We hope to continue to partner with OSV--one of the nation’s most important living history enterprises--in the coming years.
Undocumented Migration Project: In 2020-21, UMass PH is delighted to partner with Dr. Haeden Stewart in the UMass Department of Anthropolgy to bring to UMass Amherst Hostile Terrain 94, a participatory art project sponsored and organized by the Undocumented Migration Project (UMP), and to create associateed programming. The exhibition, which will be mounted across the U.S. and around the world in the coming year, draws attention to the 3,200 migrants who died trying to cross the Sonoran Desert of Arizona between the mid-1990s and 2019; as tags are geolocated on a wall map showing the locations where human remains have been found, visitor-participants help convey and comprehend the consequences of federal immigration policy since the 1990s.
The Industrial Crafts Research Network: The Industrial Crafts Research Network, led by Tom Fisher (Nottingham Trent University UK) and Simon Penny (University of California, Irvine, CA), is an international, interdisciplinary research network of scholars, museum professionals, designers and practitioners dedicated to the study of and communication of materially engaged embodied knowledges related to the cognitive ecologies of mechanised production environments. UMass Public History, as part of its larger committment to the study and interpretation of both material culture and labor history, hopes to advance this inquiry into how the acquisition and sharing of embodied knowledge among industrial workers as well as other kinds of makers is understood, and also how it can be interpreted in museum and historic site settings.
Longstanding and Ongoing Partnerships
Disability History Museum: We have been delighted to collaborate with both the DHM and the related organization Straight Ahead Pictures. Students in our graduate seminar Museum and Historic Site Interpretation have collaborated with the DHM to survey the collections of local historical societies in the Pioneer Valley for unnoticed archival and artifactual material related to disability history; developed an exhibit on the history of disability for Alternatives Inc., a social service agency based in Whitinsville, Mass; and, as interns and as employees have contributed to work of research, production, and the creation of educational materials. In October 2012, we partnered to host a pioneering symposium on the history of disability in America that brought to campus leading figures from the disability history community, including Douglas Baynton, Sarah Rose, James Trent, and Fred Pelka. We are now in an extended conversation with DHM founder Laurie Block about collaboration surrounding the creation and release of the upcoming film Becoming Helen Keller, a major reinterpretation of the life of this iconic figure.
Emily Dickinson Museum: UMass Public History has a long relationship with the Emily Dickinson Museum; many students have worked as interns and tour guides, and alumna Elizabeth Bradley is currently the EDM Program Coordinator. Collaborations through the years have ranged from “Mining the Museum,” an undergraduate Honors Seminar on Historic House Museums that Professor Marla Miller offered in residence at the museum in 2002, to “Replenishing the Shelves,” a 2019 project in which students in Dr. Mark Roblee’s course “History and its Publics” helped research and interpret volumes in the poet’s library. Graduate students in courses with Professor Samuel Redman have produced oral histories documenting the history of the home during its transition from a private residence to a museum, while students in Professor Jon Olsen’s 2018 Digital History course helped develop a 360º virtual tour of the kitchen in the Evergreens building highlighting the material culture items located in the room that are often not a part of a regular tour.
Forbes Library: Partnerships with this important area library have facilitated a number of collaborations and outreach initiatives. The Forbes library partnered with us on the 2016-17 Humanities Action Lab traveling exhibition States of Incarceration: A National Dialogue of Local Histories, hosting both the exhibition and associated events with the adjacent Feinberg Family Lecture Series, “The UMass in the Age of Mass Incarceration.” As part of the Feinberg Series "Another World Is Possible: Revolutionary Visions, Past and Present," the department was pleased to be a partner in the project "All Hamptons Read," an area-wide event, spearheaded by the public libraries in Northampton, Florence, Easthampton, Southampton and Westhampton, that sponsored dozens of events exploring enslavement and the underground railroad, nationally and locally. The culminating event, Escaping Slavery, Envisioning Freedom (in partnership with Historic Northampton, The David Ruggles Center for Early Florence History & Underground Railroad Studies, the Sojourner Truth Memorial Committee, Northampton Film Festival and Northampton Community Television) brought National Book Award finalist Erica Armstrong Dunbar, author of Never Caught: The Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge, into conversation with Dr. Barbara Krauthamer. Most recently, the UMass Oral History lab offered a one-day "crash course" in collaboration with the Forbes Library staff, part of a collaborative, community-based initiative. Hailing from Forbes Library, Northampton Open Media, Northampton Senior Services, Historic Northampton, the Center for New Americans and the Lilly Library, the local librarians, archivists, and historians attended as partners on the “Moving Memories Lab.” Spearheaded by Forbes Library and supported by a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the lab will eventually enable community members to record and preserve their stories, photos and other memories, and to add these materials to the Forbes Library’s local history collection. Exciting outcomes of this work already include the exciting project "Back to the Baystate," which is documenting the history of this important venue in the local music scene, and an outstanding example of community-based public history engagement.
Historic Deerfield: We are fortunate to have this museum of early American history and culture just a short drive north from campus. Historic Deerfield is one of our core partners, and we work with them in a range of ways. UMass Public History regularly visits Historic Deerfield during courses on public history, museum and historic site interpretation, and American material culture. Graduate students have also completed internships in collections care, cataloging, and museum education. Field service projects associated with courses have developed walking and driving tours, undertaken assessment work, and other projects that inform interpretation at the site. Most recently, UMass Public History students have contributed to formative evaluation that will expand and advance the interpretation of indigenous histories in Deerfield; in 2021 students in the program are helping with planning toward Deerfield's 350th anniversary celebrations, surveying best practices in local history commemoration.
Historic Northampton: Through the years, UMass graduate students as well as undergraduates have completed numerous internships at this important local historical society. In various graduate seminars, graduate students have completed field services in collaboration with HIstoric Northampton. Our graduate seminar "American Material Culture" has been taught in residence at Historic Northampton, exploring those important regional collections to learn how to extract historical insight from artifacts. Historic Northampton also partnered with us on the Humanities Action Lab traveling exhibition States of Incarceration: A National Dialogue of Local Histories, hosting both the exhibition and associated events with the adjacent Feinberg Family Lecture Series, “The UMass in the Age of Mass Incarceration.” This work included the creation of a stand-alone exhibit on the carceral past of Hampshire County. Numerous UMass students, both graduate and undergraduate, have completed internships and found employment with this important steward of local and regional histories.
Humanities Action Lab: UMass Public History was a founding member of the HAL collaborative, contributing a panel and programming to the 2009 Guantanamo Public Memory Project. For HAL’s subsequent initiative, “States of Incarceration: A National Dialogue of Local Stories,” UMass, working with activists from the Statewide Harm Reduction Coalition as well as the Prison Birth Project, the Real Cost of Prisons Project, and other area organizations, contributed a panel asking “What are Women’s Prisons For?” The Spring 2017 arrival of the national traveling exhibition was part of the larger programming of the Feinberg Family Distinguished Lecture Series, “The U.S. in the Age of Mass Incarceration.” In 2018-19, students under the leadership of Professor David Glassberg and in collaboration with community partners Neighbor to Neighbor and Springfield Climate Justice Coalition are planning a travelling exhibit coming to Springfield in May 2021. “Climates of Inequality: Stories of Environmental Justice."
Jones Library: The Jones Library is the public library of the town of Amherst, with a special collections unit that, because of the town’s unusual literary history, also documents Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, Clifton Johnson, and other notable writers. In 2015, students in Professor Olsen’s Digital History course developed a mobile walking tour iabout the town of Amherst during the American Civil War (www.amhersthistoric.org). Students in Dr. Sam Redman's oral history graduate seminar have completed helped to document the history of the library, including its role in the community, its physical evolution, and the changing shape of library work. Resulting in over a dozen new interviews, the Jones Library Oral History Project now makes these materials freely available to students and other researchers. Most recently, students in Dr. Eldra Walker’s studio on Historic Structure Reports (HSR) in the department of Architecture produced an HSR for the library, documenting the building's history and situating it in the context of Amherst's larger landscape.
Mass History Alliance: In 2005, after over a century of service, the Bay State Historical League–an umbrella organization serving the Commonwealth’s history organizations-–closed its doors. The Massachusetts Foundation for the Humanities (now Mass Humanities) approached UMass Public History about partnering to ensure the continuity of the much-needed annual conference that served this audience. In time that effort has been joined by colleagues at the Massachusetts Historical Society, UMass Boston, and others, and today the conference is associated with the Mass History Alliance, a new organization that has emerged to support history practice in Massachusetts. UMass PH has throughout remained a key partner in the planning, publicity, and staffing of this important statewide event.
National Park Service: UMass Public History partners in myriad ways with units of the National Park Service, in both the production of NPS scholarship and in partnerships with individual parks. UMass students served as research assistants on the prizewinning study co-authored by program director Marla Miller, Imperiled Promise: The State of History in the National Park Service. For the Martin Van Buren National Historic Site we produced and/or hosted—again with the funded involvement of graduate students—the Historic Resource Study “A Return to his Native Land: Martin Van Buren’s Life at Lindenwald, 1839-1862,” and “Plant Yourself in my Neighborhood: An Ethnographic Landscape Study or Farmers and Farming in Columbia County, New York.” UMass students and faculty have produced National Register of Historic Places documentation for the Roger Williams National Memorial and Sagamore Hill National Historic Site, and the ethnographic report, for New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park, “A Generous Sea: Native Hawaiians, Pacific Islanders, and the Jewish Community in New Bedford Whaling & Whaling Heritage.” For Cape Cod National Seashore, we delivered the award-winning study: “People and Places on the Outer Cape: A Landscape Character Study” (2004) and “The Changing Cape: Using History to Engage Coastal Residents in Community Conversations about Climate Change” (2017). Most recently, a faculty-led project involving alumni and current students produced a historic resource study for Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller NHS titled “Laurance S Rockefeller and the Outdoor Recreation Resources Review Commission, 1958-62,” a major study exploring relationships between movements for conservation, outdoor recreation, and civil rights, including the struggle of African Americans and other people of color to gain access to outdoor recreation on public lands, disparities in access to public recreation in New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, St. Louis, and Atlanta, and the effectiveness of the ORRRC in democratizing public spaces and improving outdoor recreation opportunities for African Americans and other people of color.
On a related note, as our closest NPS site, Springfield Armory NHS is another regular partner. Most recently, the site recently invited collaboration with students on educational programming and outreach offerings. Students in the Public History graduate seminar completed a “white paper” report on K-12 prorgramming. Past collaborations with the Springfield Armory include the “Forge of Innovation” website and NEH Summer Institutes for Teachers in 2015 and 2019 on “Forge of Innovation: Industrial Revolution in Connecticut River Valley.”
Wistariahurst: The 1874 home of William Skinner, a prominent silk manufacturer, is today a cultural and educational center owned and operated by the City of Holyoke and supported by The Wistariahurst Foundation. Wistariahurst is “dedicated to preserving Holyoke’s history and inspiring an appreciation of history and culture through educational programs, exhibits and special events.” UMass PH has had a long and productive partnership with Wistariahurst; three of our students have served as directors/curators at the site, and many internships and field service projects have been based there. Wistariahurst was also a valued partner in hosting the Humanities Action Lab bilingual traveling exhibition States of Incarceration in Holyoke. This collaborative work in Holyoke has been recognized for its success. In 2013, UMass Public History student Jon Haeber was awarded the 2013 Preservation Award from the Holyoke Historical Commission for his blingual (English and Spanish) walking tour app of the city, an outgrowth of a field service project in Professor Olsen's Digital History course. Later that year, students in Professor Olsen’s Intro to Public history course helped curate an exhibit about the museum’s historic gardens. In 2017, UMass Public History student Shakti Castro was recognized by the National Council on Public History (NCPH) with a travel award to support the presentation of her poster “The Carlos Vega Oral History Project: Documenting Puerto Rican and Latino History in Holyoke,” an outgrowth of her internship and other work in the city. In 2020, incoming UMass Public History student Erika Slocumb (a PhD student in the W.E.B. Du Bois dept of Afro-American Studies) partnered with Wistariahurst museum to document and interpret Holyoke history in the exhibition “Reliquaries of Blackness: An Exhibit of Oral Histories," work that was likewise recognized by the NCPH with a travel award to support the presentation of her poster “Reliquaries of Blackness:' Documenting Holyoke's Black Past.”
UMass Amherst: We also partner with other departments around campus on public history initiatives. Examples include, for the Theater Department, a companion website for play on reproductive rights (2013); for the Music Department an oral history of the founding of the Jazz program (2014); for the German Department, an exhibit on the 20th anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall (2014); and for the UMass Institute for Holocaust, Genocide, and Memory Studies, an oral history project and introductory film along with teaching materials, in support of their permanent exhibition (2016). A major collaboration, led by the University Museum of Contemporary Art (UMCA), marked the 50th anniversary of Du Bois's death; the museum commissioned leading artists from the United States, Canada, and West Africa to create original artwork reflecting on Du Bois's legacy and reconsidering him in light of contemporary issues. The end result--the exhibition Du Bois in Our Time and its associated programming--brought public history faculty and students in conversation with these pathbreaking artists, to contemplate the role of art in developing historical understanding. Another anniversary-based collaboration commenced in 2020-21, when we began working with the Center for Multicultural Advancement and Student Success to create a timeline and other materials, based on materials CMASS undergraduate fellows compiled documenting events connected to the establishment and evolution of cultural centers from 1968 to 2000, aimed at marking the 10th anniversary of CMASS. In 2021, students in the course "Intro to Exhibit Design," led jointly by faculty in Public History and the W.E.B. Du Bois Department of African American Studies, crafted a plan for an exhibition exploring the work of street photographer Jill Freedman, to be mounted in the Augusta Savage Gallery in New Africa House in Spring 2022.
Selected Past Partnerships
Amherst Historical Commission: Working together with members of the Amherst Historical Commission, students from Professor Olsen’s 2014 Digital History course developed a “Writers’ Walk” mobile walking tour of famous writers--from Emily Dickinson and Robert Frost to Norton Juster and Shirley Graham Du Bois--who all called Amherst their home (amhersthistoric.org).
Goodwin Memorial A.M.E. Zion Church: UMass Public History courses have partnered on several occasions with the congregation at Amherst’s Goodwin Memorial A.M.E. Zion Church to highlight its important place in local history. Students in Professor Olsen's Intro to Public History course worked with the church’s historical commission to develop a new brochure about the history of the church and the Goodwin family.
Hadley Farm Museum: Given our campus' own history as an agricultural college, and the committment of current faculty to the study of food history and food systems, it is no surprise that we have long had an interest in this important local collection. Most recently, in 2014, students designed a new website for the museum, which included several small online exhibits drawing on its rich collection as well as oral history interviews with members of the local farming community conducted by the students. In Spring 2019, students in Professor Marla Miller's Museum Studio cataloged hundreds of objects in this collection, and drafted collections policies.
Joseph Allen Skinner Museum (Mount Holyoke College): Through the years, UMass Public History has appreciated the historical and scholarly value of the Joseph Allen Skinner Museum on the campus of Mount Holyoke College. Opened in 1929 and containing some 7000 objects, the museum opens a window on histories of collecting and museum making, as well as American material culture. UMass students have mounted micro exhibits grounded in these collections, created curricular materials to promote the collections use among MHC faculty from a range of disciplines, and explored the museum through social media.
National Building Museum: In Fall 2019, Program Director Marla Miller accompanied National Building Museum curator Sarah Leavitt on a research trip in support of the planned 2020 exhibition “The Wall/El Muro: What is a Border Wall?” In the wake of these travels, two umass students undertook internships aimed at helping locate objects appropriate for the exhibition, and documenting the “borderplex” in and around the wall itself, while Professor Miller continues to collaborate with curator Sarah Leavitt on work surrounding the exhibit. We look to the visit of Sarah Leavitt to the UMass campus in connection with the arrival of “Hostile Terrain 94” (above).
Old South Meeting House: Students in Professor Redman’s Museums and Historic Sites Administration seminar assisted the Old South Meeting House on a study of their current and future exhibition spaces in the Boston historic site. Questions about curation, exhibit design, and approaches to teaching the history of free speech advocacy in the United States were all addressed in the report provided to our partners at OSM.
Valley Women's History Collaborative: The VWHC is "an active group of students, scholars, archivists, and community volunteers dedicated to researching, collecting, preserving and publicizing the history of women committed to social justice for women, including but not restricted to self-identified feminists, lesbians, womanists, and queers in Hampshire, Franklin, and Hamden counties of Western Massachusetts from the mid-1960s to the present." Grounded in the pathbreaking work of Kaymarion Raymond, who as early as 1967 began compiling a Herstory Chronology, a Valley lesbian slideshow, a timeline, and a questionnaire which she had circulated among friends, the VWHC in time came to include several Five College faculty, engaging students alongside community volunteers to document this important part of Valley history as part of coursework, independent study, field service, grant-supported work, and as violunteers. Oral histories taken by public history student David Cline in time became the book Creating Choice: A Community Responds to the Need for Abortion and Birth Control, 1961-1973. Other projects documented the history of the Mary Vasquez Softball League, and women's creative work in the Valley. Since 2011, the VWHC shifted focus toward the documenting of early histories of domestic violence shelters.