September 24, 2022

Steps & Stages

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The Recorder – LAVA Center launches community history website

Published: 1/30/2022 11:11:36 AM

Modified: 1/30/2022 11:10:07 AM

GREENFIELD – Despite a snowstorm postponing its in-person launch event, Local Access to Valley Arts, better known as The LAVA Center, officially unveiled its ECHO Greenfield website Saturday, which features historical resources and projects about the city of Greenfield.

Accessible at, the website is a collection of various community projects and historical contributions from both professional and amateur historians as they search for the lesser-known histories of the city and people of Greenfield, while encouraging the community to get involved in their own research. The ECHO project, which stands for Exploring and Creating Histories Ourselves, kicked off last summer with several events exploring the history of Greenfield, including ties to the Underground Railroad and Indigenous peoples’ stories.

“This is the initial offering,” said ECHO Assistant Director Jan Maher. “We’re hoping that this will not just be a resource in some fixed and finished form, but a community dialogue.”

Maher said the goal is to “continue to build a database of stories” around the history of Greenfield to present people with an easy-to-access archive of historical documents and presentations, allowing people to “view history effectively as a lay historian.”

“We are each a repository of history,” Maher said of the community impact on the project. “Learning how to do oral histories and express our own histories is an important sub-thread of this project.”

Maher’s husband, fellow Assistant Director Doug Selwyn, said the ECHO program is important because history can often change the future.

“Sharing history as a community seems important,” Selwyn said. “Recognizing as makers of history, what we do today, shapes what happens next.”

Maher added the ECHO project is also a chance to explore the histories of those that may have been overlooked in the past.

“There’s a lot of history that was either never secured in previous generations because people’s stories were not considered important or it’s buried,” Maher said. “We want this to be a project that continues to complexify our history.”

Each ECHO project is accompanied by some form of presentation, extra information links and suggestions on how to practice that bit of historical research, so everyone can learn how to talk about and present history. A key aspect of these presentations, however, is in the way topics are presented. Maher said many of the projects are put together in creative formats because The LAVA Center is focused on local arts.

“We are that intersection of scholarly research and creative expression of that research,” Maher said.

From here, Maher said the ECHO project will continue to host additional seminars and presentations when more funding is received.

“We’ll be having a bit of a hiatus in new programming,” Maher said. “We’re hoping to get funding secured to carry it forward.”

The LAVA Center will host the website’s rescheduled launch event on Feb. 5, at 1 p.m. The event will consist of a display and discussion about the website, its features and how people can contribute to it as community historians.

Chris Larabee can be reached at [email protected] or 413-930-4081.