Historic Deerfield offers visitors guided and self-guided tours through 11 museum houses and the old burial ground, a collection of over 2,500 antiques, interactive classes like hearth-cooking and trade demonstrations and other special events. This resource and opportunity encircles our campus, yet only a small number of students and faculty members visit and participate in Historic Deerfield’s offerings.
“We have had a relationship with Deerfield Academy since the founding of the museum, but everyone [at the school] is so busy that we are now trying to make more of an outreach,” said Clare Carlson, the education program coordinator of Historic Deerfield. “The son of Henry and Helen Flint, the founders, went to Deerfield and became close friends with Frank Boyden. The Flints started buying and fixing up the houses on the street. As their gift to the town they allowed all Deerfield residents [including students] to be admitted free of charge.”
This past summer, Mr. Nilsson contacted Carlson for the new faculty to have a tour when they arrived in August. “A large part of Deerfield Academy has to do with its place and identity, so it only made sense that new members get a sense of that,” Nilsson said. “But when you’re a young teenager and you’re so busy, a historical village may not be a place that you are instinctively drawn to.”
Emily Jones ’13 agreed. “I’d say the main reason more people don’t go is time. Unless there is a structured time where we are required to visit Historic Deerfield, most students don’t think about it.”
English teacher Ada Fan teaches two courses that make use of Historic Deerfield, one of the town’s two museums. (The other is the Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association’s Memorial Hall Museum, housed in the original Academy building.) “I love Historic Deerfield. We’re surrounded by all this visible history–it makes sense to take a closer look,” said Ms. Fan.
Jones has had the opportunity to experience Ms. Fan’s class two years in a row. “I loved all of it. One of the main reasons I wanted to take Ms. Fan’s class again is that it is important to her to have us learn about our environment. It really is incredible.”
Ms. Fan’s English classes take regular tours of Historic Deerfield houses. “Before I went on a tour the houses were just there, I wasn’t focused on them at all,” said Carey Danforth ’14, a student in Ms. Fan’s American Illusions. Danforth continued, “Now I have a different perspective.”
John Wagner ’14 is also in the class. “We read the Crucible, and we’re now reading The Scarlet Letter, and the museum house we saw focused on the time period we were reading about to give us a better sense of the books,” said Wagner.
“I feel like everyone throughout their Deerfield career should take a tour at least once,” urged Addie Fulton ’14. “All that history is right at our fingertips.”