The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, August 31, 2001


'Finding Carlisle' exhibit opens

Life in Carlisle in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries is revealed in a new exhibit opening in the Hollis Room of the Gleason Public Library on Friday, September 8. "Finding Carlisle: People and Places" pulls together archival material from the historical collections of the Town Hall, Gleason Public Library, the Carlisle Historical Society, and Great Brook Farm. The exhibit will be open during library hours until December 31.

The mission of the "Finding Carlisle" project that led to the exhibit was to locate and preserve as many of the town's archival materials as possible. This project was funded in part by a grant from the Documentary Heritage Program of the Massachusetts Historical Records Advisory Board and by the Carlisle Historical Society, with in-kind support from the four participating institutions.

The exhibit features a number of original documents and photocopies that illustrate Carlisle history. For example, one of "Finding Carlisle's" more unusual discoveries was a box from the Town Hall containing the United States Constitution cut up in many small pieces. These scraps of paper were used as a literacy test in the early twentieth century; a potential voter was required to read aloud any five lines of the Constitution to prove his literacy. In fact, records indicate that this test was still in place until 1960 (but it might not have been used as such).

Also on display from the Town Historical Collection is a beautifully handwritten letter dated May 5, 1850, from resident Hiram Blaisdell to his brothers and friends in Carlisle, in which he describes his experiences in the California Gold Rush and his misadventures in Panama. This letter represents a first-hand account of history shared with friends and relatives back home.

From the Great Brook Farm collection comes archival information about cows, including a brochure offering to sell a bull, the son of Great Brook Farm's legendary cow, Prospera who is buried at the farm. Visitors to the exhibit will also see the many ribbons won at fairs and shows by the farm's prize-winning cows and bulls.

The Gleason Public Library was built in 1896, but well before that date an active Carlisle Library Society flourished, operated out of members' homes. The exhibit includes a record book dated 1802 from the Carlisle Library Society, which documents books borrowed and returned -- 94 years before a library building existed.

Key members of the project team are town clerk Sarah Andreassen, Ellen Rauch and Conni Manoli-Skocay of the library, Sarah Brophy and Stephanie Upton of the Carlisle Historical Society, Rebecca Markey of Great Brook Farm State Park, and consulting archivist Melissa Mannon. The exhibit curator is Conni Manoli-Skocay.

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