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Historical Society Undertaking Archive Project

LONGMEADOW, MA – The Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts (CFWM) has awarded $768,500 through its Mission Grant program to support 45 Pioneer Valley projects, including one in Longmeadow for the Longmeadow Historical Society.

The grants ranged from $2,500 to $25,000 and were given to address community needs in the areas of arts and culture, education, the environment, health, housing, economic development, and human services for the residents in Hampden, Hampshire, and Franklin counties.

Longmeadow Historical Society President Al McKee, one of the members who wrote the grant request to CFWM, said the Historical Society was awarded a $25,000 grant to hire a group of archivists to catalogue and describe 9-11 collections of archives at the Storrs House Museum all the way down to the folder level. Once that information is gathered, McKee said it’s his hope that the archivists will be able to look at similar archives in the Town Clerk’s office, Storrs Library, East Longmeadow Library’s special collection, and The Lyman & Merrie Wood Museum of Springfield History.

“We know that this was a very competitive process, and we’re honored to have been chosen for this grant and excited to move forward,” McKee said. “Once we have everything described and catalogued down to the folder level, we’re hoping to become the first historical society in Massachusetts to launch this information with UMass Catablog. Once that information is with them, anybody interested in Western Mass. history will be able to go online, search what they’re looking for, and find where those records are located in the archives. It’ll give people an idea, for the first time ever, what’s in some of those folders in the archives and allow them to contact us so we can help them find what they’re looking for.”

McKee said the Historical Society has some of the earliest town records in its archives, including records for selectmen’s meetings, records written by people in town to each other, books called day books that detail the everyday lives that people lived in Longmeadow through the end of the 19th Century, scrapbooks, photos, and more.

“What makes the collection rich is that we have things you can’t find anywhere else,” McKee said. “Once this work gets done, it will help us prioritize some things that we plan on getting completely digitized. But the biggest part of this project is just giving the people of Longmeadow and surrounding communities a finding aid and cataloguing everything so we know what we have.”

The Longmeadow Historical Society’s archives contain many original maps, diaries, account books, old photographs, documents and family histories of Longmeadow’s earliest families, and McKee noted that some archives contain records that predate the year 1714.

He also added that there are “many things to still be discovered” in the archive collections.

“History is everything that’s happened up until a few moments ago,” McKee said. “We want to make sure that what we have is public, accessible, and free to everybody. I think it’ll be helpful for people that have a connection to Longmeadow and for people who are trying to tell a story about the history of Western Mass. We have extensive archives that help us tell that story, but most of the records aren’t digitized, and most of the folders aren’t catalogued.”

McKee said that the grant money must be used within 12 months of being received and that work has already begun with the lead archivist on the project, which he hopes will be completed by next summer.

In addition to the Longmeadow Historical Society, CFWM also awarded a $15,000 grant to the Pioneer Valley Jewish Film Festival (PVJFF) for a film education initiative called Reel Learning. Through film screenings and professional development workshops, the project will engage area K-12 students and teachers in meaningful, arts-based learning. Reel Learning leverages the Film Festival’s 12-year track record and provides a unique opportunity for classrooms to address universal issues related to citizenship, human rights, social justice and current events.

“Reel Learning pairs thought-provoking films with a nuanced media literacy curriculum to help students hone the skills of critical thinking,” said Deb Krivoy, PVJFF director. “As a communal agency, we believe that – now more than ever – fostering such skills is vital to civic life.”

The Pioneer Valley Jewish Film Festival is a program of the Springfield Jewish Community Center. Each year, PVJFF presents a diverse line-up of films that explore the best of global independent cinema through a Jewish lens.

– Article by Jeff Hanouille