During March of 2017 Forbes Library, Historic Northampton, and Wistariahurst present the national traveling exhibit States of Incarceration: A National Dialogue of Local Histories in partnership with the Public History Program and the Feinberg Family Distinguished Lecture Series of the Department of History at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Students in the UMass Amherst Public History Program, in collaboration with local community organizers, helped create the traveling exhibition in partnership with with the Humanities Action Lab, a New School-led coalition of 500 university students and formerly incarcerated individuals from 20 cities. The culmination of two years of planning and discussion, the exhibition reflects a national public reckoning with one of the most pressing issues facing our country. States of Incarceration — including the exhibit, designed by Matter Practice, and the web platform, statesofincarceration.org, created by Picture Projects of Brooklyn, NY — launched in New York City in April 2016.

The exhibit will pop up in Holyoke at The Wauregan (420 Dwight St, Holyoke) on Wednesday, March 1 with a celebratory Opening Reception and will be on view every day 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. through March 12. Facilitated group visits to the exhibit in Holyoke can be pre-scheduled. Please fill out this request form and we will contact you regarding scheduling. Exhibit is free and open to all.

The Public History Program and Wistariahurst Museum worked with local translator María José Giménez to create a Spanish-language guidebook to States of Incarceration, making western Massachusetts the first stop in the country at which the exhibit will be accessible to Spanish speakers.

On March 13, the exhibit will open at Forbes Library and Historic Northampton with special programming from 5 – 7 p.m. and will be on view at the two organizations through March 30.

Please note that the pop-up gallery at The Wauregan is not wheelchair accessible but the facilities at Forbes and Historic Northampton are.


soi-257x300States of Incarceration is a national traveling exhibit that was created by over 500 students and others deeply affected by incarceration in 20 cities. They grew up in a United States that incarcerates more of its people, including immigrants, than any country in the world – and at any point in its history. In 2015, they witnessed a new bipartisan consensus that the criminal justice system is broken and the intense conflict over how to fix it.

In 2015, they came together to ask: How did this happen? What new questions does the past challenge us to ask about what is happening now? To find answers, they examined their own communities’ histories. Through courses at 20 universities, local teams shared stories, searched archives, and visited correctional facilities. Each team created one piece of this website.

Together, they created a diverse genealogy of the incarceration generation. It challenges all of us to remember our own past and use the insights of history to shape what happens next.

UMass Amherst’s contribution to the exhibit includes a panel titled “What are Women’s Prisons For?”, which explores the history of women’s jails and prisons in Massachusetts from the 1877 creation of the Framingham Reformatory Prison for Women (now MCI-Framingham), which was one of the nation’s first separate prisons for women, through the construction and expansion of the women’s jail in Chicopee, Mass.

Students also created a website on this history, featuring interviews with local and national women and LGBTQ activists from OutNow, Arise for Social Justice, the Real Cost of Prisons Project, Voices from Inside, Prison Birth Project, and more. The Public History Program and Wistariahurst Museum worked with local translator María José Giménez to create a Spanish-language guidebook to States of Incarceration, making western Massachusetts the first stop at which the exhibit will be accessible to Spanish speakers.

For its staging in western Massachusetts, UMass students and community organizations collaborated to create several additional exhibit components. A bilingual exhibit on how incarceration impacts families in Massachusetts takes a probing look at the rise of incarceration in the Commonwealth and how it impacts our communities. Here, the work of several local groups are showcased, including OutNow, Pa’lante, Prison Birth Project, Prison Policy Initiative, and more. In Holyoke, a photographic exhibit will spotlight Holyoke-based community organizations, created by Wistariahurst Museum. In Northampton, an overview of the history of Northampton jails, researched and developed by UMass students in collaboration with Historic Northampton, will be on display.

Please visit StatesofIncarceration.org to learn more about the exhibit’s development and its journey across the United States.

States of Incarceration is a project of the Humanities Action Lab, a coalition of universities led by The New School working with issue organizations and public spaces to create traveling public projects on the past, present, and future of pressing social issues.

“Divisions over how to move forward may be rooted in divided understanding of how we got here. States of Incarceration brings people together to question how we got here. Tracing our path to mass incarceration can inform solutions. Together, we hope these stories will build a national public memory of the incarceration generation, and a public dialogue on what should happen next.”

— Liz Sevcenko, Director of the Humanities Action Lab.

This project was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, National Endowment for the Humanities, Whiting Foundation, Open Society Foundations, Mellon Foundation, Department of History Feinberg Family Distinguished Lecture Series, University of Massachusetts Amherst Office of Research Development,  and TenLegs.

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