Local Resources

My task for this week is finding out what local archives exist.

I discovered that my college library is home to an archive of information about the college’s history, and it is also home to The Hoosac Valley Collection for Local History. I believe that the Hoosac Valley collection will be the most useful.

I also made the delightful discovery that I know the archives supervisor, Linda. I worked at the library last year so I feel quite comfortable speaking with her. This also made me remember that I have done some archival work at my job for the library. It was mostly some sorting, organizing, and relabeling, but any experience is helpful.


Some quick internet browsing led me to discover that there are several other local history archives located in the North Adams public library, which should be easy enough to access.


One collection in particular caught my eye as it pertains to the Hoosac Tunnel. The Hoosac Tunnel was a (for that time) prodigious construction project involving many explosions and deaths that eventually led to the tunnel’s completion and use as a major rail line through the Berkshires. This tunnel and the creation of it, featured prominently in the economy and local history of the area from around 1800 and onward, which is why I feel that this archive may be helpful.

I also found that the library keeps a lot of genealogy information on site, which may be helpful if we need or want to research individuals.

As I opened my archives search up to the state level, I found this interesting site that has links for several archives in each state and descriptive details about the type of information one can expect to find there.


I found the state level archives. Their website is very basic and just plain weird looking! I tried searching for North Adams specifically, but only found some area maps. I did find that they have a collection of ship passenger manifests that may be useful. Overall I don’t think I’ll be able to use this archive very much because it’s in Boston, which is about two hours from my college.


My archive search has been fairly successful, and now I’m better aware of the historical resources in the area.



Immigration Versus Migration


Adam Goodman, “Nation of Migrants, Historians of Migration,” Journal of American Ethnic History, Vol. 34, No. 4 (Summer 2015): 7-16.

Goodman’s article describes how the concept of America as a nation of immigrants was created and continually reinforced, and why this concept is false. He points out that America has frequently chosen to exclude groups, such as Asians, African Americans, and Native Americans (to name a few), from the immigration story. He recognizes that there has been a new trend among scholars in recent years to use migration instead of immigration. Immigration has always been and continues to be a highly politicized topic, so migration may be “safer”. Migration can also include those groups that are commonly excluded from the rather whitewashed melting pot of America. He also believes that using the term “migration” will encourage people to think of the movements of humans without adhering to the idea of nation state borders, thereby normalizing and depoliticizing migration. He hopes that this will enable scholars to better analyze patterns of migration to and from different countries, and understand the history of the United States and the people that migrate through it.

Goodman’s article added to my knowledge of migration patterns through US History, specifically that so many of those that come to the US do not necessarily remain here permanently, but return to their country of origin.

I can’t believe I somehow made it through 14 years of education without this concept being introduced to me.

Donna Gabaccia, “‘Is Everywhere No Where?’ Nomads, Nations, and the Immigrant Paradigm of American History,” Journal of American History, Vol. 86, No. 3 (December 1999): 1115-34

Gabaccia discusses many of the same concepts as Goodman, but also relates them back to her personal field of study on Italian migration. Gabaccia pokes another hole in the “America as a nation of immigrants” story by pointing out that many other countries in the Americas also experience flows of migration from across the Atlantic. Many other countries can make the same claim. Gabaccia goes on to discuss the different attitudes towards migrants and migration history that several other countries have. She explains how the current ideas about migration in the US have been formed so differently than other countries due to the US’s history of institutionalized racism and slavery, and that the “immigration paradigm” divides the story of migration based on race, with racial minorities and non whites in general being excluded. Gabaccia encourages the reader to use migration instead of immigration, and to focus less on the countries and more on the people and cultures.

I had previously never considered that other countries have similar migration histories, but treat them in such different ways, to create a different effect or image.

Gary Gerstle, American Crucible: Race and Nation in the Twentieth Century (2nd ed., Princeton University Press, 2017)

Gerstle opens with explaining how the “American Melting Pot” or “crucible” idea took hold due to the desire to believe that America could be a country based on shared political ideas of freedom, equality, and democracy, but that the dream of a unified America is foiled by  a long history of racial nationalism that still divides the country today. These ideas are so ingrained that they date back to the Constitution. Gerstle goes on to discuss famous liberals who have ostensibly championed racial equality and civic nationalism while sometimes reinforcing racialist tendencies through their speech and policies. He describes how Theodore Roosevelt championed the American Melting Pot, believing that mixing different races and nationalities created more successful countries, but at the same time believed some races (such as Asians) should be excluded due to their “inferiority”. Gerstle also describes how civic nationalism gone awry led to political radicalism, and how many politically radical immigrants were subjected to mistreatment for failing to conform. Gerstle goes on to describe how nation states came to be, and how war is often used as a way to boost civic nationalism.

The passage Gerstle writes about Roosevelt was a real eyeopener for me in that I had no idea that Roosevelt was such a hypocritical racist.  Gerstle’s writing on the formation of nation states and how we should stop valuing these imaginary borders between people that are just a social construct really resonated with me. Nations are nothing more than lines drawn in the sand, to understand the history of human migration we must remember that that is all they are and be willing to see beyond them.

Hello Internet

Greetings! This is my blog dedicated to this semester’s project about migration in America. The students of the class have been tasked with selecting a particular group or focal point in our local area and researching it.  I attend school at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in North Adams, MA. This small town was once a booming center of industry, home to many factories, and an important transportation checkpoint for goods. After many of the factories shut down, North Adams was forced to evolve into a college town and a haven for artists. It is home to MCLA as well as Mass Moca (one of the largest museums of modern art in America).

In learning about the history of the area, several groups came to my attention. One the largest groups were the Irish factory workers. There was also the group of Chinese strikebreakers, but I have discounted these since very few remained in the area for more than two years. I also considered a more modern focus, revolving around Mass Moca. Who comes to the area to create or view art, and who remains? However, this would be incredibly hard to research as Mass Moca was only established in the 1990s. My  partner expressed a desire to research the Irish factory workers, and believes that they will be the easiest group to research.

I want to keep several questions in mind this semester; who are the people of my area? Why did they come here? Did they make a permanent home here? How did the number of migrants vary over time? What cultural effects did their migration have of my area? Who are their descendants? What echos of the past can be detected in modern North Adams?