Thanks to the work of our dedicated trustees, you can view archived video of the past History Bites lecture series here.
Forging Arms for the Nation
Susan Ashman – National Park Service
A History of the Springfield Armory
Friday, May 5
Begun as a major arsenal under the authority of General George Washington early in the Revolutionary War, the first national armory began manufacturing muskets in 1794. Within decades, Springfield Armory had perfected pioneering manufacturing methods that were critical to American industrialization. Reopened in 1978 as the Springfield Armory National Historic Site, the original 1840’s arsenal houses the world’s largest collection of historic American military firearms.
From Arkham to Amherst
H P Lovecraft and New England folklore
Friday, April 21
Howard Phillips Lovecraft (1890 – 1937) is widely known and admired as an author of supernatural fiction. But he was also an avid scholar and antiquarian, and his detailed, highly descriptive stories of New England in the 1920’s and 30’s contain many references to local history and folklore. This lecture by a long-time Lovecraft fan gives an overview of his life, work, and influence.
A Hands-On Lecture
Friday, April 7
If the past is what happened, then primary sources are the evidence we rely on to understand and interpret the past as history. In this hands-on talk and workshop, participants through the 30 million primary sources online from the Library of Congress, and searched for maps, letters, photos, newspapers, posters, and political cartoons with Amherst connections. Investigate with Rich Cairn, veteran educator with area schools, supported by the Library’s Teaching with Primary Sources Program.
Susan Snively – author
A novel of Emily Dickinson
Friday, March 24
THE HEART HAS MANY DOORS is a work of imaginative fiction. Poet, scriptwriter, and essayist Susan Snively lives in Amherst, and works as a guide at the Emily Dickinson Museum. In this lecture, she talked about the process of working historical fact into a fictional narrative.
Kitty Burns Florey – author
A novel of Amherst in 1892
Friday, March 10
In this lecture, author Kitty Burns talks about Amity Street, the sequel to her 2012 novel The Writing Master, which took place in New Haven in 1856. Amity Street moves ahead 35 years: it is now 1892. Anna Felice, a wealthy former opera star, travels from Rome, Italy, to America — to Manhattan, to New Haven, finally to Amherst, Massachusetts — in search of the truth about her birth. The novel is deeply immersed in the history — the architecture, the shops, the colleges, the farms, the customs — of the town of Amherst not long before the turn of the century, and the end of an era.
Tom Weiner – retired schoolteacher
Friday, February 24
The Vietnam War ended more than 40 years ago, but its effects are still being felt. Tom Weiner, recently retired after teaching for 40 years at the Smith College Campus School, talks about his book, Called to Serve: Stories of Men and Women Confronted by the Vietnam War Draft. He interviewed 62 people around Pioneer Valley who shared with him their decisions about how they responded to the draft and the circumstances and backstories behind the choices they made.
Peter Thomas – Church Historian
Friday, December 2, 2016
Members of a Congregational Church would enter into a Covenant with God and other members of the church “to walk together in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless, [and in the next breath also] agreed to watch ourselves and one another in the spirit of meekness, tenderness, and Christian fidelity”. In this presentation, Peter Thomas, church historian, describes the normal workings of the Second Parish Congregational Church and other Congregational Churches during the period 1818-1891 as described in church records.
Afro-American Students in 19th-Century UMass
Robert Cox – Director of Special Collections at UMass
Friday, November 18, 2016
The forerunner to the University of Massachusetts, Massachusetts Agricultural College (MAC), was an intimate place where virtually every student knew one another and where education and manual labor went hand in hand. In this talk, Robert Cox, Director of Special Collections at UMass, explores one aspect of life in late nineteenth century MAC which reveals something about the aspirations and achievements of the young school: the previously hidden, and quite surprising lives of first nine African American students at MAC. Their remarkable legacies say much about what we did right, and were we could have done – and could still do — better.
Jeff Lee – amateur historian
The Little Red Schoolhouse
Friday, November 4, 2016
On the eastern edge of the Amherst College Campus, the Little Red Schoolhouse stood as a symbol of excellence in early childhood education for nearly eighty years. Slated for demolition in 2012 to make way for a new science center, the Little Red Schoolhouse was the focus of an active citizen effort, working in cooperation with Amherst College, to relocate and preserve it. The building’s twilight years serve as an object lesson in the challenges of historical preservation.
Steve Strimer, The David Ruggles Center
Friday, October 21, 2016
In the second part of a two part lecture series, Steve Strimer speaks about history of the abolitionist movement in Florence, Massachussetts, and the Summer of 1833 when the work of two women emerged as flashpoints in the struggle to end slavery and promote justice for free African Americans. The bravery of Prudence Crandall of Canterbury, Connecticut and Lydia Maria Child of Boston helped inspire the founders of an abolitionist “utopian” community, the Northampton Association, at the root of what became the village of Florence, Massachusetts.
Gregory Wilson – antique postcard specialist and dealer
Friday, October 7, 2016
In this lecture, George Wilson, antique postcard specialist, talks about and displays historic postcards of the Pioneer Valley. Gregory Wilson has been a collector of postcards ever since he was a small boy and started to see them in scrapbooks. He is a graduate of the University of Delaware (BA 1961) and University of Pittsburgh (1963) with a Master of Library Science degree, and has worked at the undergraduate library at Harvard University. He became the curator of the Theodore Roosevelt collection at Harvard, where his first job was to catalog Roosevelt’s 500 postcards. During that time he started his own antique business, which included antique postcards.
Bonnie Isman – retired librarian
Amherst College and the Dewey Decimal System
Friday, September 23, 2016
Go back in time to Amherst in the 1870s and see how one of the world’s most widely used library tools came into being in this lecture by retired librarian Bonnie Isman. Library reform advocate Melvil Dewey invented the Google search engine of its day during his undergraduate years at Amherst College. Isman explores the ways that Dewey’s Amherst education influenced this innovative approach to library management.
Ken Samonds – Church Historian
Grace Church – The First 150 Years
Friday, September 9, 2016
Grace Episcopal Church historian Ken Samonds, gives a talk about some of the highlights of the church’s history in celebrations of its 150th anniversary.
Rebecca Fricke, Sally Dillon &
Friday, April 29, 2016
In May 2015 the Amherst Historical Society and Museum invited the nine members of Fiber Artists of Western MA to tour the collection and create pieces that reflected their curiosity about and fascination with what they saw. We were pleased to present Artifacts Inspire, an exhibition of the works created by the nine members of the group as the inaugural exhibition at the Strong House. In this lecture, three of the artists talk about their work.
Friday, April 15, 2016
This presentation outlines the various aspects of archaeological research and excavation in the Connecticut River valley and the New England region, and summarize the work done at the Strong House to date, including previous investigations by UMass Archaeological Services at the Strong House property and the initial results of the ground penetrating radar (GPR) survey completed November 2015.
Steve Strimer, The David Ruggles Center
Friday, March 4, 2016
In the first part of a two part lecture series, Steve Strimer speaks about history of the abolitionist movement in Florence, Massachussetts, and the Summer of 1833 when the work of two women emerged as flashpoints in the struggle to end slavery and promote justice for free African Americans. The bravery of Prudence Crandall of Canterbury, Connecticut and Lydia Maria Child of Boston helped inspire the founders of an abolitionist “utopian” community, the Northampton Association, at the root of what became the village of Florence, Massachusetts.
Friday, October 9th, 2015
Pie has been a delectable centerpiece of Yankee tables since Europeans first landed on New England’s shores in the seventeenth century. With a satisfying variety of savory and sweet, author Robert Cox takes a bite out of the history of pie and pie-making in the region in his new book New England Pie: History Under a Crust.
Friday, Sept 25, 2015
Jonathan Edwards has long epitomized the Puritan preacher as a fiery scold fixated on the inner struggle of the soul, a Calvinist scourge who majored in hellfire and brimstone, the fearful preacher of “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” In this talk, Ronald Story draws on his recent book, Jonathan Edwards and the Gospel of Love, to reveal a more complex figure.
Friday, April 10, 215
In the spring of 1840, prominent Belchertown attorney and businessman Mason Shaw schemed to transport his ten-year-old, African-American servant girl, Angeline Palmer, to Georgia in order to sell her into slavery. Only a daring rescue by members of Amherst’s African-American community saved her from this fate. Cliff McCarthy, Belchertown’s Stone House archivist, will present the story along with new research into the event.