Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association in Deerfield to commemorate 150 years with exhibit

  • Memorial Hall Museum Curator Ray Radigan with the “Centennial Pie Plate” from 1876, which was used to bake an enormous pumpkin pie for the county fair and then again, 100 years later. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • A wedding dress from 1785 at Memorial Hall Museum in Deerfield. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • The Sheldon House door from the 1704 raid is at Memorial Hall Museum in Deerfield. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • A grain shovel owned by Ansel C. Delano (1807-1875), of Sunderland, is at Memorial Hall Museum in Deerfield. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • A double-geared flax wheel is at Memorial Hall Museum in Deerfield. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • This spinet piano was brought to Deerfield in 1808 and can be seen at Memorial Hall Museum in Deerfield. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • This cradle rocked five generations of the Nims family. It is on display at Memorial Hall Museum in Deerfield. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 9/1/2020 12:41:11 PM

DEERFIELD — Memorial Hall Museum is commemorating the Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association’s 150th anniversary this year with a special exhibit in September.

“We’re taking 15 objects from the first decade of the museum … and each one of the objects we’re choosing tells a different story,” said Curator Ray Radigan.

The exhibit is scheduled to open Labor Day weekend. The museum is open from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday. Admission this season is free in honor of the 150anniversary, but donations are accepted.

The Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association, one of the country’s oldest historical societies, was founded by a group of local Deerfield residents in 1870. The group was led by George Sheldon.

“Even at that early date, they looked around and saw that there had been centuries and centuries of history before them and there were no preservation efforts,” Radigan explained.

In the early years, the group started by erecting monuments, but Sheldon was also collecting relics — a wide variety of objects related to the colonial era in Franklin County, Radigan said.

“Within a few years it became clear to the organization that if they were going to do anything with these relics, they would need a place to display them,” he said.

So, the group opened Memorial Hall Museum on Memorial Street as a place to display the historical objects that had been collected. The objects tell stories of childhood in the colonial times, for example, or the history of African Americans and slavery in the area, Radigan said.

Some of the objects that will be on display include a bullet pouch that dates to the Revolutionary War, the town’s first piano, and the “Centennial Pie Plate,” which was used to bake an enormous pumpkin pie for the county fair and then again, 100 years later.

“Each (object) tells a slightly different story,” Radigan said.

Rather than placing the objects in a single exhibit room, the objects will be scattered throughout the museum and placed in relevant cases for visitors to understand their context. Patrons will receive a guide when they enter the museum, highlighting where each of object is located.

The idea for the exhibit, however, is two-fold, he said.

“We want to look back at the history and the founders of the organization, and try to understand what was important to them and what their values were,” Radigan said. “We also want to kind of flip that around and look at the present day, and ask visitors what deserves preservation so that people in 150 years can look and understand what our lives were like now.”

The commemorative exhibit was originally expected to debut this spring, but the museum’s closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic halted those plans.

Although the museum closes for the season in October, the exhibit will still be highlighted in the spring 2021 season, he said, “to continue to tell that story.”

Mary Byrne can be reached at mbyrne@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 263. Twitter: @MaryEByrne



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