Around Amherst: Amherst College scores Historical Society’s Conch Shell Award


Staff Writer

Published: 02-08-2024 8:43 PM

AMHERST — Books associated with Amherst College’s 2021 bicentennial are earning the college the Amherst Historical Society’s annual Arthur F. Kinney Conch Shell Award.

The historical society will present the award during its annual meeting, which begins Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Munson Memorial Library in South Amherst.

Gigi Barnhill, president of the society’s trustees, said the award recognizes important contributions to the preservation and awareness of the town’s history. The award, established by Kinney, takes its name from the conch shell used in the 1700s to call Amherst residents to town meeting and worship.

For 2024, the award recognizes the books associated with the college’s 200th anniversary, including Blair Kamin’s “Amherst College: The Campus Guide,” the Martha Sexton-edited “Amherst in the World,” and Nancy Pick’s “Eye Mind Heart: A View of Amherst College at 200.”

Catherine Epstein, provost for the college, is expected to receive the award, with Pick also in attendance, Barnhill said.

This is the third time the award is being given to an institution, rather than an individual. In 2010, the Amherst 250th Anniversary Committee received the Conch Shell, and in 2016 The Garden Club of Amherst received the award upon its 100th anniversary.

The event also features a talk titled “The Transcendentalists’ Call: Mabel Loomis Todd, the Thoreaus and Emily Dickinson” by Tufts University professor Julie Dobrow.

Dobrow will speak about Loomis Todd, the ways in which she felt Transcendentalists’ call, and how it affected her life and her work. Loomis Todd is best known for editing Emily Dickinson’s poems and a 13-year affair with Dickinson’s older brother, Austin.

Article continues after...

Yesterday's Most Read Articles

Shutesbury Elementary School principal leaving in June after 10 years
Three Amherst Regional Middle School counselors absolved of Title IX offenses
Amherst regional superintendent candidate stresses inclusion, broad expertise
Jena Schwartz: Things I have not said
Next 5-story building cleared to rise in downtown Amherst
Residents seek to balance intersection upgrades with preservation of Sunderland character

During the annual meeting, those who come are invited to share memories of Ed Wilfert, a former member of the Amherst Historical Society board who died in late January.

Wilfert earned the 2014 Conch Shell for his work on the history and evolution of Merchants’ Row in downtown Amherst, and helped create the North Prospect, Lincoln and Sunset Local Historic District.

Housing Authority appointment

A former Amherst Housing Authority member and chairman who opted against seeking reelection last November will be returning to serve as a commissioner.

Michael Burkart, the lone applicant for one of two vacancies, was appointed at a joint meeting of the Town Council and housing commissioners on Monday. He will join board members David Williams, Jim Linfield and Marc Barrette.

During the interview, Burkart said he understands the Amherst Housing Authority is part of a regulated state system and that monthly meetings are devoted to financial oversight.

But he said it’s important to build up connections with other social service agencies to get “people in crisis, people with very little means often” a place to live, either in a property administered by the agency or with a housing voucher. “One of the things I’m bringing to this is the intent to work with the executive director in getting our brand better out into the public,” Burkart said.

In a statement, he wrote, “I am familiar with the challenges they face in terms of health care and navigating the agencies that provide services to low-income individuals. I have enjoyed the kind of working relationship that we developed among ourselves as commissioners.” Burkart was on the board when it hired Executive Director Pamela Rogers.

Absentee ballots

Absentee ballots for the March 5 presidential primary in Massachusetts are available at the town clerk’s office at Town Hall Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Applications for a mailed absentee ballot must be made in writing and must include the voter’s name, voting address, voting precinct, the address to which the ballot should be mailed, contact information and the voter’s signature. The deadline to apply for an absentee ballot by mail is Feb. 27.

Absentee ballots may be voted in person until March 4 at noon.

Portable toilet

A portable toilet was recently placed on a plaza next to a stairwell at the Boltwood parking garage, part of a strategy aimed at addressing problems at the location.

Town Manager Paul Bockelman said a multi-pronged approach involving local social service agencies is underway to address issues, with a permanent restroom expected to be installed at downtown’s Kendrick Park in the spring.

The town is looking at using a standalone restroom, such as a Portland Loo, and is learning more about how one set up in downtown Greenfield last fall is functioning.

‘EV Charging and Solar’

The Energy and Climate Action Committee Education Series is sponsoring “EV Charging and Solar” Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. via Zoom.

Representatives from Sunbug Solar will discuss EV battery storage and solar canopies with Sustainability Director Stephanie Ciccarello, followed by a question-and-answer session.

To participate, go to


TUESDAY: Local Historic District Commission, 3 p.m., Public Shade Tree Committee, 5:30 p.m. and Amherst School Committee, 6:30 p.m.