Hello to all SSE followers
February is rearing its wintry head, but thankfully construction inside the Samuel Slater Experience building can continue. The goal is to finish up as much of that as possible during the month and then begin adding the high-tech video components beginning in March.
New Samuel Slater Experience website offers a peak into our history and what to expect
Our new website at is now up. On the home page, check out the “opening trailer” for a quick overview of the way visitors will experience the museum.
Look under Museum Exhibits to see some examples of the many exhibits that will feature Samuel Slater’s place in the history of the American Industrial Revolution and his impact on the town of Webster.
The new website also introduces the cast of characters that tell us that story. This month meet the mill owners and the mill workers. Next month we will add the Thatcher family.
Who’s Who Behind the Scenes
In this section we introduce you to some of the people working on the museum behind the scenes. In the last two newsletter we talked with designer Doug Mund, who explained just how a project as massive and complex as this one, is imagined, created, and finally constructed.
This month we introduce Timothy Prouty, who is the museum’s education consultant, charged with developing all the tools that teachers will need to give their students a history lesson they will never forget.
From the outset, the museum’s overarching goal has been to provide students an interactive, immersive learning experience that brings historical figures and facts to life with high-tech 4D visuals and sound.
Tim’s background in both education and museum work allows him to connect STEM with history. Here is his story.
Meet Timothy Prouty, Education Consultant
Tim began his training in museum work as one of the original Old Sturbridge Village Old Time Youngsters. This began one Friends’ Day when Tim, dressed in costume, assisted his dad, Harris Prouty, demonstrating the preparation of flax for spinning into linen thread and making rope from twine.
At first, Tim was quite shy, but after listening to his dad he began answering questions. By the end of the day, he was enjoying talking to visitors and they enjoyed a child representing the past. This event was so successful the next summer two boys and two girls were costumed and began play- ing games on the green, helping at the farm, stacking firewood and fishing in the mill pond.
This opportunity changed Tim’s life. His dad worked full days at OSV, which meant there was time early and late that he could get in trouble. However, the staff, mostly retirees, kept him busy, pulling the bellows for the blacksmith, pumping the treadle on the wood lathe, finishing pewter spoons, sorting type at the print shop, and many other activities. “It was like having 40 foster grand- parents looking out for him,” Harris said.
Tim became a drummer with the fife and drum militia band, played at Cooperstown and Colonial Williamsburg, and competed at the Fife & Drum Musters in Connecticut. These experiences opened a world of exploration and learning not available for many kids.
When he turned 16, Tim was hired as a relief person, circulating between crafts while interpreters had lunch or took a break. He could cover any demonstration except pottery. “I loved my time at OSV,” he said, describing the work at Yankee Winter Weekends and helping Bob Olsen with his magic show.
The experiences at Old Sturbridge Village helped Tim choose his profession as a technology education teacher and influenced that outcome too. Upon graduation, OSV Crafts Manager Ralph Hodgkinson recommended Tim to the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan. This was 1974 and HFM&GV wanted to ramp up for the nation’s bicentennial in 1976.
Tim became the Assistant Manager of Crafts & Presentation, responsible for transforming static exhibits with push button audio tapes, replacing them with a trained interpreter with the necessary skills. He set up 3-year apprenticeships with annual performance targets. He managed the hiring, special event activities, and film productions, feeling blessed for all the opportunity to build upon his OSV experiences.
His Massachusetts accent made him popular with the PR department. He was called upon to promote specials events on radio and Detroit’s morning television programs. He was selected to guide celebrities around the village. He was featured in People Magazine and soon was promoted to manager, the youngest ever to hold that position.
However, he missed his New England roots and way of life. Eventually he returned home and entered the teaching profession. He spent the next 19 years teaching woods, metals and drafting at Shepherd Hill Regional High School in Dudley.
History was repeated when a friend recommended him for an administrative position at Tantasqua. He returned to Sturbridge, where he was hired and spent the next 11 years as Principal/Director of the Tantasqua Regional Vocational High School. It seemed his life went full circle and brought him back to his beginnings in Sturbridge. He retired from there in 2009.
But his professional career did not stop yet. With two kids facing college tuition, he accepted a position as a technology education teacher at the smallest school in Connecticut. Parish Hill Middle High School became his new challenge. It was difficult returning to the classroom after the technological evolution, but thanks to online tutorials and the ability to build on his previous skills, he was successful. By writing grants, he brought to the program an engineering emphasis on robotics, engineering design, architectural design, computer aided design (CAD) while keeping the traditional wood technology class. Students completing two years of rigorous curricula in his classes earned 3 college credits for Introduction to Engineering and/ or 3 credits in Residential Architecture.
Tim says his time at Parish Hill has been some of the best years. “Our little school with one team beat out schools from Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts in the annual Vex Robotics Competition.” He was awarded Connecticut High School Teacher of the Year for 2019. He decided he would like to retire again on a high note.
But in his heart his dream job was to return to museum work. That goal was realized when the Samuel Slater Experience hired him as Educational Consultant, a new challenge and chance to combine his teaching and museum experience. His responsibility is to provide curricula and education resources to assist teachers in planning their visits to the Samuel Slater Experience.
From the Desk of Tim Prouty, Education Consultant
I am recommending the video listed below, which depicts how industrialization in Great Britain changed the landscape of society, economics, and manufacturing. This 45-minute video is a comprehensive illustration of the effect industrialization had on British lives. Much of it was based on “first person” evidence. Many topics presented here are the same issues of industrialization and manufacturing in America.
Sir Tony Robinson heads to the Quarry Bank Mill in Cheshire, United Kingdom, to explore the true story of the factory workers whose blood, sweat and toil started the Industrial Revolution. He explains how they rose up to start a social change that would ultimately lay the foundations for the country we know today. In this episode, Tony takes a deeper look into Quarry Bank Mill to discover what conditions the men, women and children all had to deal with when they worked there.
Collection Curiosities by Curator Olivia Spratt
This trolley register was generously given to us last year by the Webster-Dudley Historical Society and will be featured in our trolley exhibit on permanent loan. It was found in 2010 in the basement of Ray’s Auto Restoration on Lake Street, which used to be a transfer station for the Worcester & Webster Street Railway. Made by The International Register Co, and patented in 1898, this register would have been used by trolley conductors to process fares and track the number of passengers that boarded and got off at each stop. Keep an eye out for this piece of history in our trolley exhibit.
Is your bicycle a hundred years old?
1920s-40s bicycle, motorcycle, “streetscape” items, old light posts, parking – no parking signs from the 20s-30s. Contact Olivia at email@example.com or call the museum at 508-461-2955.