Last Wednesday I wrote up an accession sheet and scanned the title and signature pages of an old algebra book (at right) donated this past summer by the Whately Historical Society. They donated it to the Hatfield Historical Museum because the name written on the first blank page was “Hattie A. Sanderson” (that’s what it looked like), followed by “Smith Academy, Hatfield, Mass., 1873.” The book was published in 1872, with a worn, but nice-looking leather cover, and has some equations in pencil scribbled on the inside back cover. The book is letterpress printed – meaning it was set with moveable type and leaves an impression on the page where the inked metal letters struck the paper. If you look closely (click on the image), you can see the imprint from the other side of the page -- which is pretty cool!
With just these added bits of information that give some context to her life, I found myself thinking about her in a different light and picturing a high school student not unlike my own son (who’s now a freshman at Smith Academy). But it also left me asking questions.
Did Whately have its own high school? Why did her parents send her to school in Hatfield? How did she get to school? Did it still cost money to attend Smith Academy at that time, and if so, what did it say about her parents’ economic status and what they felt about the importance of education?
The more connections you can make about something, the more interesting it becomes. We have done this often in the Polish Immigration exhibit and Hatfield’s Buried Colonial Village exhibit, but I’d like to expand it to the whole museum. Of course, that takes time, space, and knowing what you have so you can start connecting the dots. Another reason why doing an full inventory of one’s collection is so important!