Wistariahurst Museum February Break Family Day
On Wednesday February 21, 2018 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Wistariahurst will host February Break Family Day, a drop-in day celebrating Black History Month. Visitors are invited to the Wistariahurst Carriage House for games, crafts, and Black History themed activities. This fun history program is designed for Elementary School Age Children and their families, but visitors of all ages are welcome. Children must be accompanied by an adult. February Break Family Day is free and open to all.
With initial funding from Mass Humanities, Wistariahurst has embarked upon a community history project headed up by scholar Erika Slocumb titled Black Holyoke: Uncovering the History of the Black Community in the Paper City. The purpose of this project is to reveal the stories of the black community in Holyoke, from the time the area was settled in 18th Century to the present. On Saturday, February 24, from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. Slocumb and City Historian Penni Martorell will be hosting the first of several archival collection events where they hope members of the community will gather together to remember, share, and provide leads to sources of primary documentation of Holyoke’s Black history.
This project is being headed up by Erika Slocumb, a native of Springfield, MA. She is a mother, an artist, scholar, community organizer, world traveler and an advocate for social justice. She is the co-founder of the community organization the Western Mass Women’s Collective and continues to do work in the Western Mass area. She has received her B.A. in Social Justice Education, a MS in Labor Studies, and is currently working toward her PhD in African American Studies at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
In a video piece describing the project, Slocumb narrates that “We will work to uncover the problems, the joys, the pain, and the struggles black people in Holyoke faced in their daily lives. With this project, we aim to unearth the lives and stories of the black community in Holyoke in order to make that history available to the public through archival collections, talks, and exhibits.”
Since December of 2017, Slocumb, with support from Wistariahurst volunteers and interns, has been researching and indexing existing black history content in the Wistariahurst archives and the Holyoke History Room at the Holyoke Public Library. This phase of the project was funded by a Research Inventory Grant from Mass Humanities.
“Since my very first weeks working here at Wistariahurst, one historical question has come up again and again,” says Kate Preissler, Wistariahurst Director. “‘Why is there so little information available about black history in Holyoke?’ There are many people here who have been asking and investigating this for years, so we know the history is out there, but it’s long overdue for it to be made more visible so that it can become part of our community’s identity and narrative. It is thanks entirely to the energy of our lead scholar Erika Slocumb that the idea of this project is now becoming a reality.”
In addition to indexing the materials that already exists, Wistariahurst is embarking upon the second phase of the project - a call to community members to add their own knowledge and documentation regarding local Black history to the official historical record. On February 24, from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. at Wistariahurst, Slocumb and City Historian Penni Martorell will be collecting archival “leads” from community members in order to map out a plan for future interviews, document scanning, and other forms of archival collecting. “Leads” may include names, anecdotes, family documents, and photographs. It will be the first of several public sessions which will provide opportunities for individuals to gather, reminisce, and bring back into view a portion of Holyoke’s history that has not often been publicly explored.
In addition to the archival elements, Wistariahurst will be offering periodic public learning opportunities aimed at deepening the community’s understanding of black history on a regional scale. Preissler notes that “In order to understand and appreciate history specific to Holyoke, we also have to gain a sense for what was happening on the regional and national levels.”
For more information on the project or to provide Wistariahurst with archival leads please visit the website at www.Wistariahurst.org.
238 Cabot Street
Holyoke, MA 01040
Wistariahurst Museum is dedicated to preserving Holyoke’s history and inspiring an appreciation of history and culture through educational programs, exhibits and special events. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Wistariahurst is the former home of William Skinner and his family, prominent silk manufacturers and residents of Holyoke.
Wistariahurst Museum as well as the Carriage House & Gift Shop are open Sat. Sun. and Mon. from 12 to 4p.m. Historic House Tours are $7 general admission and $5 for students and seniors. Hours for Archive Research: Mon. 9a.m. -7p.m. & Thur. 9a.m. - 1p.m. For more information or a schedule of other upcoming events, please visit our website at www.wistariahurst.org.