Can Historians be Artists?

by Colleen Jenkins, 2016 Tom Desilets Memorial Intern

Carved ethafoamTomorrow (July 20th) I will officially be halfway through my summer internship. I can’t believe I have been here for 5 weeks already. I feel like I have accomplished a lot so far, especially this past week. Since Stacen (FHC Curator) was on vacation, I was put under the supervision of Laura (FHC Museum Assistant/Education Coordinator) and Katie (FHC Costume Collection Manager), focusing on textile projects and of course, the Dennison Archives.

One of the more fun activities of the week was making new mannequins to display pieces of our textile collection for the upcoming fashion exhibit. Since we are a non-profit, we want to use the money we receive in donations as efficiently as possible. The idea of buying something we could make ourselves does not cross anyone’s mind! Not only does making them ourselves save us money, but it allows us more flexibility with what we can do with them. Fashion has changed rapidly over the centuries, and believe it or not, dresses can be quite different even if they are only decades apart. In some eras women wore corsets to slim their shape, so our mannequins have to reflect that. However, in other eras it was more fashionable to have a fuller waistline, to show that one could afford a substantial diet. Thanks to a lot of cotton padding, we can easily display multiple eras of fashion using the same mannequin as a base.

The first thing needed to make a mannequin is a block of ethafoam (the brand name of polyethylene foam plank) which is durable enough to keep its’ shape while it is being carved, but will not harm the garments if we put them on it. I was given four blocks to carve and one model to go by. From there the process seemed simple: trace the model onto the block, cut it out, cut off the rough edges, and then shape the body accordingly. Katie told me to try to make it as human-like as possible.

carving ethafoamThis internship has asked me to do a few things outside my strengths. For example, I’m a clumsy person. So I get a little nervous when handling these important and fragile artifacts, even when doing something as simple as putting clothing on padded hangers, for fear I will trip over a gown. I am also not the most artistic person in the world, so I was a little wary of how well I could do this project.

My first mannequin came out the best for some reason, maybe because I hadn’t gained confidence yet and tried to make it a perfect match to the model. But as I progressed through the ethafoam I become more daring. This led me to cut half of one mannequin’s arm off, but Katie assured me that cotton padding could fix that.

In the end I had four mannequins that could pass for human torsos. Afterwards, they need to be wrapped with muslin, cotton, and dress stocking to give them shape and arms. Then we will cut a hole in the bottom and mount them on a stand.

What I have to especially give the staff at FHC credit for is how careful they are with everything, and the perfect standard all of our items are held to. This costume collection is Katie’s priority and not only she take care of it immaculately, but she has taught the rest of us how to do the same. After a week in textiles I am a little less terrified of the fragile dresses, which is definitely progress!finished ethafoam


The Mystery of Margaret Knight

Originally published in the Spring 1986 Framingham Historical & Natural History Society Newsletter by Steve Herring

Margaret E. Knight (1838-1914), one of the most prolific woman inventors in America, was also a Framingham resident. But the “lady Edison” has remained as somewhat of a mystery figure in local history, and we are always pleased when new information about her turns up.

Professor Fred Amram of the University of Minnesota, who is working on a book about woman inventors, visited the Old Academy recently to learn more about Miss Knight. While we were able to share some of our information with the professor, the historical society also gained information including copies of Miss Knight’s 1871 patent for a machine that makes flat-bottom paper bags, and her obituary from the Boston Transcript.

Margaret Knight, a native of Maine, resided for the last twenty-five years of her life in a rented house at the corner of Hollis and Charles Streets in South Framingham. In that neighborhood at that time there were other families with the name of Knight who may have been relatives. She spent most of her time in her Boston laboratory, and when not tinkering with new inventions was successfully fighting off law suits challenging her patents.

Apparently Miss Knight was totally absorbed in her work right up to the time of her final illness at the age of 76. In 1912, at the age of 74, she developed an advanced automobile engine known as the Knight-Davidson motor. In all she had 87 patents to her credit, although it seems that she made little profit from them. Her estate at the time of her death was valued at $300.

There is also the mystery of Miss Knight’s portrait. Some accounts of her life claim that her portrait hung in the US Patent Office in Washington. In recent inquiries to the Patent Office, however, no record of such a portrait or other likeness of Margaret Knight, it may well be that she never had the time to have her picture taken.

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Annual Meeting 2016 – The Framingham Beat

Published on Jul 18, 2016

IF YOU’VE LIVED IN FRAMINGHAM LONG ENOUGH YOU HAVE PROBABLY HEARD OF CRISPUS ATTUCKS. LOCAL LORE TELLS OF A YOUNG BLACK MAN ESCAPING SLAVERY FROM A FRAMINGHAM FARM AND GOING ON TO BE THE FIRST MAN KILLED IN THE BOSTON MASSACRE.

“People think of history centers as places where historians go. We are that, but we also are a place where community comes together and what we are really trying to do is build community and build connections to Framingham – whether you are a new comer or you’ve been here forever.” Nicely put, FHC Board President Janice Thompson!


Pokemon GOes to the History Center

Corey L, Framingham High School Sophmore with FHC Executive Director Annie Murphy

Corey L, Framingham High School Sophmore with FHC Executive Director Annie Murphy

by Annie Murphy, FHC Executive Director

July 22, 2016

I’ve been enjoying my lunch outside under the maple tree in front of the Edgell Library these past few days.  The weather has been beautiful and we have a new picnic table donated by yours truly.  It’s been especially fun to see the Pokemon players coming to check off the library as a “pokestop” on the game.  I still haven’t downloaded the app, so this terminology may be wrong, but who cares – people are noticing our historic buildings!  Some are moving too fast to talk and others like my friend Corey Lamont (see photo) was able to chat.  He was sitting on the bench in front of the Old Academy – a “gym” in the game – and I asked him if he had a second to talk.  He was very gracious and showed me the virtual battle happening at our “gym” between the reds and the blues.  He’s a sophomore at Framingham High School and when I asked him if he remembered visiting the Academy during his 3rd grade tour he said “I remember it like it was yesterday.”   You can imagine how my heart soared!  Stay tuned for more on Pokemon – perhaps a “Poke party?”


History: Bringing People Together in All Ways

by Colleen Jenkins, 2016 Tom Desilets Memorial Intern

I am about halfway through my summer internship, and everything I am learning is rich and diverse. I am still working on sorting through the doll collection (and many other projects!), but there is never a boring day at the Framingham History Center. I have learned that there is no simple way to deaccess anything at the FHC. For example, if there are four boxes in a corner that we know do not know much about, we have to triple check that we won’t regret letting them go. Once the boxes have been inventoried, the things that fit the FHC Mission are accessioned and stored into our collection. The items that are left may have some information that lead us to more knowledge about something else, and other items do not fit the mission at all. What is interesting about this process is that even the smallest bits of information can create an involved story line.

Kendall doll chest

Margaret Kendall’s Doll Chest

For example, the donors I have come across most often with these dolls are, Mrs. George Marlowe, wife of a prominent Framingham architect, Ms. Margaret Kendall, a well-known artist, and Mrs. Daniel Dodd, who I haven’t been able to find much about. Dodd’s dolls and doll clothing are from the 1850s, while Kendall and Marlowe’s dolls are closer to the mid-1900s. Though these women lived at different times throughout Framingham’s history, each woman shares a common interest from their childhood and their doll collections are now together into one large collection at the FHC.

In my internship interview, I mentioned how important I think it is that people are aware of their own history. FHC Curator Stacen Goldman asked me why I thought it was important for people to be aware of this. It was hard to give her a straight answer because it’s one of those questions that you know has an answer, but, like the history itself, it changes throughout your life.  In regard to the doll collection, I think these dolls show us the importance of community in one’s life. The definition of community is a group of people who live in the same place, usually for a long period of time, which means they have a history together. As Framingham grows and diversifies, it maintains the roots of its community — the history of its town. Playing with dolls is something that nearly everyone can relate to as a child, and this particular doll collection is part of the history of every person that lives in Framingham.

Speaking of common connections, we had a great bonding experience the other day. We all know that interns have a medley of responsibilities, but never did I think I would be standing next to our Education Coordinator, Laura and our Costume Collections Manager, Katie, with a crowbar in my hand and safety goggles on my face, taking down a cabinet in our costume room. Since we are a non-profit, we don’t have the luxury of passing the hard work off to someone else. However, these resourceful women were eager  take on the challenge. A day of hard labor was accompanied with laughs, smiles, and some Disney songs, making the task one of the most fun things I have done so far this summer. So now we have a pile of wood in our basement and more space to organize our costumes. One task done, many more interesting ones to come!Clean up crew, Katie, Laura and Colleen


A Day in the Life of a Museum Intern by Colleen Jenkins

Colleen carving mannequins

Intern Colleen Jenkins sculpting a mannequin for the FHC Costume Collection

by Colleen Jenkins, 2016 Tom Desilets Memorial Intern

My name is Colleen Jenkins. I am a senior at Framingham State University and I am majoring in History.I first started searching for an internship in a museum or history center to answer one question that has plagued me since the beginning of my freshman year, “what exactly does a museum worker do?” I would later come to find out what a narrow question that was, as this question is dependent on one’s role in the museum, who you work with, and the size of the collection.

So I sought out this internship to find the experience that would answer this question, and further guide me to the career path I will be officially starting next May. Like I always do before making large career or academic decisions, I consulted Dr. Maria Bollettino of Framingham State University about a summer internship. She directed me to the Framingham History Center. Over the next week, and with multiple consultations with other professors, I perfected my resume, and sent it along to the History Center. I eagerly waited for a reply.

The first of the many surprises that were going to come with this job that the response did not come from the current FHC Curator Dana Ricciardi, who I had e-mailed, but from Laura Stagliola, the FHC Museum Assistant & Education Coordinator, who is well-known in the history department at Framingham State. Whenever the FHC is brought up, Laura’s name is mentioned somewhere in the conversation as she is a FSU alumni, interned with the FHC, and was hired as a fulltime museum employee. She and FHC Executive Director Annie Murphy requested an introductory interview with me the following week. Later, after I passed their inspection, I met with the new curator, Stacen Goldman, who hired me to be the 2016 Tom Desilets Memorial Intern.

I had a vague idea of the type of work I would be doing with the FHC collection, but I did not think my first day would be spent rooting through mismatched dolls, doll clothing, and doll accessories trying to piece together any identifying information. I made my first of many inventories to come of almost 200 doll items. The next step is for one of the many wonderful volunteers to research the significance of each item.

The dolls were actually a great introduction to what my internship at the FHC is all about, which is to assist with lengthy projects that are difficult for any one staff member to dedicate themselves to on top of the other work they have. For example, Laura’s main focus as the 2013 Tom Desilets Memorial Intern involved processing the recently acquired Dennison Mfg. Co. Archival Collection. The two Desilets interns that followed her also focused on processing, sorting, organizing and inventorying the Dennison Collection. So far, I have spent nearly a week with volunteers trying to put the finishing touches on the Dennison work. Many of the projects I have been given involve a collaborative effort of staff members and volunteers because “it takes a village” to properly access, record, maintain, and store a collection or artifact in a museum. This part of my internship has made my time at the FHC exciting and informative as I learn more each day of what the responsibilities of a museum staff are.

I look forward to making substantial progress on all of my projects, as well as aiding with the FHC’s family programming, and interacting with the incredibly hardworking (not to mention enjoyable) staff here.