From Abenakis using writing to defend their homeland and Lucy Terry, regarded as the first African-American poet, to Nobel Prize winners, early ‘firsts’ in publishing and printing, Brattleboro and its environs have a rich and varied history of words. Many visitors and residents are unaware of this history because it has been scattered and obscure. “Peoples, Places, and History of Words in Brattleboro, Vermont” will explore how this history is embedded in particular places and reveal these treasures through accessible, collaborative activities, events and products including a book on the town’s printing/publishing history and creative podcast maps for walking, biking and driving tours around Brattleboro. The Project will thus stimulate tourism and wider interest in Brattleboro while enhancing community connections to the history and places we share.
The Project is seeking to match a four-year, $150,000 National Endowment for the Humanities ‘Creating Humanities Communities’ grant, which will amplify and enrich the work of partnering institutions: Marlboro College, the Brattleboro Literary Festival, the Brattleboro Historical Society, Brooks Memorial Library and Write Action. The Windham Southeast Educational Supervisory Union, Downtown Brattleboro Alliance and The Commons, among others, are key collaborators.
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NOTABLE ASPECTS of the PROJECT
Community and classroom-based ‘Research Pods’ in Brattleboro and surrounding rural communities will explore key places in the history of words guided by scholars of history, philosophy, literature, religion (Indigenous and imported), American jurisprudence and other disciplines to stimulate a deeper appreciation of the places we share. An estimated maximum of 50 research groups (30 classrooms plus 20 other community groups) will focus on particular places in or near Brattleboro associated with writers, writing, and printing. Research pods will produce handmade books, audio, maps and other creative output that will be edited and used to produce podcasts linked with plaques and pillars at sites in and around Brattleboro. These self-guided walking, biking, and driving tours accessed and maintained through the Brattleboro.com website.
A book about the history of printing and publishing in Brattleboro is planned for publication in 2019. The history will be written by local authors and will tell the story of the many important and interesting people, businesses and collaborative efforts that made Brattleboro known far and wide as a “print town.” A series of lectures and exhibitions at Brooks Memorial Library starting October 2017 will contribute to the book and build to a culminating exhibition of handmade books, printing and publishing artifacts at the Brattleboro Museum and Art Center in 2020.
MILES — a mobile, interactive, literary exhibition space — will be launched at the October 2017 Brattleboro Literary Festival and will each year bring different literary exhibitions focused on the life, work and times into underserved areas and directly to schools. At the end of each school year students and their families, teachers, scholars and all research pod participants will attend large celebratory community picnics to share the work. Student work will also be highlighted at each Brattleboro Literary Festival and through podcasts already being created through the Brattleboro Historical Society.
By highlighting the writings and histories of peoples, including those who have been marginalized, we believe the collaborative research and sharing of humanities work will help make Brattleboro a more inclusive place where everyone who lives or visits here feels a greater sense of belonging and pride. A deeper appreciation of the written word, and all the social systems, language, education, capital, technology, and material goods necessary to support a culture of writing, will help us be more thoughtful in our own use of the written and spoken word, and more attentive to the power of words.
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