Bring Your Students to MHS!
By Kate Melchior, Center for the Teaching of History
December is knockingon the door which means that the Center for the Teaching of History at the MHS is wrapping-up its inaugural semester of class visits! This fall, the MHS hosted a number of programs for middle school, high school, and college students who want to learn about primary sources and experience the work of historians first-hand.
Students getting up close and personal with MHS documents.
Our collection of Revolutionary War-era material is popular with middle and high school classes who come to MHS to learn about the real people behind Boston’s Freedom Trail. For example, Cohasset-based Chris Luvisi’s AP US History class examined artifacts and documents related to the Boston boycott of British goods in the 1760s and 1770s, including the 1767 “Address to the Ladies” which encouraged Boston women to forgo imported British luxuries in order to appear “Fair, charming, true, lovely, and cleaver” to young men. After taking on identities of Boston craft workers, merchants, shopkeepers, and domestic housewives, students voted on whether to support or ignore the nonimportation agreement. While most students supported the boycott in theory, a number of them admitted that they would likely keep buying their imported tea under the table!
Students were excited to get a close look at a bottle of tea leaves collected from Dorchester Neck the morning after the Boston Tea Party in 1773.
Vincent Bradley’s AP US History class from Catholic Memorial School also engaged with the history of the Revolution, this time through the perspective of John Adams. Students explored how Adams’ views on protest and dissent changed over time by looking at his opinions on the Boston Tea Party, the Boston Massacre, Shay’s Rebellion, and the Alien and Sedition Acts. Bradley’s class also saw historians in action while participating in one of MHS’ Brown Bag Lunches, where they heard Kabria Baumgartner from the University of New Hampshire speak about her current research on Black girlhood and the desegregation of Massachusetts public schools. Catholic Memorial students asked Professor Baumgartner questions about her work and listened as she workshopped her research with other local historians and visitors.
Students deciphered John Adams's notes from the Boston Massacre trials to learn about his motivation for defending British soldiers.
As the state coordinators for Massachusetts History Day, the Center for the Teaching of History (CTH) also helps many students learn research strategies for their upcoming projects. Megan Brady’s eighth grade history club from the John F. Kennedy School in Somerville came in on a Saturday so that they could learn about the collections at MHS and practice working with primary sources. Her students, whose National History Day interests range from early Pilgrim-Wampanoag relations to LGBTQ History in the 1920s, posed thoughtful questions to Stephen T. Riley Librarian Peter Drummey while looking at Sarah Gooll Putnam’s Civil War-era childhood diary and a daguerreotype of author and reformer Annie Fields, who lived in a “Boston marriage” with her partner Sarah Orne Jewett for decades. You can learn more about National History Day and find inspiration for your own projects at the Massachusetts History Day website, the National History Day site, or at our own Center webpage.
Sarah Gooll Putnam's diary entry on 14 April 1865. The young artist drew her own expression at hearing of President Lincoln's asssassination to illustrate how she felt at the news.
The Center sometimes partners with Library Reader Services to help host college visits as well, which gives the perfect excuse to explore more specific and unusual themes in the MHS collections. Erika Boeckeler brought two of her Northeastern University classes this fall to explore Children’s Literature and Shakespeare in America, leading to rediscovery of gems in our stacks such as a homemade morality tale titled “Adventures of a ruffle” that was written by Anne Harrod Adams, John and Abigail’s daughter-in-law! On another day, Cathy McCarron’s class joined us from Middlesex Community College to explore Elizabeth Freeman and Quock Walker’s court petitions for manumission and their leadership in ending slavery in Massachusetts. We discussed the different types of primary sources that illustrate the lives of individuals who previously lacked a voice in traditional historical narratives.
If you would like to bring students to visit us, or have the Center for the Teaching of History come to you, please contact the Center for the Teaching of History at firstname.lastname@example.org. All of our student programs are free of charge, and we would love to work with you to create a memorable program with your class! For more information on our programming, visit the Center at http://www.masshist.org/teaching-history.
| Published: Wednesday, 29 November, 2017, 12:00 AM
Crafting Stories: Families Investigating Family Papers
By Kathleen Barker, Center for the Teaching of History
What is evidence? What can historians do with the evidence they collect and interpret? On May 13, 2017, a dedicated group of middle-school students tackled these very questions as they immersed themselves in the lives of men, women, and children whose papers reside in MHS collections. The Society’s Center for the Teaching of History collaborated with the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth to host 25 students, parents, and grandparents from across the Northeast for a day of family inquiry. In just a few hours, families experienced the thrill of collecting sources, the challenges of interpreting their findings, and the rewards of sharing their discoveries with classmates.
Adams Papers Editor Sara Georgini and participants discuss the evidence.
The morning began with an exploration of the kinds of sources historians use to tell stories about the past. Families toured our new exhibition “The Irish Atlantic,” analyzing everything from portraits and poems to statistics and a ship’s wheel. While they were asked to look for answers in specific objects, students were also encouraged to ask questions about what they were finding—and not finding—in their sources. This process of questioning sources continued in our next sessions, which focused more specifically on documents and artifacts from the American Revolution and the Civil War. Sara Georgini, Series Editor of the Papers of John Adams, used five items from each period to demonstrate how historians connect diverse types of evidence, created at multiple times by many different makers, to tell a more complex story about a particular event. Librarian Peter Drummey then modeled a different kind of storytelling, using artifacts, photographs, and documents related to John Brown to help students imagine the life of the infamous abolitionist.
By the end of the day participants were ready to use their accumulated discoveries to draft their own piece of historical fiction. CTH director Kathleen Barker led families in a step-by-step writing exercise that led to the creation of several imaginative and evocative stories starring MHS “characters” and collection items. Students shared stories of Massachusetts soldiers caught in slaughter of Antietam and nurses attempting to care for wounded men during the chaos of battle. Other families reimagined the American Revolution from the perspectives of Abigail Adams, John Hancock, and even Paul Revere’s horse! We look forward to adding more of these inter-generation events to the Center’s expanding calendar of events. Do you have suggestions for family activities? Share them with us at email@example.com.
| Published: Wednesday, 24 May, 2017, 9:36 AM
Spend your Summer with the CTH
By Kathleen Barker, Center for Teaching History
The calendar has turned to March, which means here at the Center for the Teaching of History we are thinking of summer! Every K-12 teacher knows that it’s never too early to begin planning your upcoming professional development activities. If you teach the American Revolution, nineteenth-century immigration, or the Civil Rights movement, we have a program for you. Participants can earn professional development points at each workshop, as well as graduate credits (for an additional fee) at most events. We are continually adding new programs to our line-up, so we hope you will bookmark our website and visit us often: www.masshist.org/teaching-history. In the meantime, take a peek at some of the workshops we will be hosting this spring and summer.
April 20: Boston to the Rescue: Robert Bennet Forbes & Irish Famine Relief
On April 12, 1847 Boston merchant Robert Bennet Forbes arrived in Ireland aboard the U.S.S. Jamestown. The ship carried more than 8,000 barrels of food and provisions to the island inhabitants at the height of the Great Famine. Learn more about this venture and the history of Irish immigrants in Boston at this one-day workshop, offered in conjunction with the upcoming MHS exhibition, The Irish Atlantic.
April 29: Civil Rights in America
Offered in conjunction with the Ashbrook Institute, this program will explore the tumultuous path of the Civil Rights Movement. The Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery in the United States, and the Fourteenth Amendment should have guaranteed freedoms, equality, and civil rights for all men. Instead, it would take many generations of struggle, court cases, and additional legislation for this reality to be achieved. Join Dr. Peter Myers for a discussion on the complicated road endured by African Americans after the Civil War.
July 19-20: The American Revolution in Art & Artifacts
How were the growing tensions between great Britain and her American colonies depicted in art here and abroad? In this workshop we will explore portraits, artifacts, songs, plays and other art forms created during the era of the American Revolution. We will also investigate how the Revolution has been portrayed in art forms over the last 250 years, from epic poems to Broadway musicals!
July25 & 27: America in World War I
Massachusetts men and women joined the war effort long before America entered the conflict in 1917. Using first-hand accounts, we will follow the work of Red Cross volunteers, soldiers, pilots, and medical professionals. We will also take a closer look at America’s conflicted approach to WWI though an examination of propaganda posters, political cartoons, government documents, and other primary sources,
August 9-11: Food in American History
Experience the connections between food and history through historical accounts and field trips to local producers and providers! There will be opportunities to consider the importance of food items such as coffee, tea, and chocolate; Boston’s role in the creation of American food culture; and the role of cookbooks, television, and other media in creating the myth of the American melting pot.
All programs will be offered at the Society’s headquarters at 1154 Boylston Street. For more information, or to register, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 617-646-0557.
| Published: Wednesday, 1 March, 2017, 10:05 AM
Teacher and Student Fellowships at MHS
By Kathleen Barker, Public Programs & Education
Are you an educator looking for a relaxing and rewarding summer professional development opportunity? Consider applying for a Swensrud Teacher Fellowship! Perhaps you don’t have much time to devote to research this summer, but you have a student (or a few) who would love to do some original research. We have a fellowship for them, too!
New England School by Charles Frederick Bosworth (c.1852). Massachusetts Historical Society
Each year the MHS offers at least three fellowships to K-12 educators. Applications are welcome from any candidate (living anywhere in the United States) who is interested in developing an engaging series of lessons using documents and artifacts from the Society’s collections. Each fellow receives a $4,000 stipend in exchange for approximately 4 weeks of research and writing. Our 2016 teacher fellows investigated topics including the coming of the American Revolution in Boston, Bostonians’ experiences in World War I, and the Transcendentalist movement and the creation of Brook Farm. Other fellows explored the role of women in the abolitionist movement and how Boston’s abolitionist movement influenced ideas about Black identity and racial equality. Throughout 2017, we will be adding these (and more) curriculum units to our website, so visit our education pages frequently. (http://www.masshist.org/2012/education/lessonplans)
Our Winthrop Student Fellowship encourages budding historians to engage with primary sources to write a paper, create a website, or design an exhibit … whatever piques the student’s interest. Prior to applying, a student should consult with his or her teacher to agree upon an appropriate topic and product. This year’s Winthrop Fellows were a group of students from Stoneham (Mass.) High School. They created an exhibition for National History Day on the Boston Post Road, and described their research experiences in a recent blog post. (http://www.masshist.org/blog/index.php?series=46) Both the teacher and the student(s) receive a stipend upon completion of the fellowship, as well as an opportunity to attend a behind-the-scenes tour of MHS.
Applications for teacher and students fellowships must be postmarked no later than February 16, 2017. Learn more about application requirements, suggested topics, and other guidelines on our website (http://www.masshist.org/education/fellowships), or contact education staff members for more information (email@example.com).
| Published: Wednesday, 18 January, 2017, 3:57 PM
Guest Post: The Boston Post Road
By By Dylan Oesch-Emmel, Megan Cleary, Patrick Cann, and Mari Avola , Stoneham High School
National History Day (NHD) was upon us. The dreaded three-month research project that requires scouring the depths of every database for any primary or secondary source that could help prove our thesis. After many late nights of research, and enough tears (and pizza) to last us a lifetime, we had given up hope in finding any valuable sources. In a time of despair, we turned to the Massachusetts Historical Society (MHS) for guidance. With a topic like the Boston Post Road, how could it not?
With the help of Mrs. Sampson, our remarkable history department head at Stoneham High, we were able to contact Kathleen Baker and Anna Clutterbuck-Cook. They assisted us in arranging a visit to the MHS, where we were able to meet the rest of the knowledgeable and welcoming staff.
We walked into the MHS expecting to see stereotypical old men with their shirts buttoned to the very top, sitting in the corner of every room we entered, reading large encyclopedias. With this in mind we were prepared to act as proper and professional as we could. Contrary to what we expected, we checked in and quickly realized that MHS was staffed by young, enthusiastic historians. We were welcomed with an informative tour of where everything was located. Although we were entirely new to the MHS, the staff treated us as if we were any other historians. Along with finding great sources, the respect we received from the staff boosted our confidence in our historical research skills.
Now we were ready to find what we really came to the MHS for: colonial newspapers on microfilm!!! Although, the actual letter that started the Boston Post Road in 1672 may also have been important to see. The staff was always ready to help, which made the entire process much easier than anticipated. A few clicks later and we were in! It was incredible to see old newspapers that were transported along the Post Road to relay the world’s current events in the early 1700s, transformed into a computer document and displayed right in front of us. The only thing that could top it was being able to hold the physical letter that essentially started the Boston Post Road. Oh yeah, we did that too! We were guided into a room with rows of tables accompanied by dim lighting as not to fade the age old documents. The woman helping us explained that we were allowed to take pictures of the documents, which we took full advantage of. Although we had to stay quiet and respect the others working, they did allow us to pass the documents to each other. A piece of advice for anyone who will be reading colonial letters: brush up on your ability to read sophisticated cursive if there is no transcript for the particular letter.
We were able to quickly and efficiently find everything we had come for. But beyond the sources and helpful staff, the experience gave us an opportunity to join the professional field of history and make an argument. With our foundation of quality research backing us, NHD was more than a high school project, it was our transition into respectable historians.
**The MHS has awarded the John Winthrop Student Fellowship since 2013. This fellowship encourages high school students to make use of the nationally significant documents of the Society in a research project of their choosing.
| Published: Friday, 7 October, 2016, 12:00 AM