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Summer season at Big E kicked off at Storrowton

Reenact 19th Century colonial life in the New England area at Storrowton Village Museum. Reminder Publications photo submitted
By Katelyn Gendron List, Staff Writer

WEST SPRINGFIELD Contrary to popular belief one does not need a time machine in order to relive colonial New England. All one needs to do is put on their bonnet and dress, or hat and trousers and visit Storrowton Village Museum this summer at Eastern States Exposition.

Opening day at Storrowton Village Museum on June 16 officially kicks off the summer season at the Big E. It is a day filled with free guided tours of the historic buildings from costumed interpreters and free activities for people of all ages, according to Dennis Picard, director of the Storrowton Village Museum.

"It's a great chance for people to learn about what life was like in New England 150 years ago and the challenges that people dealt with," Picard said. "We can't assume that everyone went about their lives in the same way."

Visitors will have the opportunity to tour the various restored buildings, shops, and gardens such as the meetinghouse, schoolhouse, blacksmith shop, the Eddy law office, the John Potter Mansion, the Gilbert farmstead, and Aunt Helen's garden.

All of the buildings were brought to the museum by Helen Storrow during the late 1920s, according to Picard. The buildings range in age with the oldest built in 1767 and the newest in the museum built in 1852. The Potter Mansion includes authentic straw mattresses with rope foundations, cooking utensils, blacksmith and tradesman tools and quill pens.

According to Noreen Tassinari, director of marketing at the Big E, the activities of opening day will include cooking in the Gilbert Farmstead, tending the forge in the blacksmith shop, learning lessons in the schoolhouse and an old time fiddler performing colonial tunes.

There has always been a June grand opening, according to Tassinari, because it's a great time for families to visit now that school is finished. Many students from elementary schools in the area have already been exposed to the museum because of the fieldtrips that are hosted by Storrowton Village Museum, and they are now encouraged to bring their parents and siblings.

Sophia Broga, a third grade teacher at the Mary Lynch Elementary School in Springfield, took her class last week on a fully interactive, hands-on fieldtrip to Storrowton Village Museum.

Every year after learning about colonial times in their social studies class Broga brings her students to the museum so that they may each live a day-in-the-life of a colonial child.

According to Broga, her students were provided with authentic dress, bonnets, dresses and aprons for the girls, and hats, trousers and shirts for the boys. Once the students were dressed they are separated by gender and taken on guided interactive tours.

In the morning the girls were taken to dip candles and make homemade applesauce with a "new" invention called the peeler. Then they learned how to sew and make beanbags and were taught how to play beanbag games that colonial children used to play.

The boys learned how to sew shoes with a cobbler, write purchase agreements when shopping at the general store, and then worked alongside a blacksmith.

The day was concluded with a lesson at the schoolhouse where Broga's students learned the history of the schoolhouse and participated in a lesson where they used their slates to complete work rather than today's pen and paper methods.

"I would recommend that families go because it's absolutely well worth it," Broga said. "Every year that I go the kids in my class tell me that it's the best fieldtrip they've ever been on."