Historic Northampton Museum & Education Center Highlights the History of Silk Thread and the Pioneer Valley

Northampton Silk Threads: The China Connection
Historic Northampton Museum & Education Center
May 1st-31st, 2013

Discover a part of Western MA history at the Historic Northampton Museum & Education Center’s May exhibit, “Northampton Silk Threads: The China Connection.” 

The remnants of the Pioneer Valley’s silk trade are still around – one can find the iconic Silk Mill, visit Silk City (Florence), and gaze up into the branches of mulberry trees all over Northampton. All of these things are representations of the city’s long-ago to silk production and the silk trade in China and Japan.

During the first half of the 19th century, Northampton was a huge producer of silk. Mulberry leaves fed the hungry silk worms, and women worked in factories, helping to spin the silk onto spools in order to be woven into beautiful fabric. Eventually, the demand for silk became too much for the town’s supply of silk worms, and manufacturers began outsourcing to China. However, Chinese silk production methods proved incompatible with mechanical production, and Japan replaced China as the valley’s silk provider until the industry collapsed during America’s Great Depression.

Families can learn about the important historical connection Western MA and the silk industry in China and Japan by visiting a photography exhibit at Historic Northampton. Titled, “Northampton Silk Threads: The China Connection,” the exhibit features photographs by Stan Sherer (printed on handmade rice paper) paired with commentary by Marjorie Senechal.

In viewing the photographs, families can learn about the cultural and technological differences between 19th century America and 19th century Japan and China. Families will also learn about the production process itself – photos chronicle each step, from feeding the words to spinning thread.

Historic Northampton is open Tuesday-Saturday from 10am-5pm, and Sunday from 12noon-5pm. The exhibit will be on view through May 31st. For more information, call 413-584-6011. www.historic-northampton.org

[Photo source: http://www.historic-northampton.org]

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