The Magnificent Life & Art of Mabel Loomis Todd

The Magnificent Life & Art of Mabel Loomis Todd

The Amherst Historical Society and Museum opens for the season with The Magnificent Life & Art of Mabel Loomis Todd, an exhibit that offers a fresh interpretation of the Society’s founder.

Developed by visiting curator Diana Limbach Lempel, the exhibit explores Todd’s work as a nature writer, painter, conservationist, lecturer, and the editor of Emily Dickinson’s poetry.

Viewers can get to know Mabel Loomis Todd, founder of the Amherst Historical Society, through her botanical artwork, nature writing, and efforts in both historic preservation and nature conservation. Mabel created a chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution and was proud of her family’s American pedigree; she also committed herself to land conservation in the Amherst area as well as in Florida and the Maine coast. She painted local plants, such as the sweet pea flowers that decorate her dress in the photographs seen below. She wrote about the sunsets from her Amherst home and savored every moment of her wild life.

How can Mabel help us think in new ways about the relationship between nature, history, and what it means to care for a place? How can her loving attention to the details of birdsong, sunsets, smells, and even weeds, inspire our own relationship with where we live? How can understanding the origins of the Amherst Historical Society help us tell better stories about Amherst today, and tomorrow?

This exhibition calls us to be moved by Mabel’s unabashed enthusiasm, unbridled love, and unquenchable capacity for seeing beauty in the world.

In addition to the Mabel Loomis Todd exhibit, several of the rooms at the museum have been reinstalled, providing the opportunity to see the ongoing work of the Society. Visitors will be able to view parts of the textile collection including dresses dating back two hundred years, sit in the historic parlor with a collection of browsable books, and learn about the founding of the museum. There are also rotating displays researched and designed by student interns covering a wide range of subjects from historical policing, traditional women’s work and local business signs. Children are welcome and there are installations designed with all ages in mind.

Amherst Juneteenth Observance

Amherst Juneteenth Observance

On Saturday, June 18, the town of Amherst will observe the Juneteenth holiday, celebrating the day in 1865 when federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas to take control of the state and to ensure that all enslaved people were freed.

Amherst’s 2022 celebration will include a heritage walking tour at 11 AM and a jubilee on the Common at noon. The walking tour will begin in Amherst’s West Cemetery where soldiers of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment and of the 5th Cavalry, who alerted Texas residents that the Civil War and slavery had ended, are buried. Visitors will stop at the Emily Dickinson house; two other stops include Hope Church, the first Black church in Amherst, and the Goodwin Memorial AME Zion Church. You may find more information on this and related celebrations here.

You may view some of the events from the 2021 observance here.

Special Exhibit: Black Neighborhoods and Families in Amherst

Special Exhibit: Black Neighborhoods and Families in Amherst

Ancestral Bridges Exhibit of Historical Photographs and Artifacts

This exhibit will be up through Saturday, Nov 5.

Charles Thompson

Pictured: Charles Thompson, “Professor Charley” employed by Amherst College and the Stearns Family.

This special exhibit, curated by Ancestral Bridges, is in our first floor galleries and opened during the Amherst History Museums stop on the Ancestral Bridges Juneteenth Heritage Walking Tour. The exhibit features historic photographs of the first Black and Afro-Indigenous families who lived and worked in Amherst through the centuries. Some of whom served in the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment and the 5th Massachusetts Cavalry Regiment during the Civil War; including Christopher Thompson, one of the brave who traveled to Texas and carried out the military acts that ended slavery in America on June 19, 1865, the day we now celebrate as Juneteenth. Christopher and his brothers, Charles, Henry, James, and John are laid to rest in Amherst’s West Cemetery.

Debora Bridges, a descendant of these families and 3x great-daughter of Christopher Thompson, will be present on most Saturdays throughout the season. Debora is the curator and docent of the Civil War Tablet exhibit at the Bangs Community Center.

The exhibits finale features artwork by Dr. Shirley Jackson that weaves the exhibit to present day and highlights her new project

Pettijohn Family

Pictured above: The Chesley Pettijohn family gathered at their home on Paige Street.

Ancestral Bridges supports and builds programs that celebrate BIPOC arts, history, and culture in western Massachusetts. We also partner with local communities to create educational and economic opportunities so that BIPOC and disadvantaged youth can thrive. Learn more at

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Stories of Amherst

Stories of Amherst

by George Naughton

There can never be one History of Amherst, since there are always more stories to collect and pass on. This week’s presentation is titled ‘Stories of Amherst,’ and will take us on a tour of some of the personalities and events which shaped our town. Did you know that Amherst was founded in the same year, 1759, that the Guinness Brewery was founded in Dublin? We include stories of Amherst’s industrial past, and the connections between Amherst and Japan.

George Naughton is President of the Amherst Historical Society and is a long-time resident of Amherst


Biography of Edward Hitchcock

Biography of Edward Hitchcock

by Robert McMaster

Edward Hitchcock was one of the most eminent American scientists of his time, a popular professor and president at Amherst College, and an inspired preacher. But, nearly 160 years after his death, his story has never really been told. So in his new book, All the Light Here Comes from Above: The Life and Legacy of Edward Hitchcock, Williamsburg author Robert T. McMaster at last brings to light the many facets of one of this state’s and the nation’s most famous sons.

(video in process)