What is this Project all about again?
‘Peoples, Places and History of Words in Brattleboro, Vermont’ (th e Brattleboro Words Project) will work with schools, artists and community leaders to produce the ‘Brattleboro Words Trail’ web-based walking, biking and driving audio tours featuring both renowned and unsung people and places in our rich literary history. The Project will provide an engaging and informative understanding as to why Brattleboro has been recognized as a national and regional creative hub in the literary world. Five local non-profit collaborators (Marlboro College, Brooks Memorial Library, the Brattleboro Historical Society, Brattleboro Literary Festival and Write Action) will manage this three-year project that has support from the National Endowment for the Humanities and local fundraising efforts. M aking this knowledge accessible to the public will enable a deeper and more nuanced understanding of the histories and places that we share, and the importance of writing to this area.
What is the geographic scope of the Brattleboro Word Project?
The Brattleboro Words Project is, as its title suggests, centered on Brattleboro, Vermont. However, Brattleboro has long served as the center to which many of the surrounding towns are connected. Thus, sites in nearby towns can be part of this project, including sites on the New Hampshire side of the Connecticut River. The Brattleboro Words Trail will form concentric circles around the hub and define sites reachable by each mode.
What makes a good site to focus on?
A good site is one that is associated with writing produced in the Brattleboro area, or with writing that sheds light on particularly interesting or relevant aspects of Brattleboro area history. Some connections between the site and writing are obvious, such as the Granite Block building on Main Street, where Clarina Howard Nichols—who fought for women’s rights and the abolition of slavery—published her newspaper, the Windham County Reformer.
Or Thoreau’s descriptions of Mt. Wantastiquet. Or ‘Abijah Prince Road’ where Lucy Terry Prince, the author of the first extant poem by an African American, lived in the mid 1700s. Existing historic markers can also be used, like the stone commemorating a fallen veteran outside the Brattleboro Coop. Or, even particularly compelling writing on a gravestone. But other sites might be less obvious, or there may be a concern about including a private residence on a tour that might bring unwanted visitors. In this case, there may be a public site that could be connected with the writing, or the writer.
How should I choose a site to focus on?
The Brattleboro Words Project has a list of possible sites from which to choose. Or, if there is a site in your community, or a site which you believe will be particularly beneficial pedagogically, or something you are especially interested in, it may be a suitable focus of your research. If you are interested in researching a site that is not on the list, we will give you a form with a few questions to help determine if it fits well with the Brattleboro Words Project.
What kind of writing is relevant to the Brattleboro Words Project?
The writing may be literature, including fiction and poetry, as well as essays, commentary, journalism, jurisprudence, travel writing, letters, diaries, journals, or other documents that can illuminate the lived experience and history of those who have come before us. For instance, Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote extensive letters while a patient at the Wesselhoeft Water Cure, site of the Brattleboro Fire Station, a few years before publishing ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin.’
What kind of disciplinary approaches are suitable for this project?
The Brattleboro Words Project is funded in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities, and a central thrust of the Project is to illuminate these ‘people, places and history of words’ from a variety of humanities frameworks. Thus, writings, writers, and places can be approached through history, literature, philosophy, religion, art, culture, language, social geography, and education. Teacher workshops and direct contact with scholars in these various disciplines, which the Project can help explore and arrange, will help achieve that goal.
What exactly is expected of teachers?
There are two aspects to the work of teachers in the Brattleboro Words Project. The first is doing research with students. The second is putting this research in a form that can be shared with the public. Most of this will be through audio, including readings, music from the era, sound effects and any other creative manifestation of the work. Handmade books are a second main option, but the idea here is to follow student’s interests to creatively communicate something learned; Creating portraits or other works or art, student writing, photographs of the current-day site, dramatic enactments and video may all be featured on the Project’s website as well as the June picnics we hope will bring families, scholars and teachers together to celebrate the year of learning.
What support will teachers/research team leaders receive?
There will be several workshops (during the school year) where teachers will learn and practice how to make and edit short audio, how to do research on local sites using local resources, how to prepare materials for the website and how to make beautiful handmade books. (Attending these workshops will count for continuing education credits.) There will also be ongoing support for teachers as they do the work. Teachers will also receive a stipend and materials budget totaling a maximum of $500 per school, including brand new recording equipment schools will be able to keep that will facilitate a high standard of audio collection. Project leadership will provide guidance and access to scholars who will help illuminate the work. You and your students or team members will be part of a large community effort, and can meet and exchange ideas at the Project’s monthly Roundtable Discussions every second Thursday of the month at 118 Elliot or other locations announced in advance.
How much time should teachers expect to spend on this project?
This depends on the individual teacher. The research should be available in the appropriate form by the end of May for the school year beginning in September. However, if a teacher focuses with more intensity on a particular site, it could be finished earlier). Our hope is that teachersfind a way to make this project work for them in the context of their other goals for the academic year, and there can be many different ways in which could happen. Teachers and research team leaders are encouraged to complete ‘finished’ podcasts that canvary in length, but segments of collected audio are also valuable to the overall effort, as are any finished products you feel are representative of the exploration in which you’ve engaged.