Hitchcock’s Deerfield Days Highlighted in New Exhibition

August 30, 2017

Academy students can experience a classroom setting from a bygone era at a new exhibit curated by the Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association. A room on the first floor of the Memorial Hall Museum has been transformed to resemble one of the original classrooms in Deerfield’s 1798 school building as part of the exhibition Astronomy, Geology, and Dino Tracks! Oh my!  Edward and Orra Hitchcock and Early Natural Sciences. 

The exhibition covers the breadth of scholarship that Edward and Orra Hitchcock contributed to the natural sciences in the early 19th century, with a collaboration that began when they met at Deerfield Academy in 1813. Edward served as principal of the Academy from 1814-1818 and went on to serve as the first state geologist for Massachusetts and third president of Amherst College. Orra taught natural sciences, painting, and drawing at the Academy from 1813-1818. It was during this time that she created the painted Herbarium, a 64-page album of watercolors depicting Edward ’s native plant collection of 175 local flower and grass specimens.

The long-term exhibition features several artifacts from the Academy’s archives: Orra’s original botanical watercolors and a facsimile of the entire Herbarium; ornamental arts by Orra’s female pupils at Deerfield Academy; and natural history specimens from the Academy’s early museum. The exhibit also showcases brass astronomical equipment similar to what was used by the Hitchcocks while at Deerfield Academy.

Astronomy, Geology, and Dino Tracks! Oh my! will be on view until October 31 2018. Memorial Hall Museum, 8 Memorial Street, Deerfield, MA, is open weekends only through May 28; then Tuesday through Sunday, 11 am–4:30 pm, May 31 to October 29. Deerfield Academy students can explore this and other exhibits at the Memorial Hall Museum free of charge. Admission for adults is $6, and $3 for youth and students age 6 – 21. For more information, call 413-774-7476, ext. 10, or visit deerfield-ma.org.