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Buckingham Elementary students get history lesson

(Nov. 19, 2015) Plans for a new public mural for the north-facing wall of the Berlin visitor’s center date back several years, when members of the Arts & Entertainment Committee began to scout for locations.
This week, work on the mural’s concept began in Melissa Reid’s art classroom at Buckingham Elementary School, as second and third-grade students learned about the early history of Berlin.
The first in a planned five-panel series of sections that will make up the mural will focus on that history.
Carol Rose, a director at the Calvin B. Taylor House Museum in Berlin, was a guest lecturer at the school and presented a slide program on the town’s history to students throughout the week.  
“We are … starting at the very beginning and concentrating on 1825 to the very early 1900s, when industry really first started,” Rose said.
The lecture included information on the first Buckingham school, built in the 1700’s, along with several landmark businesses, starting with Orlando Harrison and the beginning of Berlin’s peach industry boom in the 1820s.
At one time, Harrison’s orchard was the largest in the entire world, Rose said. She also discussed the Berlin Veneer Works, which made fruit baskets that were then sold to the Harrisons and used to transport peaches up and down the East Coast.
“We also wanted to highlight the fact that there are many businesses started in that time period that are still in existence today, and a lot them are in the same family,” Rose said. “We just want to let them know the rich history of a very small town.”
Reid said she was impressed with her students, adding, “They’ve gotten into it more than I thought they would.”
“I think seeing the pictures of places they recognize, even though the pictures are 100 years old, makes an interesting connection for them,” she said. “When we start talking about local businesses, they see that the places they go have been here for a long time.”
As an example, one of her students is related to the Adkins family, who has been in business in Berlin for more than a century with the Adkins Company hardware stores.
“They start to make that connection between the community they live in now and the idea that there’s a history to that community,” she said.
Robin Tomaselli of the Arts & Entertainment Committee was in the classroom during the presentation.
Tomaselli remembers discussing the mural project with the committee years ago and said it was exciting to see it finally take shape.
“I can barely contain myself,” she said. “The thing to me that is most exciting is that Berlin Arts & Entertainment has tried to work on the public mural project for the last two years now, but this is so much more than a public mural. It is going to tell a story and it’s going to touch every single person in this community, in addition to visitors.
“It’s not just a painting – this is part of children in this community understanding the history of the town that they live in and translating that into artwork, which is such a huge bonus,” she added.
Tomaselli said muralist John Donato, who sat in with the students during the first lecture on Monday, has already started preliminary sketches for the piece.
Once a general concept has been approved, students, led by Donato, will start painting the first panel in January. The Arts & Entertainment Committee will hold a fundraising reception for the second phase in February and Tomaselli said the first panel would be unveiled during the 2nd Friday art stroll in March.