History in a day: Historical societies open their doors for daylong event in hilltowns 

  • James Avery and his oxen on display in the Buckland Historical Society. STAFF PHOTO/BELLA LEVAVI

  • Poster for Hilltown History Trail. Contributed by Stacy Kontrabecki

  • Above: Buckland Historical Society Museum on the Hilltown History Tour. Below Ashfield Historical Society Museum on the Hilltown History Tour. Contributed by Stacy Kontrabecki

  • Ashfield Historical Society Museum on the Hilltown History Tour. Contributed by Stacy Kontrabecki

  • Wilder Homestead on the Hilltown History Tour. Contributed by Stacy Kontrabecki

  • Shelburne Historical Society Museum on the Hilltown History Tour. Contributed by Stacy Kontrabecki

Staff Writer
Published: 8/5/2022 5:53:11 PM
Modified: 8/5/2022 5:50:03 PM

“If you don’t have the prequel to the current story, you don’t understand how things work today,” Stacy Koncrabecky said. 

Koncrabecky is the organizer for the Hilltown History Trail, taking place Saturday, Aug. 13 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. During this day, historical societies across the area will be open at the same time allowing visitors to drive to each location, and explore them all.

“Most of the museums have limited hours and depend on volunteers, so if people want to visit them it takes multiple days and a lot of planning,” Koncrabecky said.

This is the first year of the program, and six societies are participating. Koncrabecky explained this is a medium-sized program, with room to expand to other museums in the area next year.

“Anyone who spends some amount of time in the wee-little museums tucked away in the hills of western Franklin County will have their eyes open to some amazing connections,” said Michael McCusker, president of the Buckland Historical Society.

The Massachusetts Cultural Council gave this event a $1,500 festival grant. This money was used for a graphic designer, marketing material and print outs for the event. 

“We are always looking for new ways to get people to view our awesome collection. This is a great way to do that,”  Carla Ness, chairwoman of the Cummington Historical Society, said. 

At each location there will be a “treasure hunt.” Participants will receive a sheet of paper with questions that can be answered through finding artifacts in each location. This will be family fun, for children as well as adults, according to organizers. 

Koncrabecky pointed to the fact that there is a garden and farm tour, a textile tour, and a pottery tour in the area. A historical society tour can simply be added to the list of attractions that already exist in West County that draws people in from across the area and beyond. 

Many volunteers for the different museums noted there is a real intimacy from these smaller hilltown museums. Compared to larger institutions, people feel they connect and engage with more material, even though these small museums operate on a “shoestring” budget. 

Cummington will open its tavern from the 1800s for the day. Plainfield will have a doctor’s office from 1824 on display. The Buckland Historical Society will show James Avery’s possessions, the man who raised the world’s largest oxen in the late 1800s, and the other historical societies will show off many more artifacts that bring new meaning to the area. 

“It’s all about place making, what makes a place attractive is not all what you currently find there with shops and galleries, it is also about the history of what came before,” Koncrabecky said. 

The map for the day, and more information can be found on their website HilltownHistoryTrail.org.


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