July 10, 2018
NORTH ADAMS, MASS. — Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA), in collaboration with the North Adams Public Library (NAPL) and the North Adams Historical Society (NAHS), announces the receipt of a $15,000 grant from Mass Humanities in support of “Historic North Adams,” a long-term, digital public humanities asset for the community, and funding for an inaugural “History Harvest” event to celebrate the history of work in North Adams.

Managed by the History Department at MCLA, the project will design and launch “Historic North Adams,” a cloud-based website and mobile application that will allow for the long-term sharing and dissemination of local history.

“Through this project, we hope to create a platform that will allow long-term local residents to share their sense of pride in their history, as well as provide an understanding for newer residents and visitors of the remarkable historical legacy of this region and its people,” said Dr. Ely Janis, associate professor of history at MCLA, project co-director and humanities scholar.

“We want this to be an asset for everyone, and one that allows for a more inclusive conversation that recognizes the important legacy of North Adams’ past as we continue to discuss the ways forward for North Adams’ future,” he added.

Janis, who will oversee the entire project, will work with scholars and volunteers on the content and organization of the Historic North Adams website and mobile app. He also will oversee the first History Harvest event in North Adams, which is planned for November. At this event, previously unknown or under-appreciated artifacts and stories related to North Adams will be collected from local residents for preservation and sharing online.

Together, these two projects will document North Adams’ rich history and its connection to broader themes in American society. This local history includes the cotton mills that sprang up alongside the Hoosic River in the 1840s; the Hoosac Tunnel, which linked North Adams with major commercial centers 1874 at the cost of 193 lives; 100 Chinese workers who were brought to North Adams to break a shoemakers’ strike in 1870; Sprague Electric’s contributions to World War II and the nation’s defense until the 1980s; and the artistic revival of North Adams that has continued since the opening of MASS MoCA.

Janis will work with North Adams Public Library Director Mindy Hackner, project co-director, who will oversee the History Harvest event; Dr. Amanda Kleintop, an incoming assistant professor of history at MCLA who specializes in public history and digital humanities, and who will contribute to content curation, digitization, and project management; English/communications assistant professor Dr. Hannah Noel, a native of North Adams who specializes in Latino studies and digital humanities; Dr. Frances Jones-Sneed, professor emeritus of history with specialization in African American and Berkshire County history; and Kim DiLego, NAPL assistant director and adult reference services librarian, who will help coordinate the History Harvest and provide ongoing support for the Historic North Adams website.

The Historic North Adams website and app will utilize Curatescape, a humanities-centered web and mobile framework for publishing location-based content that emphasizes storytelling through the use of archival images and other media, especially oral history audio and video. The map-based interface also allows users to browse sites of historical interest, or enjoy a series of curated tours of local history.

Mass Humanities conducts and supports programs that use history, literature, philosophy, and other humanities disciplines to enhance and improve civic life in Massachusetts. Established in 1974 as the state-based affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), Mass Humanities is an independent programming and grant-making organization that receives support from the NEH and the Massachusetts Cultural Council, as well as private sources.

Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) is the Commonwealth's public liberal arts college and a campus of the Massachusetts state university system. MCLA promotes excellence in learning and teaching, innovative scholarship, intellectual creativity, public service, applied knowledge, and active and responsible citizenship. MCLA graduates are prepared to be practical problem solvers and engaged, resilient global citizens.

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