Initiative Showcases Lowell’s Contributions to the American Story
From working a loom or role-playing as a 19th-century immigrant to testing water wheels and building miniature canal systems, thousands of schoolchildren each year learn about Lowell through the interactive educational programs provided by the Tsongas Industrial History Center.
Now, the center has made a bit of history of its own, marking its 30th anniversary Thursday with an event that united UMass Lowell, Lowell National Historical Park, city leaders and elected officials at the university’s Bellegarde Boathouse on the banks of the Merrimack River.
The backdrop could not have been more appropriate. Among other programming, the center educates K-12 students and teachers about the river and how it powered the textile mills that made Lowell the birthplace of the American Industrial Revolution. A partnership between UMass Lowell’s School of Education and the National Park Service at Lowell National Historical Park, the center has taught nearly 1.5 million schoolchildren and teachers across the country so far, through lessons offered both online and in person at the Boott Cotton Mills Museum in Lowell, and environmental education opportunities along the Merrimack River.
“The Tsongas Industrial History Center celebrates the ingenuity and entrepreneurial spirit that have been central to Lowell – and UMass Lowell – since the 19th century. We’re proud to partner with the National Park to help tell the story about Lowell’s industrial past, contribute to its vibrant present and help create its high-tech future,” said UMass Lowell Chancellor Julie Chen.
Joining in the celebration were Lowell National Historical Park Superintendent Juliet Galonska, state Rep. Vanna Howard, Lowell Mayor Sokhary Chau and City Councilor Paul Ratha Yem, among others. A representative of state Sen. Edward Kennedy presented the center with a proclamation commemorating the event.
The center’s curriculum has evolved over the years to meet the needs of the populations it serves. Leveraging Lowell’s history and resources provided by the national park, the center offers student field trips, lessons and teacher workshops that incorporate hands-on activities to enliven the study of history, literature, art, science, technology and engineering. Programs include professional development workshops for teachers, summer camp sessions for young students and specialized offerings for university students, faculty and staff.
During the heart of the pandemic, the center innovated new ways to bring its hands-on, place-based learning online. Now, the center provides both virtual and in-person programs. On the drawing board in the coming year are new programs that focus on civics education, equity and justice, and environmental sustainability, according to Sheila Kirschbaum, the center’s director.
“The power of experiential education can be transformative. Visitors tell us years later how the center’s activities have stayed with them, influenced their thinking, even changed their career path. We look forward to continuing to make a difference in the 30 years to come,” she said.
The Tsongas Industrial History Center grew out of the late U.S. Sen. Paul Tsongas’ efforts to revitalize Lowell, in part by recognizing its special place in U.S. history. In 1978, Tsongas introduced federal legislation establishing Lowell National Historical Park, the first national park to focus on industrial heritage. In 1985, the U.S. Senate approved the creation of the Paul E. Tsongas Industrial History Center, which opened inside Boott Mill No. 6 in Lowell after the building’s renovation.
For more about the center’s mission and programs, visit www.uml.edu/tsongas.
UMass Lowell is a national research university located on a high-energy campus in the heart of a global community. The university offers its students bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in business, education, engineering, fine arts, health, humanities, sciences and social sciences. UMass Lowell delivers high-quality educational programs, vigorous hands-on learning and personal attention from leading faculty and staff, all of which prepare graduates to be leaders in their communities and around the globe. www.uml.edu