Andover residents are divided on whether the town should replace its seal, according to survey results discussed by the Town Seal Review Committee at its July 21 meeting.
Committee member Elaine Clements shared results from a survey of more than 800 Andover residents that showed the split, with most of the comments from people opposed to changing the seal saying the seal represented the town’s history and should be preserved. The respondents who said the seal should be changed and left comments most frequently said the seal contained an image that is an insensitive, racial stereotype, according to the review of the results by Clements.
Committee Chair Karen Van Welden-Herman spoke with a historian who said the depiction of an indigenous person was factually wrong, as he was not fully clothed, and that he looked like a “real estate agent pointing out all the tracts of land he just gave away.” The historian, Welden-Herman said, suggested the town avoid depicting people if it chooses to change the seal and that he was willing to advise the committee.
The committee has met seven times since it was formed last October with the goal of making recommendations to the select board and Town Meeting on changing or keeping the seal. Any change would need to be approved by Town Meeting.
Massachusetts has required towns to have a seal since 1899 and the Andover town seal has been changed four times since the first one was adopted in 1855. The town adopted its current seal, which is based on artwork from Andover’s 250th anniversary in 1896, in 1951, according to a history of the seal on the town’s Website.
Town Manager Andrew Flanagan suggested the committee plan a public meeting to discuss the issue this fall, noting it could be a “difficult discussion.” The committee will begin planing the public forum, including dates, location and presentations, at its next meeting on Aug. 18.