LOWELL -- Since opening on Oct. 15, 1991, the Tsongas Industrial History Center has welcomed more than 1 million people -- students, teachers and parents -- who learn about Lowell's deep industrial history and take part in hands-on, experimental learning.
The center began its seven-month 20th-anniversary celebration yesterday with a party that highlighted the partnerships that have kept the center going, even in tough economic times. The center is a joint collaboration among the UMass Lowell Graduate School of Education and the Lowell National Historical Park, with the Lowell schools.
"Lowell is truly a place of partnerships," said the center's director, Sheila Kirschbaum. "It's because of this partnership that the bumps in the road are well worth it."
The center offers workshops for students from elementary school through college on the American Industrial Revolution where students take part in hands-on learning, like weaving cloth on a loom or measuring water quality.
Former U.S. Sen. Paul Tsongas led the team that founded the center by filing legislation to create the Lowell National Historical Park.
"Sen. Tsongas believed that to rebuild itself as a thriving city, Lowell had to form economic and educational partnerships," said UMass Lowell Chancellor Marty Meehan. "He also believed that Lowell's landmark status as America's first large-scale industrial city could leverage federal funding for historic preservation projects, in turn attracting state and private investment."
Meehan acknowledged others who worked to create the educational center, including former UMass Lowell Chancellor William Hogan; Donald Pierson, vice provost for graduate education at UMass Lowell; and former Lowell Superintendent of Schools Patrick Mogan.
Tsongas' twin sister, Thaleia Schlesinger, said her brother held the center "very dearly to his heart."
"(The center) says what you can get done and what a difference you can make as a community," she said. "This center is a major part of education in Lowell and across the state."
Meehan said that Congresswoman Niki Tsongas, Paul's wife, could not attend.
Superintendent of Schools Jean Franco talked about the impact that visiting the center has on students.
"This is a place that creates a childhood memory," she said. "When I visit school buildings across the city, children talk about it."
Mayor James Milinazzo said because his daughter is a teacher in Chelmsford, he knows the impact the center has on teachers as well as students.
"The Tsongas Industrial History Center has really grown into being something so important in Greater Lowell," he said.
The anniversary celebrations continue through May.