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Ian Rawling by Savannah Breen

Interns Learn Archival Skills in Summer Program

My first taste of archival interaction came during the finals of one of my classes my first semester at Connecticut College, and what drew me in was the direct access to the artifacts. Later, for an assignment in a class my second semester, we had to conduct a field report on a house museum. I discovered Wistariahurst while looking for local museums to visit and was very intrigued by its story; how often do you hear about people who completely move their whole house? During my first time here, I was amazed by the collection and dedication to preserving local history both in the main house and in the extensive archives of the carriage house where I now am happily interning. 

  My main duties I’ve had this summer are to organize, catalog, and accession the Hampden Papers collection. Once that was completed, I moved on to write the finding aid for the collection so future researchers are able to find information that they are looking for. For a paper company, Hampden Papers got itself into a surprising amount of drama, as I’ve found several court cases and a long standing feud with the Holyoke Water & Power Company. One of the court cases, the F.M. Street case, in particular, is an interesting one due to its outcome. Mr. Street lost to Hampden Papers yet managed to keep some of his land here in Holyoke by gifting it to a friend before it could be sold at auction, then that friend gifted the land to Street’s wife. I found a letter from an attorney explaining this to the company president, which also said that the attorney could look into it if the company president wanted. Stories like this, personal stories, are probably my favorite aspect of history.

With the Hampden Papers collection nearly complete, I also began work on a second main project for the rest of my time here this summer. This new project was to go through the boxes of the Holyoke Street Railway collection to determine what was or wasn’t there, along with the condition of pieces and their boxes. Once that was determined, I entered the next stage of processing the collection. What this entailed was to update the list of items we have so that it could then be put on labels and put on the boxes. When it came to designing the labels, I tried to find a font similar to one used by the Holyoke Street Railway when it was open, which turned out to be a bit of a challenge, but I found success nonetheless! With the labels designed, they will be printed soon and the collection will be all set for researchers to find exactly what they need.

It’s one thing to read history in a book, but being able to see it in person and actively take part in its conservation is a wonderful feeling for sure. Preservation is one of the most important parts of history, as if it was not preserved, we’d lack the foundation we need to build a better future. At Connecticut College, I intend to be a History major, with a focus on museum studies so that I am able to not only understand the past myself, but help others understand through the usage of museums as an educational medium. I’ve found the joy of being the one to find the story while here at Wistariahurst, instead of just sharing it to others as I have in the past at other museums. I look forward to the future opportunities I will have thanks to the wonderful experiences I have gained here this summer!

Ian Rawling by Savannah Breen

Hello, my name is Bridget Healy and I am one of the interns working at Wistariahurst this summer. I am a rising senior at Wheaton College, majoring in European History and minoring in religion and art history. I spent much of my youth with my grandparents, listening to their many stories and experiences from the past. This caused me to develop a fascination with the past and a desire to be involved in the preservation of history for future generations. Upon entering college and enrolling in courses on the history of art, I began to appreciate how objects, photos, artworks, and artifacts all reflect the past in ways beyond words; developing a richer understanding of the past. 

I began interning at Wistariahurst after reading a press release regarding the exhibit ATTENTION! Translating Uniforms, Understanding Service and expressing an interest in helping to record the oral histories of local veterans to accompany the visual collection. Being from Holyoke myself, to experience working at such a prevalent institution in my community and helping to record our local history was an exciting opportunity. 

Through my internship, I am conducting interviews with local veterans, collecting their stories as part of the Veteran’s Heritage Oral History Project, which Wistariahurst is collaborating with Veterans Services and being supported by a Massachusetts State Historic Records Advisory Board Veterans Heritage Preservation Grant and Holyoke Local Cultural Council Grant in order to orchestrate this exhibition. Aside from collecting oral histories, my duties also include processing and cataloging materials which Wistariahurst has acquired over the years, managing the museum’s social media, helping to process transcripts, and aiding museum staff in their day to day tasks. 

In the future I intend on pursuing a career in archival work, and perhaps continuing my education by studying library sciences or object restoration. Being given the opportunity to work under the supervision of the Wistariahurst staff has helped to foster a satisfaction and appreciation in me on the important work required to not only preserve but also maintain the prevalence of our history. 

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