This article originally appeared in the June 2021 edition of Senior Scope. Article by Seth Thomas. Photo courtesy Spinner Publications.
Organizers for an upcoming art exhibit featuring the history of New Bedford’s Kilburn Mill and its surrounding neighborhood are seeking stories from the public.
Benjamin Cantor-Stone, who’s managing the project, said the art exhibit will be displayed on the third floor at Kilburn Mill, with an opening reception in the works for late August. The exhibit will showcase the history of New Bedford’s textile industry.
He said that while there are other museums in the northeast that highlight the textile industry, many focus the industry’s beginnings. The display at Kilburn Mill will be geared toward the early 20th century, when the mill was built.
“By the early 20th century, you have a lot of technological change, and perhaps more importantly you had a demographic change,” said Cantor-Stone. “At the time of Kilburn Mill’s construction in 1904, much of New Bedford’s population was foreign-born. That substantially changed the workforce dynamics of the town as well as the industry.”
The exhibit will be making use of some material from the New Bedford-based book publisher Spinner Publications, including some artifacts that Spinner has accumulated over the years, as well as ephemera sourced from the basement of Kilburn Mill. That includes machinery, tools and artifacts of daily life.
The project will also incorporate stories from locals who have a connection to the Kilburn Mill and the neighborhood. Family histories can take the form of photographs, written materials, or audio and video recordings.
“We’re investigating the possibility that some of the design elements of the mill were cutting edge at the time and interesting from an architectural and engineering prospective,” Cantor-Stone. “We’re also hoping to see if we can tie in the mill to the big textile worker’s strike in 1928.”
To share your story, you can email Cantor-Stone at firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also contact the Kilburn Mill at 508-990-3500, and tell the receptionist you’re looking to contribute to the Textile Room exhibit. Those who are interested in submitting a story may include their name or remain anonymous.