Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Seasons Greetings from NHS

"Don't let me put you in a fright...I wish your Christmas much delight"
Do you need some inspiration as you prepare to send out your annual Christmas cards? Take a few moments to take a look at some vintage Christmas cards from our own collection complete with cheeky squirrels, talking turkeys, and fringe! You can see more cards from our collection this Saturday, December 6th from 10:00-2:00 at our Gingerbread Festival and Holiday Open House. This event is hosted with the Bacon Free Library and will feature holiday crafts, gingerbread houses, and Santa! 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Wake Up, America! Natick in the First World War

November 6, 2014 - June 5, 2015
Morse Institute Library, 1st Floor

Artist James Montgomery Flagg, 1917. Image courtesy of the
 Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. 
One hundred years ago this November, the longest and bloodiest conflict in history began in Europe. World War I, also known as "the war to end all wars," claimed the lives of millions of soldiers and civilians world wide and left dozens of European cities in ruin. When the U.S. decided to join in the fight against Germany in April of 1917, hundreds of Natick citizens were among the thousands of Americans sent overseas to fight.

Natick Historical Society and the Morse Institute Library commemorate the 100th anniversary of this global conflict with a new exhibition: Wake Up, America! Natick in the First World War located on the 1st floor of the Morse Institute Library.  Wake Up, America! explores the local stories of this conflict through photographs and documents, trench art, a uniform worn in battle, and an American flag that survived two world wars. The exhibition runs from November 6, 2014-June 5, 2015.

The title of the exhibition is derived from a 1917 U.S. Government propaganda poster (image left) created to raise troops, money, and support for the war effort. This poster is one of dozens created during World War I. A collection of these posters is held at the Library of Congress and can be viewed online at .

The War to End All Wars

As noted above, World War I is often referred to as "the war to end all wars" but where did that phrase come from? The phrase was a result of a book titled The War That Will End War written by famed British science fiction novelist and social commentator H.G. Wells. The book is a collection of articles written by Wells about World War I. The phrase is often associated with President Woodrow Wilson who famously used the phrase "the war to end all wars" in a speech soon after declaring war on Germany.

The Yankee Division

Natick's 9th Regiment, Company L was mobilized after the declaration of war and merged with other regiments from New England to form the famed 26th “Yankee Division.” At a September 1917 press conference of Boston newspaper reporters, Frank Sibley of The Boston Globe suggested to call the newly formed 26th Division, including Natick’s own Company L, “the ‘Yankee Division’ as all New Englanders are Yankees.” The Yankee Division was thus adopted as the nickname of the 26th Division with a “YD” monogram as its insignia.

The Natick Bulletin 

Our local newspaper, the Natick Bulletin, ran advertisements related to national and local war efforts throughout 1917 and 1918. Below are just two examples of the many advertisements a reader could find on any given day. (All images courtesy of the Morse Institute Library) 

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Meet & Greet with Jane Hennedy, NHS ED

We are pleased to be able to introduce to you Jane Hennedy—the new Executive Director of the Natick Historical Society! We invite you to join us for a virtual meet & greet below and would love to have our readers leave their own notes of welcome or any questions you might have for Ms. Hennedy in the comments section at the end of this post.

Jane Hennedy, Natick Historical Society Executive Director

Kate Herron, Curator: You must be busy getting acquainted with everything here at the museum. Thank you for taking the time out to answer some questions for our members, visitors, and the Natick community. We’re happy to be able to welcome you here!

Jane Hennedy, Executive Director:  Thank you for providing such a warm welcome!

KH: My pleasure! Perhaps we can start with what first brought you to museums? When did you decide you wanted to work in museums and what inspired you to do so?

JH:  Museums are in my blood, I guess!  My parents often brought us to visit museums and even take classes in museums, so I knew from childhood how they could improve my outlook on life.  I grew up across the street from the first museum where I volunteered as a teen, the Gen. James Mitchell Varnum House in East Greenwich, RI.  Later, at Providence College, an art history professor helped me to see that my interests in history, architecture, design, literature and art could all be satisfied by continuing my education in historic preservation and museum studies. 

KH:  What brings you to the Natick Historical Society?

JH:  I had worked previously at museums on College Hill in Providence and most recently at the Old Colony Historical Society in Taunton.  I am very proud of what I was able to do in Taunton, and after twelve years it was time for a new challenge.  I was impressed by the beautiful setting of South Natick, the architecture here, and the collections in this fine historical society.

KH:  I have found it to be a gorgeous setting too with such a rich history. Is there a certain period of history, person, or place that has special meaning for you?

JH:  I have many favorites in history, but perhaps the past comes alive the most for me when many different elements come together—for example, visiting Edith Wharton’s home in Lenox, MA, having enjoyed her novels and learned about her interior design philosophy, and then attending a play in her parlor based on one of her short stories.  History is best when it speaks to people, and there are so many ways to do that today.

KH: I couldn't agree more! What are you most looking forward to here at the Natick Historical Society in your role as the Executive Director?

JH:  Learning a whole new chapter of history and meeting lots of new people.  I hope that I can be helpful in creating a good balance in the workplace and connecting lots more people with Natick’s unique history.

KH: Can you tell us a bit more about yourself and your background?

JH:  I live in Blackstone, Mass. with my husband, Pete, and a new kitten.  I met Pete when we both worked at a preservation architectural firm in Providence, RI while I was a grad student in American Studies & Historic Preservation at Boston University.  We have a large, loving family—15 nieces and nephews!  Other than the jobs I already mentioned, I also worked for a literacy center in Providence and have volunteered for Mass Audubon, Worcester Historical Museum, Daniels Farmstead Foundation in Blackstone and the Blackstone Cultural Council.  I’m also an historic preservation consultant, and conduct paint analysis on historic buildings to make recommendations about appropriate color schemes.  Most recently, I’ve been privileged to work on the Slater Mill in Pawtucket, RI.  Not surprisingly, one of my favorite hobbies is visiting as many museums as possible.

KH: Thanks again so much Jane, it's great to learn more about your extensive experience and passion for the fields of museums, history, and preservation! For myself and on behalf of the Natick Historical Society as well as the town of Natick, we're glad to have you joining the Natick Historical society and are looking forward to this exciting new chapter!

Friday, April 4, 2014

Inside Out and Underneath

Sneak peek of the exhibit just before the glass case cover went back on.
Be sure you don't miss out on seeing the other side though!

Have you ever wondered about the exquisite tailoring on the inside of the clothing you see in museums? Have you ever wondered how people dealt with tricky issues like body odor prior to modern hygiene products or how one could easily use the bathroom dressed in so many layers of Victorian skirts? Fashion exhibitions have become very popular in recent years, but often visitors leave wondering about how the wearer of such garments would have dealt with the realities of daily life. Be sure to check out our special exhibition "Inside out and Underneath: Secrets of Victorian Dress at the Morse Institute Library and find out more!

The exhibit is located on the 1st floor near the new acquisitions and the mystery/fiction sections. It features several items from our extensive textile collection (including undergarments and a Victorian jacket worn right here in Natick) and explores some of the lesser known complexities of Victorian clothing—especially what was going on underneath!

Interested in finding out more about historical costumes and textiles? Explore the links below to find out more about historic textiles, contemporary fashion exhibitions, the Dress Reform Movement in America, historical newspaper cartoons about fashion, books, blogs, and more. We hope you'll enjoy reading more about the fascinating world of historic textiles--please consider adding your own favorite books, exhibitions, and personal stories in the comments section!

Inside Out and Underneath: Follow Up Resources

Articles and Online Publications
A Brief Overview of the Dress Reform Movement in America
The "Freedom Suit": Feminism and Dress Reform in the United States, 1848-1875
Fashion History: The 19th Century Dress Reform Movements

The New York Public Library Digital Collections website is a virtual treasure trove of images from popular culture and more. Try typing in "crinoline" or "corset" too see all kinds of political/cultural newspaper cartoons as well as advertising on the subject, similar to the ones featured in our exhibit.

Here Come the Brides-V&A Exhibition Blog
How does a museum get ready for a big fashion exhibition? It might just surprise you to see what goes on behind the scenes...

Museum Collections and Exhibitions
The Metropolitan Museum, New York
View highlights from the Met's extensive textile collection of more than thirty-five thousand costumes and accessories which represents five continents and seven centuries of fashionable dress.

The Victoria & Albert Museum, London

The V&A has one of the most extensive textile collections in the world with particular strengths in the Victorian era. Explore their collection and other online content.

Threads of Feeling
Foundling Museum, London
This is an incredibly moving online exhibition about the power of and stories behind some scraps of textiles that you can access through the above link

Embellishments: Constructing Victorian Detail
University Museum at UNH
Event though this exhibit is no longer up, you can still explore lots of high quality images of the garments featured here

Think Pink, MFA Boston
This exhibit is currently on display at the MFA until May 26th of this year so get to see it while you still can! The exhibit explores the changing meaning of the color pink in fashion and culture (and features some really lovely ensembles as well).

Wedding Dresses: 1775-2014
Victoria and Albert Museum, London
This is going to be a big fashion exhibit coming to the V&A this May and will run through March 2015. If you are interested in textiles and heading across the pond in the next year, don't miss it! Additional content can be found through the above link.

Fashion in Fiction
The Charleston Museum, South Carolina
Fascinated about the romantic styles your favorite characters wore? Check out the online content for this exhibit in Charleston featuring styles that play fundamental roles in classic works of fiction including The Great Gatsby, Anne of Green Gables, Jane Austen, and more!

Look these great books up at your local library or find them online

Underwear: Fashion in Detail, V&A Publishing, 2010

From Queen to Empress: Victorian Dress 1837-1877: An Exhibition at the Costume Institute, December 15, 1988-April 16, 1989, Caroline Goldthorpe

Embellishments: Constructing Victorian Detail, Astrida Schaeffer, 2013

Inside Out: A Brief History of Underwear, Shelley Tobin, 2000

Fashion: The Definitive History of Costume and Style, Smithsonian, DK Publishing, 2012 (this is a good starting point for older kids)

100 Dresses: The Costume Institute, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Harold Koda, 2010

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Project Passenger Pigeon

NHS' very own Passenger Pigeon specimen, collected and mounted by A.L. Babcock.
Photographed by our Curator Kate Herron.

Birds again you say? Hold that thought! We will continue with our normally scheduled program in the next post, but first, let's pause to consider the famed Passenger Pigeon, its extinction, and what that means for us today.

Did you know that, thanks to our friend A.L. Babcock, the Natick Historical Society has a rare Passenger Pigeon specimen? And did you know that 2014 is being celebrated as "The Year of the Passenger Pigeon?" 2014 marks 100 years since the last known Passenger Pigeon specimen died. Her name (yes, she had a name!) was Martha and her life was documented by a scientist at the University of Chicago as well as the Cincinnati Zoo where she died of "old age" on September 1, 1914 (you can read more about Martha here). How strange indeed to live in a time when we can note the exact time and day an entire species became extinct, find overwhelming evidence of the decline in the historical record, and yet end up with such a result?!

This anniversary provides a critical moment to consider how we today can lead more sustainable lives because, after all, our lifestyles directly affect the animals and habitats we live with and, as the young boy in the video below notes so clearly, "if there is no nature, there is no us."

PICTURE THIS: Passenger Pigeons once lived here in such abundance that one particular flock was noted in southern Ontario, Canada during the 1860s as having been, "1 mi (1.5 km) wide and 300 mi (500 km) long, took 14 hours to pass, and held in excess of 3.5 billion birds." Naturalist Joel Greenberg has written an intriguing book entitled, "A Feathered River Across the Sky," which traces the bird's history, explores how such a common creature could be wiped from the face of the earth so quickly, and the repercussions of this man-made extinction. He's also involved in the making of this upcoming documentary:

So just how did these ubiquitous birds become extinct you ask? The short answer is that it all started with deforestation by European settlers in North America, slowly destroying the bird's natural habitat (a problem that persists today and continues to affect animal populations of all kinds). By the late 1800s, the birds were being hunted on an enormous scale as a source of cheap meat (if you are interested in the often strange, fervid, and various ways these birds were hunted, read the third paragraph of this Stanford essay here). When scientists realized how much the Passenger Pigeon population had diminished, it was too late to save them since they only reproduced within large colonies.

It's interesting to note that today, de-extinction efforts are actually underway. As we consider our own Passenger Pigeon here in Natick, what questions must we ask of our own behavior towards nature? How can we make such efforts unnecessary and safeguard our neighborhood, indeed the world, for ourselves, our children, and future generations?