Irish Legacy Exhibit Blends Local Immigration History with Artifacts at Springfield Museums

Irish Legacy Exhibit at Springfield Museums this Summer

Mother John Berchmans, left, a Sister of St. Joseph of Springfield, whose secular family name was Somers, established Our Lady of the Elms College in 1928 with the Most Rev. Thomas O’Leary, diocesan bishop. Sister Mary Cecelia Lucey, an accomplished musician and diocesan music teacher, succeeded her at the Elms. This photo was taken in 1948 on the Elms campus. (Photo courtesy of Sisters of St. Joseph of Springfield/Mont Marie Archives)

The Pioneer Valley’s history is deeply entwined with the stories of thousands of Irish immigrants.  Local culture and industries were shaped in part by the growth in population that Irish immigration to the United States sparked along the Connecticut River.  The influence of this can still be seen amongst communities throughout the Valley.

To honor the rich cultural, geographic, and economic history of Irish immigrants, the Springfield Museums are offering an exhibit titled, “The Irish Legacy: Immigration and Assimilation in the Connecticut Valley During the Industrial Revolution.”  The exhibit, which will be open to visitors from June 11th through August 25th, blends historical information and data with photographs, books, and other artifacts including a St. Brigid cross, a traditional Celtic dance dress and shoes, and a bodhrán, and Irish instruments.  The museum will also offer scheduled special events for games, stories, performances, and other family-friendly activities to help younger visitors to absorb and understand the information displayed within the exhibit.

“The story of Irish immigration to America is one of grit and courage,” according to Guy McLain, director of the Wood Museum. In speaking of The Irish Legacy, McLain added, “this exhibit brings to life the development of the Irish community in the Valley over the last two centuries.”

Though the exhibit will be especially powerful for families who have Irish heritage, the topic can be engaging for those of any background – particularly because it is such an important part of local history.  Students of all ages can pair what they learn by visiting the exhibit to things they’ve learned about American and European history, immigration, economics, travel, world cultures, and more.

Along with the exhibit itself, the museum will be hosting educational programs including a teacher workshop and drop-in activities in the Wood Museum of Springfield History. On Tuesdays throughout the summer, staff from the Irish Cultural Center will present the Celtic Cart, which will enable visitors to participate in Irish-related activities and games designed to support the exhibit. For more info visit

The Springfield Museums are located at 21 Edwards Street and are open to visitors from 10am-5pm Tuesday-Saturday and 11am-5pm Sunday.

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