My Turn: PVMA web project a county-based achievement

  • The website, “American Centuries: View from New England,” features the Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association's collection of historical New England artifacts. The 20-year-old website is being rebuilt, thanks in part to a $193,572 grant. SCREENSHOT

Published: 9/8/2021 6:42:56 AM

I was pleased to read the nice coverage of the Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association’s major grant from the national Institute of Museum and Library Services to rebuild our popular (but ancient) national educational website American Centuries. But there was not space in that article for a major element of the site’s 20-year history — the Franklin County technical, educational, and scholarship talent that built it.

From American Centuries’ very beginning it was a local effort. Laurie Block of Straight Ahead Pictures in Conway brought PVMA the idea and initial momentum for building an educational website back in 1999 with National Endowment for the Humanities funding. Over the years, web programming and technical design (and fixes to keep it operating) were provided by Juliet Jacobson and her partners Tony Jillson and Don Button of Digital Gizmo in Ashfield — and Greenfield Community College provided technical assistance and a home for the website for two decades.

Content and teaching strategies for the website (and adjustments to ever changing Learning Standards) were gathered from scores of local K-12 teachers, first from Frontier Regional-Union 38 School District, then branching out to the Mohawk Regional, Gill-Montague, Greenfield, Orange and Pioneer school districts with tremendous cooperation of their superintendents, administrators and curriculum experts who collaborated with PVMA on a long and impressive list of Massachusetts and US government agency grant projects supporting the website.

There has been no shortage of history scholarship available in the region, led by Greenfield’s own Dr. Kevin Sweeney and Shelburne summer resident Dr. Joanne Melish, augmenting PVMA’s own well qualified staff. Local artists and photographers have also been tapped to visually enrich the site.

Having a great vision and a fine production team does not ensure a federal grant application’s success. Over nearly 25 years the local grant writing talent of development consultant Louise Neidle of Ashfield greatly enhanced the energy, perseverance, wordsmithing, and project management needed, especially by an institution as small as the PVMA, to sway demanding grant application reviewers to our cause.

With this new award, history will repeat itself. By far, the greatest portion of the $194,000 grant will be expended on talent here in Franklin County.

Tim Neumann is the exectuive director of the Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association.


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