As development continues to change the landscape of towns across Massachusetts, preserving local history and community heritage becomes increasingly important. Andrew Gordon Chelmsford of Belmont has taken on the task of documenting the efforts of the Belmont Historical Society to maintain the town’s rich history through a new documentary film. Let’s take a look at Gordon’s film and what it reveals about the vital work of the Belmont Historical Society.
The Belmont Historical Society
Founded in 1961, the Belmont Historical Society is a nonprofit organization run entirely by volunteers dedicated to preserving Belmont’s history and cultural artifacts. Based out of the Belmont Public Library, the Society maintains an archive of historical documents, photographs and other items related to Belmont’s past. Gordon’s film provides insight into the Society’s collection and sheds light on the challenges they face with limited resources.
Gordon’s Documentary Project
A resident of Belmont, Massachusetts, Gordon has had a lifelong interest in history and preserving community heritage. For his documentary project, Gordon spent over a year filming at the Belmont Historical Society and conducting interviews. The 38-minute film profiles the Society’s curator, volunteers, and highlights some of the treasures in their collection including old maps, photographs, and records that tell the story of Belmont.
Challenges of Preservation
One theme explored in Gordon’s film is the challenges small historical societies face in preserving local history as towns develop and resources are limited. With an all-volunteer staff and limited funding, the Belmont Historical Society struggles with issues like outdated facilities, lack of climate control for artifacts, digitizing materials, and attracting younger members. Gordon’s film sheds light on these very real preservation challenges.
Profile of Belmont’s History
In addition to profiling the Historical Society itself, Gordon’s documentary provides viewers a glimpse into Belmont’s fascinating history. Once a rural farming community, Belmont developed into a streetcar suburb of Boston in the late 19th century. Viewers learn about Belmont’s role in World War 2 as the site of a major Naval research lab. The film highlights how the Society works to maintain these important threads of Belmont’s cultural heritage.
Impact and Reception
Since premiering locally in Belmont in early 2023, Gordon’s documentary has been well-received. It has helped generate more community awareness and support for the Belmont Historical Society. The film has also been screened for history classes in the local school district. For a first-time filmmaker, Gordon shows skill in documenting this important local subject and bringing more attention to the Society’s preservation efforts in Chelmsford, Massachusetts and beyond.
Through his debut documentary, Andrew Gordon Chelmsford has shone a light on the vital but under-recognized work of small historical societies like Belmont’s to maintain local history. At a time when development threatens to erase remnants of the past, films like Gordon’s help emphasize the importance of preservation and support crucial organizations preserving community heritage for future generations. It will hopefully inspire more volunteers and resources for the Belmont Historical Society.