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Daily News

HOLYOKE — Through the month of February, Wistariahurst Museum and Garden will display a poster exhibition titled “Black Citizenship in the Age of Jim Crow,” organized and distributed by the New York Historical Society Museum and Library, with lead support for this traveling exhibition provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Black Americans gained monumental new liberties after the Civil War and the end of slavery. The era known as Reconstruction brought freedom, citizenship, and, for Black men, the right to vote. By the early 1900s, these liberties had been sabotaged by a repressive racial system known as Jim Crow. This exhibit chronicles the long strides forward, bruising setbacks, and heroic struggle for equality that took place during these years.

Erika Slocumb, scholar of Black studies, who has done much research on the local Black community in Holyoke, noted that “the fight for Black citizenship in the age of Jim Crow is interesting because Black folks used soldiering in the Civil War as a means to attain citizenship in the U.S. Specifically, this demand for citizenship came from Black abolitionists in the North, including Frederick Douglass and W.E.B. Du Bois. The Massachusetts 54th Regiment was at the forefront of this call. There were quite a few soldiers from Western Mass. who fought in the 54th and were recognized for their bravery not only on the battlefield but also in their call for equal pay and rights in the U.S. Army.

“I think that it’s important to understand that emancipation, while it ‘freed’ enslaved Black people in the U.S., did not afford them the opportunities of the protections of the law,” Slocumb added. “Many people fled the Jim Crow south in search of a better life and greater opportunity. And that wave of northern migration and ones that followed are how many of the Black families we have spoken to came to be in Holyoke.”

In addition to the exhibit, this program provides a resources for teachers and the public, including recommended readings, recommending watching, links to interactive presentations, workshops and educational curricula, and lesson plans for grades K-12.

The exhibit will be in the Gallery at Wistariahurst Feb. 6-21 and will be supplemented with artifacts and images from the Black Holyoke collection. The gallery is open Mondays from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and Tuesdays from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Visit wistariahurst.org/events-2 to register for this event.

Daily News

HOLYOKE — September events at Wistariahurst will offer something for everyone. They include:

Thursday, Sept. 8, 5:30-6:30 p.m.: Join City Historian Penni Martorell and Wistariahurst Master Gardener Ralph Strycharz for a guided tour of Wistariahurst’s historic gardens and grounds. Advance registration is required for this tour. Visit wistariahurst.org/events-2 to register for this event.

Sunday, Sept. 11, 12:30 p.m.: Take a 45-minute tour of two floors of Wistariahurst, home of textile industrialist William Skinner and his family. Advance registration is required for this tour. Visit wistariahurst.org/events-2 to register for this event.

Tuesday, Sept. 13, 5:30-6:30 p.m.: Join Skinner family descendant and avid golfer Bill Armistead for a slide presentation about the Orchards Golf Course. Armistead recently published a book, The Orchards…One Hundred Years, which he wrote in celebration of the Orchards’ centennial year. Advance registration is required for this tour. Visit wistariahurst.org/events-2 to register for this event.

Friday, Sept. 16, 10 a.m. to noon: The third Friday of each month is the time for in-person plant sales at Wistariahurst. Gardeners will also be selling their excess gardening supplies and pots.

Sunday, Sept. 18, 3-4 p.m.: Choreographer Michelle Marroquin presents a program of original dances and familiar favorites, including “Garden of Sprites,” performed by young ballerinas of the Academy of Ballet Arts in the Wistariahurst Gardens. Tickets cost $12 to $22. Bring your own chair or blanket. In case of inclement weather, a rain date will be posted. Coupons for $5 off will be made available at the Holyoke Senior Center. This production is supported by a grant from the Holyoke Cultural Council, a local agency supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council. Visit wistariahurst.org/events-2 to register for this event.

Tuesday, Sept. 20, 5:30-6:30 p.m.: Join Patti Steinman, Mass Audubon education coordinator, to explore and question the natural surroundings in a program called “The Wonders of Fall.” This leisure walk will take place on the Wistariahurst grounds, or will be an indoor presentation in case of inclement weather, and will be enjoyed by nature enthusiasts, educators, and students alike. Visit wistariahurst.org/events-2 to register for this event.

Daily News

HOLYOKE — There is a nuance to the history of Holyoke, and much of the black history in the city has not been fully documented. One such history is the story of Bushman Fuller and his descendants. This is a tale that goes back further than the establishment of Holyoke as a city.

In an online talk on Wednesday, Feb. 23 from 2 to 3 p.m., scholar Erika Slocumb will tell the story of Bushman Fuller, William Jarvis, their families, and their contributions to the city of Holyoke. Register for this free event by clicking here in order to receive an invitation to the virtual event, which is presented by Wistariahurst Museum.

Slocumb is a mother, artist, and scholar-activist. She is a doctoral candidate in the W.E.B. DuBois Department at UMass Amherst. Her research, titled “Reliquary of Blackness,” focuses on the use of oral histories and community storytelling to retell, reshape, and reclaim history in spaces where black stories have been obscured, specifically reclaiming the narratives of blackness in museums and other repositories of history and culture. She has curated an exhibit on oral histories of the black community in Holyoke and continues to work toward collecting histories and artifacts of the community.

Daily News

HOLYOKE — On Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 4 and 5, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., the public is invited into the historic Wistariahurst Museum for a weekend of seasonal fun. Visitors are encouraged to see the decorated museum and experience live music, participate in family-friendly activities, and browse tables from local vendors.

Though the event is free and open to the public, registration is required at wistariahurst.org. Face masks are requested.

As part of the festivities, on Saturday at 2:15 p.m., Skinner descendant Allerton Kilborne will offer a guided tour of Wistariahurst. Spaces are limited, so interested parties must add on this tour to their registration in advance.

Daily News

HOLYOKE — On Wednesday, Nov. 17 at 6 p.m., Wistariahurst will host researcher Michaela Wright as she presents “A Storied Landscape: Historic Trees of Holyoke,” a virtual program. The program is free and open to all, but registration is required at www.wistariahurst.org.

Wright will explore the history of Holyoke through the city’s urban trees. From the old-growth forests of Mount Tom to the young saplings of Holyoke Heritage State park, the trees lining Holyoke streets tell a story of the city’s past and future. Kentucky coffee trees bear evidence of the indigenous presence in New England, while magnificent old maples stand in memorial to early German mill workers. Dawn redwood saplings connect the future of local parks to the prehistoric past.

Based on research conducted in Holyoke over the summer of 2021, Wright will explore the city’s most significant trees and the stories they tell about local history and landscape.

Wright is an interpretive writer and researcher based in New York. Her past experiences include work for the New York Botanical Garden and the Smithsonian Institution.

Daily News

HOLYOKE — On Wednesday, March 24 at 2 p.m., Wistariahurst will present “Spring Things with Patti Steinman,” a live, virtual program on Zoom. This program is open to all members of the public, but has been especially designed to address the needs of area seniors, many of whom continue to be socially isolated as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The program is free to attend, but spaces are limited, and pre-registration is required.

Spring is a time for new growth, new migrants, and beauty all around. Participants will take a virtual tour of spring in New England by looking at wildflowers, birds, salamanders, and more with Patti Steinman of Mass Audubon.

Steinman is the education coordinator of Mass Audubon’s Connecticut River Valley Sanctuaries, based in Easthampton. She has worked in the environmental-education field for more than 30 years, developing, teaching, and overseeing adult programs, day camps, nature preschools, and special events.

The Alvarium Foundation is funding this program, which is also supported through a Community Development Block Grant to address, prevent, and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, which is administered through the Holyoke Office of Community Development and has been planned in consultation with the Holyoke Council on Aging.

To register for “Spring Things with Patti Steinman,” visit www.wistariahurst.org or e-mail Eileen Maginnis at the Holyoke Council on Aging at [email protected]. To share an idea for a topic to be considered for a future Wistariahurst session, contact [email protected].

Daily News

HOLYOKE — On Wednesday, Dec. 9 at 2 p.m., Wistariahurst will host “Invasive Earthworms in New England Forests,” detailing their damage and spread as part of an ongoing series of live, virtual programming. Presented by Justin Richardson, assistant professor of Geosciences at UMass Amherst, this program will be free and open to all. Pre-registration is required.

Forests in New England are under pressure from shifting climates, introduced species, and human uses for fuel and wood products. One largely understudied biological pressure involves invasive earthworms. New England forests largely developed without native earthworms due to the last major glaciation. Since international boat travel, New England forests experienced a wave of European earthworms. Richardson will discuss their impacts on forests where they have been observed, as well as some measures to prevent their spread and potential control mechanisms.

Richardson’s research focuses on forest soils and how humans alter the physical, chemical, and biological nature. His current research focuses on nutrient cycling in perturbed soils, toxic metal transport in New England watersheds, and urban forests.

This program has been designed to address the needs of area seniors, many of whom continue to be socially isolated as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The program is supported through a Community Development Block Grant to address, prevent, and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic; administered through the Holyoke Office of Community Development; and planned in consultation with the Holyoke Council on Aging. Additional support has been provided through NEH CARES Act funding granted by Mass Humanities.

To register for “Invasive Earthworms in New England Forests” or any future programs, visit www.wistariahurst.org or e-mail Eileen Maginnis at the Holyoke Council on Aging at [email protected]. If you have an idea for a topic you’d like to be considered for a future Wistariahurst session, e-mail [email protected]. Future virtual programs will focus on a diverse range of historical and cultural topics including programs on nature, art, history, travel, and social justice.


In order to protect the community and join in public efforts to keep any regional coronavirus outbreak under control, Wistariahurst is cancelling its public offerings, suspending its volunteer program, and delaying its season opening for a minimum of 30 days.

“Along with so many of our peers in this community and across the globe, Wistariahurst is taking our role as a heavily trafficked public site seriously and closely monitoring the situation,” Director Kate Preissler said. “Despite having been in our offseason, we have maintained a high level of activity at Wistariahurst in the last months with school groups, college visitors, and special events. Without shifts in our work, those numbers will only increase in the coming weeks. We are committed to aid in the prevention of the spread of this and other viruses in our region in whatever ways we can.”

The decision aligns with the protective guidelines set in place by the city of Holyoke regarding public gatherings, she said, but also takes into account certain special circumstances at Wistariahurst, including the presence on its staff and volunteer team of people with vulnerabilities to this and other infections; the museum’s dual role as an educational facility and steward of the historic preservation of this site, which brings extra challenges when it comes to thoroughly disinfecting its historic materials; the fact that its audience is an eclectic mix of students, people visiting the area from out of town, and individuals over age 60; and the intimate spaces in the old home, making the recommended distancing of three to six feet between people impossible for large groups.

For now, administrative offices will remain staffed and available for questions by phone and e-mail. In-person archival research appointments are suspended but the city historian will remain available for research inquiries via e-mail and phone.

“Our extended seasonal closure will provide us with the time and space to embark on new projects, virtual engagement materials, and more. Stay tuned for additional updates and communications,” Preissler said. “Thank you to everyone in our community who supports us with your presence, your membership, your volunteerism, and your energies. We are inspired, as always, with the way that our fair city bands together in times of need.”