Telling the Story

Two children, a boy and girl, are dressed as mill workers examining a wad of cotton.
The Lowell Industrial Learning Experience (L.I.L.E.) Program presented by the Lowell National Historical Park and the Tsongas Industrial History Center.


Park staff tell the story through tours, programs, exhibits, and social media inspired by Lowell’s historic buildings, cultural heritage, and artifacts.

The park attempts to present the many stories and perspectives of Lowell’s people. The park’s museums include the images and voices of mill managers and workers, New Englanders and newcomers. Immigrant and refugee communities in Lowell collaborated with the park to develop the Immigrants exhibit in the restored boardinghouse. Ideally, park visitors see themselves as part of the story, too. Today, the park both tells Lowell’s story and has become part of its story.
Dice, game pieces, and cards are displayed on the sites of the board game map, which comprises of square landing spaces with the names of historic sites on them. Atop the game is the box which has a photo of smokestacks and a mill overseeing the river.
As a high school student, David Ouellette, created the Old Mill Town board game to promote Lowell's history and culture.


Different Stories

Lowell’s citizens have always interpreted their own history, beginning with the Lowell Offering, a publication written by Lowell’s early female workers. The Old Residents' Historical Association, now called the Lowell Historical Society, has been instrumental in conserving and disseminating local history since 1868.

Working in this tradition, native Lowellian David Ouellette developed the “Old Mill Town” board game in 1982. This year Ouellette released “Awesomeness is Lowell,” an updated version of his original game. Many educators have used games and other engaging activities to explore Lowell’s past.

A conference poster listing discussion speakers and panels. Featured are bank notes placed in a column. The five dollar bank note reads "Lowell will pay five dollars to the bearer." The one dollar note is from the state of Georgia.
The Meaning of Slavery in the North. The 1993 Lowell Conference on Industrial History explored the contradictions between the North’s strong anti-slavery movements and its industrialists’ reliance on cotton harvested by enslaved workers on Southern plantations.


Education Partnerships

In 1895 the Lowell Textile School was founded to help build a skilled local workforce. The campus of the textile school is now part of the University of Massachusetts Lowell.

The cotton department of the Textile School prepared this cotton education kit below specifically for programs in public schools. The park still sponsors hands-on outreach programs to schools.

The Tsongas Industrial History Center (TIHC) is an education partnership between the University of Massachusetts Lowell College of Education and Lowell National Historical Park.

The TIHC offers unique field-trip programs and teacher workshops that incorporate hands-on activities and the authentic resources of the park. Staffed by UMass Lowell and National Park employees, the Center opened its doors on October 15, 1991. Over 1.3 million students and teachers have visited in the past 27 years.
A woman and man are demonstrating weaving in a room full of power looms.

NPS / David Byers

Living History

The Boott Cotton Mills Museum weave room, the park’s signature living-history exhibit, recreates the look and atmosphere of a textile factory floor. It showcases 88 Draper Model E looms that were first used in Fall River, Massachusetts, and then in Kingsport, Tennessee.

The park purchased them in 1990 and restored them for active use, including production of Boott Mills cotton towels still for sale in the museum shops today. The Northrop bobbin battery displayed here was invented at the Draper Corporation in Hopedale, Massachusetts in the 1890s.

Bobbin batteries were part of a system that automatically fed bobbins into looms, so workers no longer needed to replace empty ones by hand every few minutes. The invention revolutionized the textile industry, and changed the experience of workers, who were now responsible for many more looms at once.
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7 minutes, 21 seconds

Listen to the many voices of the park as we celebrate its forty year history.

Reverse of Lowell quarter depicting a female worker at her loom with the Boott Mills clocktower visible through a window behind her
The Lowell quarter design was created by stamp, coin, and medal artist Joel Iskowitz. The design was transformed into three dimensions by the work of sculptor-engraver Phebe Hemphill.


America the Beautiful Quarters Program

In February 2019, the United States Mint issued the America the Beautiful Quarter honoring Lowell National Historical Park, the first issuance of the year and the 46th coin in the series. The design selected depicts one of Lowell’s “mill girls” operating a power loom in the weave room of a cotton mill. Prominently featured is the large circular bobbin battery that kept the loom’s shuttle supplied with yarn. In the background, a view of the iconic Boott Cotton Mill clock tower and smokestack appears through the window.

The selection was made from among 18 designs submitted by the Mint’s Artistic Infusion Program. All of the designs were reviewed by the Citizen Coinage Advisory Committee, the Commission of Fine Arts, the Governor of Massachusetts, and Lowell National Historical Park. Based on the recommendations, the final design choice was approved by the United States Secretary of the Treasury.

Last updated: August 16, 2019

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