Students dig deep into Milford history

MILFORD – The Google search engine is a wonderful resource, but by making research so easy it can be the bane of teachers who want their students to do real research.

For her sophomore American studies class on Milford history, teacher Lindsey Bates wanted the kids to go beyond their phones and computers, so she gave them contact information for the Milford Historical Society

‘You need to find people with first-hand experience’,” she told them.

The results of their research is a professional-looking exhibit on the walls and in the glass cases of the school’s gallery.

Divided into small groups, the students researched specific topics of Milford history – its schools, granite quarrying, agriculture, immigration, military service and Oval businesses.

Roberta Douglas, the Society’s secretary, came to the school and “made the past come alive,” Bates said.

Students in the culinary arts program developed a display of cooking implements and recipe books with the help of Douglas, who lent them an antique butter mold, an egg beater and old cookbooks, including

one from the World War II era, for making do without sugar and other rationed items.

Douglas also lent them a civics school book from 1949 and an inkwell she used in school.

The project was on display this month in the school’s gallery, a glassed-walled room that had once been the marketing department’s store.

The project got them beyond the Google search, said Bates, and they built “a wonderful relationship with the Milford Historical Society,” The society lent them old business signs and books and photographs.

Sophomore Colby Drewniak made a “Then and Now” exhibit with his photos of downtown Milford paired with old photos.

The students didn’t know that the Pasta Loft’s building had once been a movie theater, for example.

Sometimes it was a struggle, she said, because they wanted instant answers, but to find the information they needed required them to branch out to primary sources or talk to people.

In the process they learned communication skills, including how to request specific information, how to send a professional email and how to prepare for a one-on-one interview.

“It’s easy to find information digitally, but that’s not always the best way to get information,” said Bates. “We will definitely do it again. It was so rewarding to see the students communicate with adults” and do research with primary sources.

For future projects she expects more community members to come forward with photos and artifacts

“I live here, but I was unaware of the rich history,” she said.

Society President David Palance noted the school project in a recent newsletter, commending members for their “Herculean effort to support the High School American Studies project … that resulted in a mini-museum of borrowed objects at the school with great exposure to our young citizens.”

Charlie Annand, the society’s publicity director, said the students did a nice job and “listened patiently to our stories of ‘I remember when …’ .”

Sophomore Julia Noel’s topic was diversity and she and four other students researched, with the help of the school librarian.

They learned about African American author Harriet Wilson, the Hutchinson Singers and Milford’s role in the abolition movement.

Agriculture was the research subject for Katelyn Garneu and Kassidy Nolan, and their display includes photos and news clippings about Milford farms and a list of farms still operating.

Among the items in their display case is a blueberry harvesting rake resembling bear claws that Roberta Douglas had used as a young girl in Lyndeborough.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100 or