Lowell Conference on Industrial History

Bob Weible was the staff historian during the formative years of Lowell National Historical Park. Today, he is State Historian of New York and Chief Curator of the New York State Museum. During his Lowell years he was also unofficial Commissioner of a men’s-and-women’s softball league composed of teams from various public agencies, nonprofit organizations, and businesses in Lowell. He was a nifty shortstop and spray hitter with a sky-high on-base percentage. He was also boss-man of the Lowell Conference on Industrial History who made an astute decision to publish the proceedings of the scholarly meetings. Three volumes of essays were released, helping to make Lowell a hub of new research on industrialization. The Conference was co-sponsored by Lowell National Historical Park, UMass Lowell (University of Lowell), and the Lowell Historic Preservation Commission with support from the Lowell Museum and Museum of American Textile History. Following is an excerpt from Bob’s introduction to the second volume of essays.—PM

Robert “Bob” Weible these days in New York.


“…To those of us working in Lowell, the Lowell Conference on Industrial History seemed an ideal means for helping bridge the gap between professional historians and the public. The conference not only exposes university-based scholars to the very public work being done in Lowell, but given the fact that scholarly interpretations of industrial history are continually changing, the Lowell Conference also keeps people in Lowell current with the latest professional research in the field. In effect the Lowell Conference makes its participants all partners in the same Lowell project.

“The Lowell Conference is an annual event which examines a different topic in industrial history each year. The first conference met in 1980 to address ‘The Social Impacts of Industrialization,’ with such speakers as  Oscar Handlin, Stephen Thernstrom, and Thomas Dublin discussing a wide range of topics, from the effects of changing technology on the work experience to the consequences of industrialization for women. In 1981, David Montgomery, John T. Dunlop, and Robert B. Reich were included among conference participants concerned with ‘The Relationship  of Government and Industry in the United States.’ Proceedings from those first two conferences were published in 1981. The present volume includes the main body of works from the next two meetings of the Lowell Conference, meeting which focused on ‘The Arts and Industrialization’ in 1982 and ‘The Industrial City’ in 1983. [Speakers included Gov. Michael Dukakis, U.S. Sen. Paul Tsongas, Congressman James Shannon, Cecilia Tichi, Patricia Hills, Leo Marx, Virginia Yans-McLaughin, Sam Bass Warner Jr., John R. Stilgoe, Richard M. Candee, Heather Huyck, and Laurence F. Gross.] . . . .”

—Robert Weible, from the Introduction to Essays from the Lowell Conference on Industrial History, 1982 and 1983 (Museum of American Textile History, 1985).


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