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This month, Hilltown Families Contributing Writer, Cheryl Allan Carlyle, encourages readers to try their hand – literally – at creating their own special piece of pottery. Featured here are five local studios to visit to begin connecting with potters who are passionate about sharing their skills and knowledge with other aspiring artists.

A beloved Western Mass historical institution opens its door for its 66th season when Porter-Phelps-Huntington Museum takes us on a tour of 3 centuries worth of rural life. A gorgeous setting on the Connecticut River, the Museum hosts many interesting programs including the family friendly music series- ideal for a summer picnic.

A fun history event in May celebrates “Massachusetts Mavericks” – the independent minded, the free-sprits, the non-conformists, and the eccentrics whose legacies and stories shaped the country. They are best represented by some impressive properties dotted around Western Mass.

Centuries-old trash has become treasure at Historic Northampton, where the Digging Northampton’s History will uncover artifacts from 1700’s Northampton. Opportunities for learning about 18th century life, material culture, and archaeology abound!

Storrowton Village Museum offers a superb living history opportunity centered around the Western Mass region during the Civil War. Meet townspeople and hear from them how their lives were impacted during this momentous period in US history.

A part of cultures around the world for thousands of years, pottery is fascinating – both as an art form and as an entry point for studying history. Utilizing local resources, children’s literature, and online tools, families can explore art, history, culture, and science through pottery-centric studies!

After all of the partridges in trees have been delivered and the lords have ceased their leaping, the lucky gift recipient in the carol “The Twelve Days of Christmas” has received nearly 400 gifts – and for what? The silly-sounding collection of items might be more meaningful than the song’s cheery tune might suggest – and local author Thomas Bernard is an expert on the song’s symbolism! Visit the Jones Library next weekend to learn more about the historic (and fascinating!) roots of this classic carol. — Remember to mark your calendars and get ready to support Hilltown Families on Valley Gives Day THIS Wednesday, December 10th!

Combining fact with artistic interpretation, living history creates learning opportunities that highlight not only important people and events, but also the sights, sounds, and general feel of a historic era. Upcoming living history events in western Massachusetts allow families ample opportunity to learn experientially and through immersion about all sorts of history. Covering topics like immigration, Civil War soldiers, and – of course – the fall harvest in early New England, living history events invite families with children of all ages to experience history in a fascinating new way.

The Clark Institute nailed it with a stunning exhibit, recently opened, “Radical Words: From Magna Carta to the Constitution.” In celebration of this, they are hosting an film series that puts the exhibit in cultural context. The whole package is a wonderful glimpse into history, and an enriching community-based educational experience…

Famed artist Henri Matisse had particular style when it came to the line-work of his drawings. Amazingly you can actually go and see for yourself as Mount Holyoke College Art Museum in South Hadley has landed the work of one of the all-time greats! This is a wonderful opportunity for anyone really, as Matisse has that amazing allure. Arts student will no doubt swoon at the opportunity, and so they should as Matisse was not only a genius but also an artistic trailblazer. A fantastic chance for young kids to be exposed to the original work of a bona fide artistic giant right here in the Pioneer Valley.

Imagine a historic fingerprint that goes back 6,000 years? The Mount Holyoke College Art Museum’s latest exhibition, “The Potter’s Tale: Contextualizing 6,000 Years of Ceramics,” draws the curtain back on some rich historic revelations via pottery!

Ceramics involved a craft directed towards both utilitarian and artistic purpose. Imagine how tools changed over the years and how different cultures influenced different forms at certain periods in history. This new exhibit is a treasure trove of historic insight that awaits all ages. Read on more information on this rare exhibit, and how to get the most from a visit.

Beautiful music is an aural delight. But every now and again you have a special situation where music and place just bind themselves together to create a truly memorable experience. The musical genius of composer Franz Schubert finds subtle and innovative acoustics at the Rotherwas Room at the Mead Museum in Amherst, through a remarkably creative sound installation. The room is the perfect historical ornate setting for masterful classical music that is wonderfully deconstructed through a system of five speakers that each represents a single instrument in a quintet! This is a very rare opportunity for people of all ages to appreciate the timeless genius of classical music and to feel it in a greater historical context. Read on to learn more about the exhibit and what supporting events are happening around it.

Remember the French movie “Amelie,” when Amelie finds the hidden box containing a boy’s memories behind the wall in her bathroom? Something similar happened in Hingham, MA, in 2008, except it was a whole workshop that was discovered! Under vines in a farm property, a New England woodenware and toymaker’s workshop was uncovered, preserved in time. You couldn’t make it up!

Over the next 6 months, in Old Sturbridge Village’s Visitor Center Gallery, an exhibit with the carefully preserved workshop contents will be open to the general public for the first time. Read on to discover why this is such a wonderful learning opportunity in our area, and also how you can maximize your visit to this exhibit.

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