Shelburne student to craft exhibit on extinct household sounds

  • Urso Blackburn, 8, uses a loom at the Shelburne Historical Society with Museum Curator Reba-Jean Shaw-Pichette. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Urso Blackburn, 8, operates a spinning wheel at the Shelburne Historical Society with Museum Curator Reba-Jean Shaw-Pichette. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Urso Blackburn, 8, listens to the sound made by old typewriters at the Shelburne Historical Society. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

For the Recorder
Published: 3/31/2022 4:06:28 PM
Modified: 3/31/2022 4:05:33 PM

SHELBURNE — Looking to have local youths familiarize themselves with and get excited about history, the Shelburne Historical Society has begun offering a Junior Curator Award, and the first winner is spearheading an exhibit on extinct household sounds.

Eight-year-old Urso Blackburn, a student at Buckland-Shelburne Elementary School, will soon start working with Shelburne Historical Society Museum Curator Reba-Jean Shaw-Pichette to craft the exhibit. They expect the exhibit will be available later this year, and it will also be accessible online.

Shaw-Pichette said Urso had visited the museum at 33 Severance St. with a group of other children from the school community, and was very driven and interested in the process of putting together a museum exhibit. Urso returned to the museum with questions and submitted a proposal to feature an audio-based display.

The Junior Curator Award is something the Shelburne Historical Society has been considering for a while, and Urso’s excitement provided an opportunity to put this into action. At the society’s annual meeting in April, Urso will be presented with a $100 cash prize and a framed certificate.

“The museum needs to be encouraging the next generation of learners,” Shaw-Pichette said.

She said she was excited by Urso’s “youthful excitement,” which reminded her of the importance of “playfulness in learning.”

“I’m hoping that this exhibit will excite other students to reach out to us with their ideas of what stories need to be told and what is missing from our history,” Shaw-Pichette said.

While Shaw-Pichette will work with Urso, she noted she plans to “be as hands-off as possible.”

Urso developed their exhibit proposal in early December 2021 after scrolling through the historical society’s social media pages and noticing that none of its posts featured audio.

“I proposed that they use sounds from the past that are extinct, because we rarely think about what the past actually sounded like,” Urso said.

The exhibit will focus on extinct sounds that would have existed throughout the history of Shelburne Falls, such as dialing a rotary phone, a pendulum clock swinging or a stone mortar and pestle being used to grind dry corn.

“I hope that it will give people a bigger picture of the past to paint in their minds. I want to help people imagine all sorts of periods,” Urso said. “We rarely actually think about what the past was like for the people who were living in it — just that it existed.”

Urso said some of their favorite extinct sounds were of a non-adhesive stamp being licked, and of silver coins jingling. In their opinion, silver coins have a better jingle than copper and nickel coins.

They plan to use sound editing software and a sound recorder to create the exhibit.

“I also plan to let people touch things carefully,” Urso said. “If you put something in a glass case, you can’t know what it sounds like.”


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