Northfield 350th Anniversary Committee’s oral history project gets underway

  • Joan Stoia, at right, interviews Sam Richardson as part of the Northfield 350th Anniversary Committee’s oral history project. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

  • Joan Stoia, at right, interviews Sam Richardson as part of the Northfield 350th Anniversary Committee’s oral history project. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

Staff Writer
Published: 9/19/2022 6:10:57 PM
Modified: 9/19/2022 6:10:18 PM

NORTHFIELD — As interviews for Northfield’s 350th-anniversary oral history project ramp up, residents are invited to sign up to share their personal histories and recollections of the town.

The town’s 350th Anniversary Committee, in preparation for the 2023 celebration, hopes the oral history project will use a myriad of stories to paint the picture of Northfield’s history, while also preserving it for future generations. Rather than schedule a jam-packed two weeks to celebrate the town’s birthday, the plan is to host programming throughout the year, some of which will be based off these oral interviews.

“Northfield has touched more lives than you can imagine,” said Joan Stoia, a member of the 350th Anniversary Committee and co-owner of the Centennial House Bed and Breakfast on Main Street. “We feel we have a big story to tell and it’s going to take longer than two weeks.”

A group of eight interviewers were trained by Sunderland residents and oral historians Carrie and Michael Kline over the summer, during which time they learned interviewing techniques and how to use the recording equipment. The Klines have 30 years of experience in creating oral history projects around the mid-Atlantic states.

Stoia, who was trained as an interviewer, said it was a “good bonding experience.” She said every interview starts off with the same question: “Can you tell us about where you were raised, and who are your people?”

“It’s an icebreaker, and once the person talks about themselves more, it places them in context,” Stoia explained. “We are particularly interested in one’s experience of Northfield.”

With so many potential stories out there, such as topics showcasing Northfield’s rich educational and religious history, Stoia said the 350th Anniversary Committee’s goal is to bring these stories together so they are not lost.

“The oral history project is meant to capture these stories,” Stoia said. “In our 20 years here, we’ve already lost people who had amazing stories.”

Interviews will be recorded and available for listening at Dickinson Memorial Library once the project wraps up. As interviews are done, the committee will be looking to see if there are any common historical threads that appear, and if so, programming and events will be developed around those for the 2023 celebration.

While historical preservation is the main focus, Stoia said being interviewed provides a chance to preserve one’s voice for their families and future generations. One participant, she added, said he would “give anything if I could hear my mother’s voice again,” which struck her.

“That knocked me off of my pins,” she said. Her husband, Steve Stoia, noted “that’s the potential of this.”

All residents of Northfield are encouraged to sign up to be interviewed for the project. Interviews typically last around an hour and will be conducted in municipal buildings like the Senior Center or the Dickinson Memorial Library. To express interest in being interviewed, visit or request a paper copy of an interest form by stopping by the library or the Senior Center. Completed interest forms can be dropped off at those locations or mailed to the Stoias at 94 Main St., Northfield, MA 01360. With questions, email

For those who might be nervous about sitting in front of a microphone, Stoia said the conversations flow naturally and people may not even notice it after talking for a while.

“A few minutes into the interview, the microphone disappears,” she said. “You begin to see the movies running in your head and you don’t worry about the microphone and equipment.”

Chris Larabee can be reached at or 413-930-4081.


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