The Recorder – LAVA Center Launches Community History Website

Published: 01/30/2022 11:11:36

Modified: 01/30/2022 11:10:07 AM

GREENFIELD — Despite a snowstorm postponing its in-person launch event, Local Access to Valley Arts, better known as The LAVA Center, officially unveiled its ECHO Greenfield website on Saturday, which features historic resources and projects on the town of Greenfield.

Accessible at echogreenfield.org, the website is a collection of various community projects and historical contributions from professional and amateur historians as they research the lesser-known stories of the town and people of Greenfield, while encouraging the community to engage in their own research. Project ECHO, which stands for Exploring and Creating Histories Ourselves, began last summer with several events exploring Greenfield’s history, including connections to the Underground Railroad and the stories of Indigenous peoples.

“This is the first offer,” said ECHO Deputy Director Jan Maher. “We hope this will not just be a resource in a fixed, finished form, but a community dialogue.”

Maher said the goal is to “continue to build a database of stories” around Greenfield’s history to present people with an easy-to-access archive of historical documents and presentations, allowing people to ” see history effectively as a lay historian”.

“We are each a repository of history,” Maher said of the community impact on the project. “Learning to make oral histories and to express our own stories is an important sub-theme of this project.”

Maher’s husband, fellow deputy director Doug Selwyn, said the ECHO program is important because history can often change the future.

“Sharing the story as a community feels important,” Selwyn said. “Recognizing as story makers, what we do today shapes what happens next.”

Maher added that Project ECHO is also a chance to explore the history of those who may have been overlooked in the past.

“There are a lot of stories that were never secured in previous generations because people’s stories weren’t considered important or are buried,” Maher said. “We want this to be a project that continues to complicate our story.”

Each ECHO project comes with a presentation form, links to additional information and suggestions on how to practice this part of historical research, so that everyone can learn to speak and present history. A key aspect of these presentations, however, is how the topics are presented. Maher said many projects are set up in creative formats because the LAVA Center focuses on local arts.

“We are this intersection of academic research and the creative expression of that research,” Maher said.

From there, Maher said Project ECHO will continue to host additional seminars and presentations when more funds are received.

“We’ll have a little break from new programming,” Maher said. “We are hoping to secure secure funding to move it forward.”

The LAVA Center will host the postponed website launch event on February 5 at 1 p.m. The event will consist of an exhibition and discussion of the website, its functionality and how people can contribute to it as community historians.

Chris Larabee can be reached at clarabee@recorder.com or 413-930-4081.

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