EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

October 4, 2013

Day of the Dead contest to put life in Pelham history

By John Toole

---- — PELHAM — A Day of the Dead photo contest will put teenagers into town cemeteries this month.

But they won’t be looking for zombies or vampires.

Pelham Public Library staffers hope the contest gives students an appreciation for their history and that of the town.

“This lets kids go explore the graveyard,” adult services librarian Annie Seiler said. “What kid does not want to do that?”

Kids ages 11 to 18 will photograph headstones, then research the history behind the deceased, be it an ancestor or someone from Pelham’s days of yore.

Contestants will write 200-word narratives about their subjects and what they did for Pelham.

“All the stories will be displayed in the library, and people can come by and read them,” Seiler said.

It’s generating excitement among the young library patrons.

“A lot of them have expressed interest in this already,” Seiler said. “Kids like spooky stuff and they like to take photographs.”

The project fit in with the library’s year-long theme of exploring world culture.

This month the library is focusing on Mexico, which celebrates the Day of the Dead as a time to remember departed relatives and friends.

It’s also the month of Halloween, leading up to the Feast of All Saints, Seiler said.

“This all ties in very well,” she said. “And it lets the kids do something cool. We hope they will develop a greater appreciation for Pelham’s history and the history of Southern New Hampshire.”

The library is encouraging students to use the Pelham Historical Society’s resources.

Spike Hayes, curator for the society, has no doubt they will learn about Pelham history and the people behind it.

“I think it’s a great idea to get kids involved in the history of the town,” Hayes said.

He has spoken to students through the years about the town’s history.

He said he’s planning to help Pelham Memorial School social studies teacher Jamie Bryant with a separate student project this year involving photographing headstones.

“It will be interesting,” Hayes said of the contest. “They are going to find out who was who and who really built Pelham during its agrarian days.”

Students may find the graves of soldiers who served during the Revolution or Civil War, as well as town founders, he said.

“Pelham had the highest ranking woman to go ashore on D-Day,” he said of the World War II invasion.

Bryant also was pleased to see the library contest.

“It’s absolutely great,” Bryant said.

She has engaged her students in cemetery field work for several years.

This year, they will photograph headstones and decipher engravings. She said they plan to create Web pages featuring their work.

Students will have the chance to win prizes in the library contest. The library is still determining what, but they may include Day of the Dead T-shirts.

“This is a great idea to learn about the people of the town and what was their role,” Hayes said. “I think the kids could learn a lot.”