|By Danielle Paine|
Reminder Assistant Editor
HOLYOKE The History Channel has recently awarded nearly $10,000 to save Holyoke's Puerto Rican history.
In a collaboration with the Wistariahurst Museum, 15 YouthBuild students are using the Save Our History grant funds to create a traveling multi-media exhibit titled, "Celebrating the History of Puerto Ricans in Holyoke."
This one-year undertaking will also fill community service requirements for the YouthBuild students, a GED preparation program of Nueva Esperanza.
"The kids in the program actually came up with the idea of doing their history, the history of Puerto Rican migration," explained Curator of Wistariahurst Museum, Kate Thibodeau. "Most of Holyoke's population is Puerto Rican, why do we not have anything about their history."
The History Channel will be on hand to document the June 1 and 2 opening of the month-long exhibit at Wistariahurst. In addition to being one of 27 groups to receive this large grant, Holyoke was chosen as one of ten to be documented live, possibly for broadcast.
So far, the students have taken measurements for the exhibit space, designed a project logo and have begun researching and interviewing local Puerto Ricans for multi-media presentations.
"The most important part of getting this grant is giving these students the opportunity to explore their own history," Thibodeau said. "They are realizing how their own family's history is part of local and national history and this gives them a chance to finally say something."
When asked why she thought their idea was chosen to be part of this national grant, Thibodeau said, "It just hasn't been done yet. We have found no real documentation beyond family history and local organizations."
When the June exhibit leaves the museum, Thibodeau hopes that it's mobile sections will be displayed at Open Square, the Holyoke mall, local schools, and the Holyoke Community College library.
Youthbuild students are already making waves among local organizations and artists who are joining to support and participate in the project. The welcoming attitude of the community has eased the student's efforts in gathering personal collections of photographs, newspaper clippings and oral histories. Several area Latino artists have also expressed interest in helping to develop the exhibit.
In order to gage their success in raising awareness of Puerto Rican History, the students created survey questions for the public to answer before and after seeing the final project. Sample questions include, "Could you describe how and when Puerto Rico became part of the United States?" and "Can you name the groups of people that came together to create Puerto
For more information or to participate in the survey, log onto www.wistariahurst.org or call 413-322-5660.