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Shays’ Rebellion & the Making of a Nation: From Revolution to Constitution

Springfield Technical Community College
Lynne Spichiger, Project Manager (in-house), in conjunction with Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association and Project Team (

The Shays' Rebellion & the Making of a Nation: From Revolution to Constitution website was created by Springfield Technical Community College in partnership with the Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association (PVMA) using funding provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH).  The website provides an opportunity for 21st century Americans to better understand the nature of the U.S. Constitution and how it came to be by providing a digitally interactive window into the pivotal period from the end of the Revolution up to the creation of the Constitution, a forgotten but crucial period in the nation's founding when the survival of the republican experiment was neither foreordained, nor assured.

Shays' Rebellion occurred on the site of the Springfield Armory, established in 1777 as the principal armory for the northern states during the War for Independence. In 1787, it was the site of an armed rebellion by a group of disaffected farmers and ex-Continental soldiers, led by former Continental Army officer Daniel Shays, protesting eastern merchant loan practices.  The rebels were beaten back by a militia of 4,400 soldiers who defended the arsenal.

The interactive elements of the Shays' Rebellion website include the Primary Source Database, which creates an interactive multimedia approach to discovering the rich resource of primary historical sources, including an interactive "magic lens" function.  Users on the website are able to interact with these primary sources in a series of Interactive Thematic Activities, based on primary source materials that engage visitors in a hands-on and concrete exploration of the thematic content.  Users can click on individual primary sources embedded within each activity, as well as a series of Character Narratives, to further explore the content within the context of Rebellion and its impact on constitutional law.  The voices of real people illustrate a variety of conflicting points of view, and the Interactive Thematic Activities and primary source materials will help illuminate key ideas which led to Shays' Rebellion and the consequences of the Rebellion's aftermath on the formation of a strong federal-based U.S. Constitution.

The Shays' Rebellion & the Making of a Nation: From Revolution to Constitution website was recently awarded $10,000 from the Massachusetts Foundation for the Humanities for the creation of two interactive exhibit displays, to be housed at the Connecticut Valley Historical Museum of the Springfield Museums and the Springfield Armory National Historic Site museum.  The two pedestal kiosks will house computers displaying the Shays' Rebellion website with which visitors can interact.  Visitors to the museums will be able to interact with on-site artifacts alongside the cutting-edge Shays' Rebellion website in order to learn more about the times and context surrounding Shays' Rebellion, an event of national historical significance.  These two kiosk displays are tentatively scheduled to open in June 2009.

At the Connecticut Valley Historical Museum, there will be an estimated 5 artifacts placed on indefinite loan from the Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association, from whose collection over 75% of the artifacts used on the Shays' Rebellion website come.  These artifacts will be displayed next to the interactive Shays' Rebellion website kiosk.

At the Springfield Armory National Historical Site, the historic Wait Monument, an engraved sandstone road marker located on the Armory grounds during the time of Shays' Rebellion (and still bearing bullet holes and marks from being used as cover during the fight) will be prominently displayed on the museum floor, in proximity to a small collection of firearms from the Armory already on display at the Armory alongside the new Shays' Rebellion website kiosk.

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