Boott Cotton Mills Museum

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Located in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, the Boott Cotton Mills Museum is the main attraction at the Lowell National Historical Park. About 30 miles Northwest of Boston, Lowell has a population of 106,519 based on the 2010 census. However, the Census Bureau estimated in 2014 that the population has since grown to about 109,945. The percentage of people under 18 is about 23.7%, while the percentage of people over the age of 65 is just 10.1%. Approximately 6.8% of the population are African-Americans and 17.3% are Hispanic or Latino. Lowell has thirteen private schools, three public schools, and two universities (UMass Lowell and Middlesex Community College). The two universities alone serve approximately 27,000 college students. The largest employers in Lowell are Lowell General Hospital (3,621), UMass Lowell (2,071), Verizon (1,500), and Market Basket (700).

Lowell is home to seven different museums, most of which relate to Lowell’s textile history. As part of the Lowell National Historic Park, this museum is run by Park Rangers and is funded by the National Park Service. What sets the Boott Cotton Mills Museum apart from the other museums in Lowell is its use of interactive exhibits and visitor access to a fully functional “Weave Room.” At the start of their tour, visitors have the opportunity to experience the looms make fabric as they tour through the “Weave Room.” Afterwards, visitors are walked through the entire fabric making process. From growing the cotton to the production of textiles, interactive activities are placed at each stage of the textile making process to ensure maximum visitor participation.

The Boott Cotton Mill Museum has both internal and external needs. Internally, while the museum is doing really well attracting roughly 520,452 visitors annually, there is always room for improvement. In addition to attracting more visitors, the museum may want to consider updating the video introducing the history of the Lowell Textile Industries. As for the external needs, the museum needs to better engage the growing college and Hispanic communities. Currently, the most prominent visitors are students under the age of 18 and whites over the age of 50.

As it has already been established as a National Historical Site, the Boott Cotton Mills Museum remains the most important historical site relating to the Industrial Revolution in America. Started by American businessman Francis Cabot Lowell, the city of Lowell was planned to be the an industrial city built around the Merrimack River. Covering about 141 acres, the Lowell textile industry set the blueprints for future American industrial cities to follow. The design and scale of this industrial city marked the beginning of the Industrial Revolution that would change American culture in the nineteenth century. As part of the Lowell National Historical Site, the Boott Cotton Mills Museum is a beautiful representation of technological ingenuity and the determination of immigrant laborers. The museum creates an atmosphere of respect and inclusion for to today’s immigrants who face similar struggles the mill workers did during the Industrial Revolution. Following its interpretive vision, the Boott Cotton Mill Museum can expand its educational opportunities for university students and Hispanics. Given that university students and Hispanics are the two largest growing groups in Lowell, it is imperative to develop programs that meet their needs.

For the university students, the museum should establish better partnerships with professors to create lectures and other public programming that can help students with their studies. One way to establish this relationship is to have students help create these programs in exchange for academic credit. Since many students live in other buildings that used to be part of the milling industry complex, students who partner with the museum could establish almost daily communication with Park Rangers. As for the Hispanic population, the museum needs to develop programming that relates to today’s immigrants. Although there are current exhibits regarding modern day labor in the textile industry, no related programming is conducted. Based on the great sense of community within the Hispanic population, the museum should promote community based events such as a festival that celebrates all the ethnicities that have comprised Lowell’s immigrant population throughout its entire history.

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