Next Cowley?

Dick’s tweets and postings from Charles Cowley’s “Illustrated History of Lowell” (1868) raise the following questions: When is the next general history of Lowell due and what form will it take? In the 19th century, an illustrated history was “high-tech” in its own way. On top of that, Cowley gave us a narrative that began figuratively with “once upon a time.” The most recent single-author history of the city is Frederick W. Coburn’s “A History of Lowell and Its People” (1920). We’ve had multi-author histories like “Cotton Was King” (1975) and “The Continuing Revolution” (1991), but those lack a unifying narrative and are more like history mosaics with the chapter-pieces made by different authors. Those volumes have many gaps. It’s now 90 years since Coburn’s history. Who will be our 21st-century Herodotus?


4 Responses to Next Cowley?

  1. Marie says:

    Paul You have posed a very good question. Who will be the chronicler or the narrator? Any candidates?

  2. PaulM says:

    And what about the form? Is it a book, a documentary film, an interactive web-based media production composed of podcast-ible packages?

  3. Bob Forrant says:

    Cannot claim the Herodotus mantle that’s for sure! But, together with Christoph Strobel in the UMass Lowell History Department, we will shortly have completed a rather detailed look at Lowell’s immigration history with a particular focus on the last thirty years of both the nineteenth and twentieth centuries thanks to a terrific grant from the National Park. This project also includes minihistories of eighteen buildings in the city and a soon to be published Loom Press book which contains nine interviews we did with recent immigrants an overview essay, and local poetry. Look for both on the Lowell cultural highway in late fall.

    There is also now an exciting mural depiction of Lowell history done by Lowell high school students under the direction of the Revolving Museum supported with a generous grant from the UMass president’s office. Eighteen panels depict particularly late twentieth century history and are available for showing through the Revolving Museum.

    We are hoping to have an event in late fall to release the historical study and display the murals – stay tuned!

  4. DickH says:

    I’m not sure who will write the history, but while we wait we should all strive to digitize as much information as possible about Lowell both now and in year’s past. By making this raw material of history readily (and freely) available on the internet, we lower the threshold for future historians, both popular and academic, to share their interpretations with us.

    In a few years as voice recognition software gets even better, I foresee us running a quarter century of saved videos of city council meetings, LTC programs and cable TV news programs through a powerful computer running such software yielding searchable transcripts. The research possibilities of such material are amazing.