March 24, 2010
By Jessica Pritchard
The Memorial Hall Museum captures the history of Massachusetts through numerous interactive activities that encourage users to engage with artifacts, documents, maps, photographs, and books from the colonial period to the early 20th century:
- Explore clothing by rolling your cursor over each layer for both a written and oral explanation.
- Read stories from the early 1900s through oral histories: “As we read and hear individual stories, it becomes clear that the past is a complicated terrain, experienced, and acted upon in many and vastly different ways.”
- Take a tour of African American historic sites in Deerfield, Massachusetts, recounting stories from freed and enslaved blacks along Main Street.
- Test your ability to read handwritten script with Now Read This, a feature particularly interesting for youth because it challenges them to see if they can read and comprehend the script, which they can then double-check with the original transcription. Furthermore, check out an article detailing how to read old documents. Magnify and read manuscript text, such as a handwritten Emancipation Proclamation that forms a portrait of Abraham Lincoln, with the site’s magic lens.
- Rotate clothing and furniture 360° in Objects in the Round.
- Watch videos with complimentary transcripts that show users how to use early American tools, from a screw auger used to drill holes in wood, to a niddy-noddy used to measure and wrap yarn for storage.
- Explore common types of New England architecture and expand your architectural vocabulary with the site’s glossary and your architectural knowledge with the site’s list of additional resources.
- Send an e-postcard to friends and family from one of the following themes: spring & summer, toys & games, Massachusetts towns, and arts & crafts.
Of interest to teachers is the site’s In the Classroom section, which features a database of teaching activities created by teachers and librarians integrating artifacts and resources from the Memorial Hall Museum’s collection. See also a list of background history essays, and two additional online activities (Learning to Look and Discovering the 18th Century Craftsman).
Teachers can also explore the site’s four curriculum units:
- Everyday Life in a New England Town
Fifteen lessons for upper elementary students that encourage them to explore the evolution of social history in Deerfield at the turn of three centuries. The unit is inquiry-based, focused on teaching students how to "read" an array of primary and secondary source materials.
- The Lessons of 1704
Eight lessons for upper elementary students, "The Lessons of 1704" unit takes advantage of students’ developmental readiness to explore the famous attack on Deerfield in 1704. By examining the culture of the English, French, and Native Americans involved in the conflict and studying the events that led up to the attack, students come to understand both why the attack happened and what the outcomes of the attack were.
- R.I.P.-A Grave Undertaking
For middle school classes, "Research and Investigation Project (RIP): A Grave Undertaking" unit is an exploration of the lives of individuals who lived in Deerfield from 1780-1880. Throughout their investigations of the past, students analyze a variety of primary and secondary sources and material culture to draw inferences about their research subjects, Deerfield’s history, and the history of the country during this 100-year period.
- The Nile of New England: A Study of the History of a Connecticut River Valley Town Over Three Centuries
An inquiry-based social studies unit for high school students.