The Porter-Phelps-Huntington Museum Presents: The Great River Redux: Past, Present and Future of Studying the Connecticut River Valley

THE GREAT RIVER REDUX: PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE OF STUDYING THE CONNECTICUT RIVER VALLEY 

A PRESENTATION AND COLLOQUIUM

PORTER-PHELPS-HUNTINGTON MUSEUM

SATURDAY OCTOBER 24, 2015 AT 1 PM

 

In 1985 a major exhibition of Connecticut River Valley scholarship was held at Hartford’s Wadsworth Athenaeum.  The exhibition and catalogue, The Great River: Art & Society of the Connecticut Valleywas the culmination of several years of footwork exploring collections in over seventy small museums, historical societies and private homes up and down the River.  Thirty years later we are bringing together the originator of this remarkable undertaking along with several scholars who have focused their research on Connecticut River Valley culture for and since this exhibition.  The Great River Redux will begin with a presentation on the original exhibition by William Hosley along with a look at some objects from the Porter-Phelps-Huntington Museum collections. Hosley’s talk will be followed by a round-table discussion with some of the Valley’s leading scholars including Kevin Sweeney, Marla R. Miller, David Glassberg, Gretchen Holbrook Gerzina, Lisa Brooks and William Flynt. The round-table will address the question “What is on the horizon for our understanding of the Connecticut River Valley now?”  The program will begin at 1 pm on Saturday, October 24, 2015 in the Corn Barn of the Porter-Phelps-Huntington Museum, 130 River Drive, Hadley MA and is open to the public. Seating is limited. 

William Hosley’s The Great River Revisited: Three Centuries of Connecticut Valley Art & History surveys the people, places and things that figured prominently in the cultural and artistic life of the Connecticut Valley.  This richly illustrated program explores aspects of regional history through the study of gravestones, architecture, household furnishings, and cultural industry. These objects demonstrate the Valley's transformation from a provincial agrarian culture to the vanguard of the 19th century's high-tech industrial revolution and offer insights into the people who owned them. The lecture revisits the themes and materials presented in the award-winning The Great River exhibition (Wadsworth Atheneum 1985), while providing further insights into the industrial transformation that occurred after 1840.  In 2014 a NY arts publication cited The Great River exhibition on a list of 100 milestones in 150 years of American arts and preservation. It was the largest and most intensively researched exhibition ever mounted

William Hosley, the principal of Terra Firma Northeast, is a cultural resource development and marketing and communications consultant, social media expert, historian, writer, and photographer. He was formerly Director of the New Haven Museum and Connecticut Landmarks where he cared for a chain of historic attractions throughout Connecticut. Prior to that, as a curator and exhibition developer at Wadsworth Atheneum, Bill organized major exhibitions including The Great River: Art & Society of the Connecticut Valley (1985), The Japan Idea: Art and Life in Victorian America (1990), Sense of Place: Furniture from New England Towns (1993) and Sam & Elizabeth: Legend and Legacy of Colt's Empire (1996). As an expert in heritage tourism, Bill has studied, lectured and advised hundreds of museums and heritage destinations around the country and served as a content specialist for PBS, BBC and CPTV film documentaries.

The Round Table to follow will include celebrated Valley historians whose research and intellectual focus encompass the world of women, Native Americans, African Americans, architecture, environmental history and material culture of the Connecticut River Valley during the 18th and 19th centuries.  

Their discussion will press beyond “The Great River” exhibition to reflect on what it accomplished for material culture studies and the history of place, and to recognize the concerns and history left out of that telling. Their exchange of ideas will bring focus to our changing understanding of the Connecticut River Valley.  These distinguished scholars include:

Kevin M. Sweeney is Professor of American Studies and History at Amherst College. He worked for a decade in history museums and trained as a colonial historian and Yale (Ph.D. in 1986).  He teaches courses on colonial North American history, the era of the American Revolution, early American material culture and architecture, and Native American histories. He has written numerous articles on the architecture and material culture of colonial New England and with Evan Haefeli wrote Captors and Captives: The 1704 French and Indian Raid on Deerfield (2003). Currently, he is teaching a class on the Material Culture of American Homes and continues research on the possession and use of firearms in early America.

Marla R. Miller directs the Public History Program at UMass Amherst. Her primary research interest is U.S. women's work before industrialization, particularly in the Connecticut River Valley. Her first book, The Needle's Eye: Women and Work in the Age of Revolution won the Costume Society of America's Millia Davenport "best book" Award. In 2009 she published the edited collection Cultivating a Past: Essays in the History of Hadley, Massachusetts. Her 2010 book, Betsy Ross and the Making of America --a scholarly biography of that much-misunderstood early American craftswoman--was a finalist for the Cundill Prize in History at McGill University--the world's largest non-fiction historical literature prize--and was named to the Washington Post's "Best of 2010" list. Her most recent publication, a short biography of Hatfield, Massachusetts, gownmaker Rebecca Dickinson, appeared in the Westview Press series Lives of American Women in summer 2013. She is presently completing work on a microhistory of women, work and landscape in Hadley, Massachusetts

David Glassberg, a native of Philadelphia moved to the Connecticut River Valley in 1986 to begin teaching public history, environmental history, and modern US cultural history at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.   Among his publications are American Historical Pageantry: The Uses of Tradition in the Early Twentieth Century (1990), Sense of History: The Place of the Past in American Life (2001), and “Place Memory, and Climate Change” (The Public Historian, August 2014).  He is an Affiliated Investigator with the Northeast Climate Science Center, and has collaborated with a number of local museums and historic sites as well as several national parks, including the W.E.B. Du Bois National Historical Site, Statue of Liberty National Monument, Pinelands (N.J.) National Reserve, Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park, Springfield Armory National Historical Site, and Cape Cod National Seashore.

Gretchen Holbrook Gerzina joined the Commonwealth Honors College as Dean on July 1, 2015 after ten years as a named professor at Dartmouth College, where she held the Kathe Tappe Vernon Professorship in Biography, and served as chair of the English department and later as chair of African and African American Studies. Her most recent book, Mr. and Mrs. Prince:  How an Extraordinary 18th-Century Family Moved out of Slavery and into Legend (2008) recounts the story of two former slaves, Abijah Prince and Lucy Terry Prince, of colonial Massachusetts and Vermont, who became landowners and public figures, successfully defending themselves in court.  From 1997 to 2012 she hosted the nationally-syndicated public radio program “The Book Show,” and has done commentaries on National Public Radio. She recently completed a ten-part BBC Radio 4 series on Britain’s Black Past that will air in 2016.

Lisa Brooks, Amherst College Associate Professor of English and American Studies, teaches courses in Native American studies, early American literature and comparative American Studies.  Her first book, The Common Pot: The Recovery of Native Space in the Northeast reframes the historical and literary landscape of the American northeast, illuminating the role of writing as a tool of community reconstruction and land reclamation in indigenous social networks and constructs a provocative new picture of Native space before and after colonization. She is currently working on a book project, “Turning the Looking Glass on Captivity and King Philip’s War,” which places early American texts, including Mary Rowlandson’s captivity narrative, within the historical and literary geography of Native space. A native Abenaki, Professor Brooks serves on the Advisory Board of Gedakina, a non-profit organization focused on indigenous cultural revitalization, educational outreach, and community wellness in New England.

William Flynt has 35 years experience as Architectural Conservator at Historic Deerfield overseeing the Village’s numerous historic structures.  Bill has extensively researched Connecticut River Valley architecture and lectures on a variety of topics including paint, wallpaper, roofing and hardware as well as Historic Deerfield’s Hinsdale and Anna Williams house, Wells-Thorn house, Sheldon house, Moors house, and Barnard Tavern.  His most recent research focuses on dendochronology, or tree ring dating, in order to give researchers better insights into how a specific community’s architecture developed and when framing and stylistic trends began. Bill attended Williams College and the University of Vermont’s Program in Historic Preservation.