October 20, 2023 – The Essex National Heritage Commission (Essex Heritage), a non-profit that manages and provides numerous programs preserving and enhancing Essex County’s historic, natural and cultural places, welcomed business and community leaders from around Essex County to its Annual Fall Meeting on Thursday, October 12 at Meredith Farm in Topsfield. A welcome to the farm was given by Meredith Farm owner and EBSCO Information Services CEO, Tim Collins. The business portion of the session focused on the threat of climate change and how Essex Heritage programming has been addressing this difficult topic through education and awareness. Northeastern University Professor Thomas Starr also presented about his public art project “Remembrance of Climate Futures”. Remarks were heard from Topsfield Town Administrator Kevin Harutunian and State Senator Bruce Tarr. The Commission also announced its newly elected Commissioners and presented its 2023 Essex Heritage Pioneer in Partnership Awards and Special Recognition Award.

New Commissioners Elected

Essex Heritage is governed by a 18-member Board of Trustees and supported by over 100 Commissioners who live and/or work within Essex County. These Essex Heritage Commissioners serve as representatives of community organizations, educational institutions, and historic, cultural and natural resources of the region. “Our local Commissioners represent a variety of institutions across the Heritage Area and serve an important role as ambassadors and advocates for this region,” said CEO, Annie C. Harris. “Essex Heritage is grateful for the support of these new Commissioners as partners in promoting the unique assets of Essex County.”

The following individuals were elected to serve the Essex National Heritage Commission:

New Commissioners, 2023-2026

  • Tess McColgan, Executive Director of Discover Gloucester
  • Hanna Mogensen, Coastal Resource Planner, Merrimack Valley Planning Commission
  • Val Perini, Education Manager, The Trustees
  • Jay Salois, Founder, VRtical Media

Special Recognition Awards

As leaders of heritage organizations and supporters of the Essex National Heritage Area, Essex Heritage honors those who have made a professional or personal commitment to the heritage work in this region and thanks them for their service.

The following individual was identified as 2023 Special Recognition Award Recipient:

  1. Thomas Starr for his work to raise awareness about the local climate crisis, specifically for his public art project “Remembrance of Climate Futures”. Thomas Starr, Professor of Graphic and Information Design at Northeastern University, created a series of small signs that describe how the landscape might change in the coming decades. Remembrance of Climate Futures is a series of site-specific installations that addresses the urgent civic issue of climate change by using real data maps to predict the local effects of climate change on people’s lives and their communities. The small signs posted throughout local cities and towns contain a QR code and enlist time travel narratives (future or past) to create a sense of empowerment and feeling that an action may be taken to alter the future. The goal is to increase personal responsibility and promote mitigation efforts while building public support and demand for institutional climate change initiatives. Read more here: https://www.untoldpossibilities.org/remembranceofclimatefutures

Pioneer in Partnership Awards

Each year, Essex Heritage presents Pioneer in Partnership Awards to individuals and organizations who exemplify the commission’s spirit of collaboration. The award recognizes those who build partnerships and celebrate the nationally significant places that form the Essex National Heritage Area.

The following projects were identified as 2023 Pioneer in Partnership Award Recipients:

  1. The Hard History Project with Salem Maritime National Historic Site and Lynn Public Schools:

This award recognizes the partnership between the Hard History Project” at Salem Maritime National Historic Site, represented by Maryann Zujewski and Nora Halloran, and Lynn Public Schools teacher, Casey Silot. Their collaborative project brings stories of slavery to light by exploring how to teach this history with local examples, place-based experiences, and primary sources.

Hard History helps Salem Maritime tell more inclusive stories with an audience-centered approach, treating history as an “ongoing discovery process” where new generations incorporate new perspectives and build their own relevancy. In classroom and park programs, students identify the through-lines in history to the present day and examine historical content through an equity and social justice lens. The project engages students with historical narratives of Black agency and stories that move beyond trauma to examine empowerment. Examples include narratives of enslaved peoples’ civic engagement, community life, cultural practices, and resistance.

  1. “Somos Latinos: Our Journey to Lawrence & Beyond /Nuestro Viaje a Lawrence y Más” exhibit with Lawrence History Center, Lawrence Heritage State Park, Elevated Thought, and Lawrence Community Members:  

This award recognizes a partnership between Lawrence History Center, Friends of Lawrence Heritage State Park, Elevated Thought, and members of the Lawrence community, who worked together to create the public exhibit documenting the history of Latino immigration in the city that was first put on display at the Lawrence Heritage State Park Visitor Center in June 2023. Sara Morin Barth, director of the community content team and current president of Lawrence History Center; Susan Grabski, director of Lawrence History Center and board treasurer of the Friends of Lawrence Heritage State Park; and nine other community members conducted extensive archival research and utilized local oral histories to select quotes, stories, and images to tell this rich history. Ashley Rosario, graphic designer from Elevated Thought, then poured curated content into visual displays that beautifully convey the experiences of community members.

The exhibit traces how people from such places as Puerto Rico, Cuba, Guatemala, and the Dominican Republic came to the city to find work, education, and better lives for their families. This project reflects both challenging times in this history as well as the beauty and vitality of Latino heritage, as recounted by Lawrencians themselves. The exhibit is in English and Spanish, with both languages receiving equal emphasis. It is currently traveling in the region to expand its reach, after which it will return to the Lawrence Heritage State Park.