Cider Doughnuts

This is a strange roundabout way for me to thank the Mitchell House intern for all her hard work at the Mitchell House and the MMA for the summer of 2018.  Kelly Bernatzky just entered her senior year at Vassar College this month.  She came to the MMA via the MMA-Vassar College Fellowship that is funded by a Vassar alum and Nantucket resident for many years to help continue to foster the connection between our two organizations – one that we have had since the founding of the MMA in 1902.  Kelly is from western Massachusetts.

During her Mitchell House orientation, as we made our way to several other island historic sites for her to get a better idea in a very short time about what Nantucket and its history entails, we chatted as we walked.  Both about work and Nantucket, but also in a get to know you sort of way.  At some pointed, I professed my undying love for Atkins Cider Donuts.  I graduated from Mt. Holyoke College and any fall meeting or dorm activity or gathering also featured cider donuts and cider.  In fact, parents could order Atkins Exam packages for us during exams – but it was always minus the donuts as they used to only make them in the fall.  Now they make them all the time.  Shipping is a bit cost prohibitive on the donuts but oh are they delicious and to me, none compare.

Well, Kelly’s mother and uncle came for a visit and on a Monday morning in June, and I was presented with two bags of cider donuts.  I was so excited that it was a bit embarrassing.  I am happy to report that I was able to thank the donut carrier in person – and on this blog want to make another thank you!  Yum!

I have already eaten all the donuts, sorry – though I did share with Kelly.  In fact, they sat by my desk all day and I had SERIOUS will power in the fact that I ate only one!  The smell drove me do-nuts!

Thank you, Kelly – not just for the doughnuts – but a fantastic summer!


We Are Open!

For the season!  Come by for a tour.  Come by to say hello.  Come by to meet this year’s Mitchell House intern, Sabrina Smith, a 2017 graduate of Mount Holyoke College, who is already hard at work on several projects and eager to share.  Come and check out the baby camlet and infant cap passed down through the Mitchell family since the 1700s and which was donated just last July.


Emily Dickinson


At a young age, I was given a book of Emily Dickinson’s poems illustrated specifically for a child.  It was given to me by friends of my parents – they had all been good friends in high school.  Their daughter and I became friends as well.  We always celebrated New Year’s together by staying at one another’s houses overnight – swapping the place each year.  That ended when the couple divorced and slowly over time, we did not see them much anymore.    I still have that book however.  It left an impression on me – particularly “I’m Nobody!  Who are you?”

Emily Dickinson is of course infamous for being a so-called recluse . . . which is not true.  Her poetry continues to be studied and her life to inspire books – fiction and non-fiction.  Currently, a new exhibition has opened at the Morgan Library and Museum in New York City

( )

spurring on more interest in her life and her work.  Being a Mount Holyoke College graduate, I also have a further interest in her – though she only attended for about a semester.  One year while I was at MHC, my Mother and I visited her home, which is a beautiful historic house museum in Amherst, Massachusetts.

You probably wonder why I mention her here.  While their paths did not cross, I am most assured in my mind that Maria Mitchell would have read her poetry and Emily Dickinson would be most aware of Maria Mitchell and her accomplishments.  Dickinson would have been 17 when Maria discovered her comet and as one who attended a woman’s college (called seminary then), she would have been greatly aware of the creation of Vassar Female College and Maria’s work there.  Dickinson even had a copy of The Marble Fawn by Nathaniel Hawthorne – a volume that refers to a lady scientist – Maria being the inspiration.

I am happy to say that, today, we have been reunited to some extent with the people I mentioned above when first opening this post.  My Mom and her friend are in regular contact with one another and this friend has been an enormous emotional support.  The couple’s daughter and I talk sporadically as well.  She now passes her son’s clothes down to my son and funnily enough, we realized that over the year’s we have been visiting the same spot in Maine and staying in the exact same bed and breakfast but just two months apart!  Moreover, every time over the years when I look at that book of poetry, I think of them.  Funny how Emily has kept me connected.


Lyon Pride

Ivory miniature of Mary Lyon, founder of Mt. Holyoke College.

Ivory miniature of Mary Lyon, founder of Mt. Holyoke College.

Mary Lyon was the founder of Mount Holyoke Female Seminary.  Frankly, she wanted it to be a college but given the times, she had a hard time convincing people (read: funders) of that.  Thus, the word “seminary” was chosen and the school opened in 1837 becoming the first women’s college in the country.  In 1861, the three-year course of study became four and then in 1888, the college was given its collegiate status.  The development of women’s colleges is a fascinating subject – cloistered as they were away from the hustle and bustle – and influences! – of towns and menfolk (of course!).  They were modeled in their design and basic daily running after insane asylums of the early nineteenth century – I kid you not.  I could go on but that is not the focus of this blog’s subject matter today.

There is a little arguing over just which college was first for women but it has been agreed that Wellesley and Vassar Colleges both modeled themselves after MHC as it is referred to by us alums – yes, I graduated from MHC.  There have been quite a few MHCers who have crossed the threshold at MMA I am happy to say – via internships in all the departments, fellowships that helped to begin the Astronomy Department back in the early twentieth century, and staff positions.

Mary Lyon smiled a bit more back in August when new Director of Natural Science, Emily Goldstein Murphy, joined the MMA.  Emily graduated several moons (pun intended) after I did from MHC but nevertheless that sisterhood spans generations and I am happy to have her join   us – as I am sure Maria Mitchell and Mary Lyon would be.

Welcome, Emily!  Roar!


Stalking The Wild-Eyed Curator

JNLF Emptying Wing Journal StacksI realized after I took this “selfie” (oh, what will they think of us in 200 years?), that my eyes were a little wild and crazed looking. Perhaps a bit of stress as I took a look at the 6 remaining shelves of bound and unbound periodicals that date back to the very late 19th century and all the way through the early 21st century! Astronomy, observatories, natural science, birds, plants. You name it, the MMA has subscribed to it or been gifted these periodicals for over 100 years. The Education interns very nicely helped me over the course of perhaps 12 hours, emptying all the outside wall shelves. Now, I have the ones in the middle. Pull from the shelves, box, label, carry up the stairs and carry into the other basement.

Why am I doing all of this? Because the conservation work on the exterior of the Library will begin soon. It is being funded – about $250,000.00 worth – by the Community Preservation Act, a grant I applied for on behalf of the MMA last fall. Happily, the Community Preservation Committee (Thank you, CPC!) funded the entire exterior conservation work and we hope to start with the roof in a few weeks. Then the mason will come and this will require cutting into the building to make the repairs thus, everything has to come out. The Special Collections have all been cleaned and moved to a climate controlled space – also funded by a grant. And now, it’s time for the periodicals or journals as we more commonly refer to them. Once moved, I will spend the winter going through them to make sure there is nothing stuck in them (ephemera) and that people have not written anything (important notes, etc.) in the margins. We will be keeping some, but there are others that will likely find a new home with other institutions. If there are articles in any of them by or about MMA or Nantucket, they will be kept. And the few that date to the nineteenth century, we will keep in the Special Collection as I believe these to be family items.

P.S. Please note that while I am wearing a Vassar t-shirt (in honor of Maria and the MMA-Vassar connections of past and present), I am a proud Mt. Holyoke graduate! I would never be forgiven if I did not note that!


Telescopes For Sale!

Telescope for Mt. Holyoke CollegeAs I continue to clean the Special Collection books (ALMOST there!), I keep coming over all sorts of fun things. This is from the back of an astronomy journal. It is an advertisement for a telescope maker – J.W. Fecker of Pittsburg – but what I found personally interesting was that they featured the telescope they had built for my alma mater – Mount Holyoke College. The old Mt. Holyoke observatory, known as the John Payson Williston Observatory, is across the street from the main part of campus and it was wonderful. The attached workspace/classroom was of the same 19th century period as the dome which rotated on old cannon balls! Ah, recycling. It still houses an Alvan Clark – Maria Mitchell had an Alvan Clark – which was part of the original equipment but it may be that the Fecker is gone now. The Fecker Company got bought out but it was in business for about 120 years starting in the 1880s.