If Historic Deerfield focused solely on preservation and stewardship, and not visitor engagement, it would be a like a stage and props with no play. Telling the stories that bring the houses and objects to life is at the core of Historic Deerfield’s mission. We experience this authentic place with all of our senses. We see and hear and feel the lives of the real people whose stories make up the Deerfield experience. Their stories are told in the actual place where they happened, with the same smells of farmland and hearth, and often with the very objects that were used in and around Deerfield. We offer a feeling of tangible connection to the American story.
Deerfield combines a strong sense of place, with compelling, relevant stories that help visitors, students, researchers, and others gain a new understanding of the world today.
Historic Deerfield seeks to raise $5 million to build upon its research-based, innovative programming in new and exciting ways designed to expand audiences and deepen visitor engagement. These include:
Special, theatre-based events and tours that tell the many stories of Deerfield, such as the successful play Getting Ready for a Winter’s Ball, set in 1803. With The Street as a luminary-lit stage, visitors move from location to location, participating with actors as the story unfolds about a much-anticipated celebration, complete with the family and courtship dramas that infuse daily life.
Collaborations with our neighbors, including the Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association (PVMA) in Deerfield and the Five Colleges, Inc. (a consortium of the campuses, faculty, and students of Amherst, Smith, Mount Holyoke, and Hampshire Colleges and University of Massachusetts Amherst) to help tell Deerfield stories—American stories—from more perspectives.
These partnerships will build on past successes, including previous collaborations with PVMA: a joint exhibition on the 1704 Deerfield raid, told from French, English, and Native American viewpoints, and a guide to African-American historic sites, which explores the role of free and enslaved African-Americans in Deerfield and early New England.
Funding will also enable Historic Deerfield to accelerate plans for a joint HD/UMASS Undergraduate Residential Program in New England Culture that would bring students to Deerfield for a semester-long, immersive, live-in experience, fostering a much deeper understanding of the subtleties of early New England life than would ever be possible through occasional site-visits and tours.
Additional enhancements include:
Fresh approaches to interpretation that connect past with present. Through the introduction of musical events that mix historical and contemporary performances, character actors interacting with visitors, and a new app that will enhance touring options along The Street, Historic Deerfield will share stories that reach across the centuries, helping to expand our sense of connection to America’s history while informing our understanding of the present day.
Distance learning programs such as webcasts and online symposia that will take Deerfield across the nation and the world, further engaging students, scholars, historians, and others in important conversations about the past and how the lessons learned can relate to the present.
Increased use of social media to share Deerfield’s stories more broadly, and expanded marketing initiatives to draw more visitors to Deerfield to directly experience these American stories.
Deerfield’s combination of an authentic setting, documented historic houses, remarkable collections, and real-life stories about the American past makes it a unique national treasure. With more dynamic visitor engagement and expanded learning opportunities, Historic Deerfield can bring more people into the magic and power of other times.