Museum grants to help Historic Deerfield, PVMA navigate pandemic

  • With a federal grant, the Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association (PVMA) will expand its Arosen’s Gifts exhibit. The display features several items brought to Deerfield by Arosen, a Native American Mohawk, and his wife, Eunice Williams, an English settler who was adopted by the Mohawk people. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 11/9/2021 11:47:35 AM

DEERFIELD — Historic Deerfield and the Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association (PVMA) have received grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities to develop new programming as the museum industry navigates the lasting COVID-19 pandemic.

Out of $87.8 million awarded to nearly 300 institutions across the U.S., Historic Deerfield received $200,000 to develop enhanced virtual and hybrid programming. Meanwhile, PVMA received $50,000 to develop its “Pocumtuck Valley Voices” program, which seeks to preserve, promote and interpret the multicultural history of the Connecticut and Deerfield River valleys.

Laurie Nivison, Historic Deerfield’s director of marketing, said the $200,000 grant will allow the museum to continue to develop its growing virtual and hybrid offerings while also putting the museum in a new position to increase digital engagement.

“When the pandemic hit, we pivoted online pretty quickly and sort of had to learn from the ground up how to get those virtual programs out there,” Nivison said. “We created a model that allowed us to create high-quality programming virtually and create revenue at the same time.”

Nivison noted there are no concrete plans yet because Historic Deerfield just received notification of the grant, but she envisions an “e-learning platform” and potential mobile app integration for more accessible and enhanced learning.

She said the current virtual and hybrid offerings are “here to stay,” and the funding from the grant will allow the museum to continue to reach a global audience, including when the pandemic wanes.

“We want to be able to continue to reach these audiences both locally, regionally and across the world,” Nivison said. “It will continue a lot of the programs we started during the pandemic … the free lectures we had, the paid seminars, the museum courses that were extremely popular this past winter, and to continue to work on and expand these offerings.”

PVMA Executive Director Tim Neumann said his organization’s $50,000 grant will help retain seven jobs while also expanding the museum’s interpretations of local history.

“We try to do something around African American history and we’re very keen around Native stories,” Neumann said. “(We also wanted) to go the direction of saving existing jobs.”

Neumann said PVMA will expand its exhibits on Indigenous and Black people whose stories are intertwined, but underrepresented, in the story of Franklin County. PVMA will expand its Arosen’s Gifts exhibit and add a new exhibit about Native American nurse Susie Yellowtail and Black and Afro-Indian soldiers in the Revolutionary War.

“The African American people did not leave a lot of physical evidence behind so you really have to do a lot of research,” Neumann said. “The Afro-Indian emphasis is also new. It’s emerging among scholars as an underrepresented story of people who are mixed race.”

He said each exhibit has different opening dates, with the Black and Afro-Indian soldiers’ exhibit planned for the United States’ 250th anniversary in 2026.

“The work around the African American participation locally in the revolution is aimed down the road,” Neumann said. “I think the biggest piece is if we find their graves — and we have found some already — there will be a way to see it online.”

Neumann added both Historic Deerfield and PVMA receiving these grants reaffirms the historical and educational work being done in the region.

“We’re not part of Historic Deerfield, but it’s always good when they get money for activities,” Neumann said. “Humanities work of national merit is done in Franklin and Hampshire counties.”


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