New app reveals hidden history of Pocumtuck people at Historic Deerfield

New app reveals hidden history of Pocumtuck people at Historic Deerfield

Published: 07.03.2023 17:02:27

Modified: 07.03.2023. 17:02:14

DEERFIELD — With the launch of its new mobile app, Historic Deerfield invites the public to learn about Native American history through a walking tour that puts the museum’s Main Street in its original context.

The Historic Deerfield app, now available for free in the Apple App Store and Google Play Store, guides you through the main section of the museum with audio narration and pictures of the history of Deerfield and the Pocumtuck region.

The main purpose of the app, said Barbara Matthews, Public Historian of Historic Deerfield, is to introduce people to an important part of Deerfield’s history that was often glossed over by colonial settlers at each of the 16 stops.

“Sometimes the built environment, the houses or the streetscape, prevents people from accessing that presence or history … if you’re just going from building to building, you’re missing something very important,” Matthews said. “We think it’s an opportunity for people to learn about stories that they might not see or know about.”

The museum worked with a number of collaborators on the project, including Margaret Bruchac, associate professor of anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania, who is also the school’s coordinator of the Native American and Native American Studies Initiative. Historic Deerfield also worked with Dartmouth College professor Colin Calloway, Amherst College historian Lisa Brooks, University of Massachusetts Amherst professor Alice Nash and local historian Peter Thomas.

Bruchac, who was the lead scientist on the project and the app’s narrator, said in a statement that the app recognizes Deerfield as the ancient homeland of the Pocumtucks and emphasizes that despite the apparent dominance of the English presence, the area’s history is greatly influenced by those who first visited here.

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“When considering the history of this place, it’s important to recognize that the town we now call Deerfield is located in the ancient homeland of the native Pocumtuck people,” Bruchac said.

“Despite the imposing presence of 18th and 19th century English architecture and monuments, this is still an indigenous landscape. Even today we can hear the stories, see the evidence of Aboriginal homelands, and even today we can better understand the legacy of the past in Aboriginal memories if we take the time to stop and listen.”

Matthews said Historic Deerfield’s main street is “at the top of an ancient Pocumtuck trail,” and the museum itself is “right in the heart of Pocumtuck’s homeland.” At each stop on the tour, Bruchac’s narration will share the life, culture and history of Pocumtuck, and Matthews hopes the app will spark interest in Native American history.

“It’s a small piece that we can share with visitors in the hope that they will want to learn more and gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of Indigenous history and perspectives,” Matthews said.

The development of the app is the first time Historic Deerfield has ventured into the world of cell phones, and Matthews said it’s an opportunity to open up another way for people to explore history. Although the app is designed for self-driving, its information is accessible from anywhere, meaning those who can’t make the trip to Deerfield can still enjoy getting to know the people of Pocumtuck.

“It opens up other options for people who want to interact with museums or places in a different way,” Matthews said. “Historic Deerfield is excited to be a part of this.”

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Chris Larabee can be reached at [email protected] or 413-930-4081.

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