Monday, June 15, 2009

The Allen House and Deerfield legacy

This morning we toured the Allen House with one of Deerfield's most legendary workers, Peter Spang. He was a friend of the founders and the Allen House was where they lived when they visited Deerfield. Okay, so a short history lesson. The founders of Historic Deerfield are Henry and Helen Flynt. They were wealthy people from a town in Connecticut, but when their son attended Deerfield Academy in the 1920s, they became good friends with the headmaster of the Academy who wanted to improve the town to better the school. The Flynts began collecting antiques, furniture, silver, etc, and also started buying up colonial houses in Deerfield to decorate and "restore." After they died, Historic Deerfield became a public museum thing; they hired curators and made more than just a hobby/interest. This summary is vastly understated, but it's the basic jist. I really don't know what I think about this whole business of collecting and buying everything to interpret something how you want to instead of researching for accuracy, but the times have changed. It's something serious to consider. I also learned that the Rockefellers were largely responsible for Colonial Williamsburg, which is interesting also.

Anyway, for lunch we listened to a professor from Nova Scotia present her paper on rural women doctors in Western Massachusetts. It was very interesting. It reminded me a lot of when Laurel Thatcher Ulrich came to talk about her Midwife's Tale, because this woman also used correspondence and an autobiography (not quite journals or diaries, but still). The talk was very interesting and very well done. Afterward, we went back to the Flynt Center classroom to have a lecture on using primary sources. The librarian and the vice-president for the museum talked about using probate records and account books. Probate records deal with dividing an estate, for those of you who don't know. Both can be very useful sources to examine while researching. We also had an object study with two ceramic jugs. The rest of the evening will consist of researching and homework.

By the way, I really hate how bi-polar New England weather is. If you think the Midwest is bad, come out here. It is raining, again. It's a good thing one of my house-mates has a car. I don't proper clothing to walk around in the rain because I packed for the summertime, not the spring. Maybe the rest of the week will be better. I hope so, since we have two field trips this week. Off to supper, and then working...


  1. It sounds like you're learning so much great stuff! Learning the kind of graduate programs you *don't* want to consider is really useful, as well as all the practical skills you're absorbing :D I'm sorry that the papers this weekend weren't more interesting - but it's a good exposure to the enthusiastic local historians you'll likely work alongside or with/for at any institution.

    I hope it stops raining on you soon! And that the rain isn't instantly replaced with 90 degree weather . . .

  2. Margaret, you know how much I "like" history, and even I am fascinated by some of the stuff you've been doing. Honestly, I would have never thought to examine some of the artifacts you've been examining. My dad has a book called "Ways of Seeing" that I think you might be interested in. You're welcome to borrow it sometime (just in case you don't have enough reading as it is).

    I am also kind of intrigued by the "problem?" of people buying and collecting in order to interpret things the way they want. Is it not possible to research, even after they buy and collect? (My assumption is that it is possible, but people don't do it. Is that correct?) And, is it possible that you, as a researcher, will encounter false information/interpretations given by the buys/collectors, and/or won't be able to determine what's true and what isn't, based on the collector's interpretations? (Sorry for all the questions. Just curious.) I can tell you're becoming an expert, and I am most impressed! Well done, Margaret!

    No, no, my friend. You want bi-polar weather, come to Colorado! One minute tornado warnings, five minutes later, bright and sunny. It's been raining here every day, as well (which, granted, is kind of peculiar for Colorado this time of year). But yeah, if there's one word to describe Colorado weather, it's unpredictable.