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North Adams Historians Would Like More Exposure to Local History
By Tammy Daniels, iBerkshires Staff
06:33AM / Monday, July 05, 2021
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Local historic sites and plaques, such as this one of where pig iron for the Monitor was smelted, are tucked away around the city. Local historian Paul Marino wants their stories to be more integrated into the school curriculum.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The local keepers of history would like to see younger generations exposed more to their city's history.
 
"Well first of all, Jean Jarvie, in her book, wrote that an understanding of local history is the basis for patriotism," said Commissioner Paul Marino at the most recent meeting of the Historical Commission.
 
Jarvie was a Brayton School teacher whose history of the city, "Stories From Our Hills," was used widely in the school system around the turn of the last century.
 
Chairwoman Justyna Carlson noted the state guidelines recommend including local history the third grade.
 
"Which is why we always have every third grade from the area [at the North Adams Museum for Science and History] ... the Historical Society, we get money to bring all the third-graders to the museum," she said.
 
But Marino didn't think one class and a trip to the North Adams museum was enough. Rather, local history should be more integrated into the curriculum.
 
"I would like to see them learn more than a few things in third grade that they're going to forget," he said. "I would like when they're studying the Civil War to learn how North Adams contributed to the war with the Johnson Grays. The 10th Regiment's first regimental band."
 
For example, he said, pig iron for the plates on the USS Monitor came from North Adams. The leftover plates are in a museum in Tory, N.Y., Marino said, "when you're touching that plate, any part of your hand could be touching iron from North Adams. You could be touching iron from Richmond, from Ironville (N.Y.), from Troy."
 
The local historian said he's had conversations with the superintendent of schools about adding local history somehow into the regular curriculum. 
 
"These are things we need to teach our kids, so that when they graduate and leave North Adams, and people ask them where they're from, they won't say, Oh, I'm from the armpit of the universe," Marino said. "You know, they will be proud of where they're from."
 
He'd like to see this happen across the state and, he added, that city leaders should also have a good grasp of local history.
 
The discussion had come in relation to the problem of "invisible" monuments in the city. Many are small plaques situated around the city, like the monument for the Monitor at the back entrance to Massachusettss Museum of Contemporary Art on West Main Street, or the stacking of crates that's obscured the Fort Massachusetts monument.
 
Marino said he'd like to see a website and GPS walking trail and that he's started a list of monuments and historical sites. Carlson said there are members of the Historical Society doing "all kinds of things" and they should be careful of not "reinventing the wheel."
 
Member Joanne Hurlbut thought the society (many of the commissioners are also members of the society) could expand on its existing platforms and share those with residents, visitors and the schools.
 
"Everybody hits YouTube, everybody hits websites, and we have all of those so we could create a documentary of the map, where the sites are, where they're located, and the voiceover and run that on the [local access] station, on YouTube, so that it's available," she said. "That's certainly something within the realm of what we could do we have the materials and we have the knowledge. So it just really putting all the pieces together."
 
In other business, the commissioners:
 
Discussed the resurrection of the Local Historic District Study Committee. This committee was created some years ago but fell to the wayside as members left. 
 
• Formally signed off on a list of demolitions: 
  • 3-5-7 Edgewood Ave. (house)
  • 33 Edgewood Ave. (house)
  • (37 and 39 Edgewood Ave., done previously)
  • 11 Mill St. (house)
  • 1414 Massachusetts Ave. (barn only)
  • 198 State Road (garage)
  • 390 Walker St. (house and garage)
  • 472 Union St. (barn)
  • 133 Chantilly (garage)
  • 111 River St. (back)
• Signed off on the Ashland Street and Brayton Park projects.
 
• Reorganized with Carlson re-elected chair, Marino as vice chair, and Peter Siegenthaler as secretary. Siegenthaler and Alyssa Tomkowicz were welcomed as new members. This was the first time the commission had met in more than a year.
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