History Drawn with Light
In 1840, almost as soon as photography arrived in America, the Massachusetts Historical Society began to collect images of notable figures, artifacts, and landscapes recorded with "the pencil of nature." Examples of these early photographs will be on display through 3 June, 2011 in the Society's exhibition, History Drawn with Light: Early Photographs from the Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society. Visitors can view one of Boston's oldest photographs, taken of the Old Feather Store by MHS Member Francis C. Gray, together with portraits and views by early daguerreotype artists such as Albert S. Southworth and Josiah J. Hawes, and the later work of professional and amateur photographers who documented 19th-century American history as it unfolded. The exhibition is free and open to the public, Monday through Saturday, 1 PM to 4 PM.
Read more in a recent review of the exhibition History Framed by New Technology by Mark Feeney of the Boston Globe.
| Published: Tuesday, 29 March, 2011, 8:00 AM
Quincys Take Center Stage
Our fall exhibit, Josiah Quincy: A Lost Hero of the Revolution officially opens on Saturday, and we hope you'll come by and see what we have on display. The show will be open to the public without charge, 1:00-4:00 p.m., Monday-Saturday, 23 October 2010 - 22 January 2011, except from 24 December 2010 - 1 January 2011, when the Historical Society is closed for a brief holiday season respite.k
Our October Object of the Month complements the exhibit: it's a watercolor of Col. Samuel Miller Quincy (1833-1887) in his Civil War uniform. Col. Quincy was the great-grandson of Josiah Quincy, Jr. "The Patriot," and edited his ancestor's legal notes (while stationed at Port Hudson during the Civil War, as Peter Drummey notes in the Object essay). He later served as "acting mayor" of New Orleans.
The exhibit celebrates the publication by the Colonial Society of Massachusetts of the final two volumes of Portrait of a Patriot: The Major Political and Legal Papers of Josiah Quincy Junior, edited by Daniel R. Coquillette and Neil Longley York, the first modern edition of the complete works of Josiah Quincy, Jr. (1744-1775). A brilliant young attorney - he was only twenty-six when, with John Adams, he defended the British soldiers in the Boston Massacre Trials - Quincy was an ardent spokesman for the cause of liberty in Revolutionary Massachusetts, although his early death has made him less familiar today than many of his contemporaries.
The exhibition focuses on the Historical Society's manuscript sources for the new Colonial Society volumes, including Quincy's political and legal commonplace books, travel journals (he was a harshly critical observer of slavery in the American South), and the law reports that his great-grandson, Samuel Miller Quincy edited. In the exhibition, Josiah Quincy, Jr.'s personal papers will be shown in the context of the MHS's enormous archive of Quincy family papers--letters, diaries, drawings, artifacts, and paintings that document eight generations of this extraordinary family--including the watercolor portrait of Samuel M. Quincy on display as our Object of the Month.
| Published: Wednesday, 20 October, 2010, 8:09 AM
All That Glitters: Coins & Medals on Display
Our new exhibit, "Precious Metals: From Au to Zn" opens today (Monday, 2 August), with public hours from 1-4 p.m. Monday-Saturday through September. Special guest curator John W. Adams and MHS Curator Anne E. Bentley have mounted this show to highlight many of the rare and unique pieces in the collection. A sampling of what will be on view includes the New England three pence and shilling, the 1776 Massachusetts Pine Tree copper penny, a piece of original Massachusetts Bay stock, the February 1690/1 Massachusetts Bill of Credit, the full set of Washington-Webster silver Comitia Americana medals, Indian Peace Medals of colonial and federal issue, a number of Washington medals from the Baker series, and some fascinating pieces from the Vernon medal series.
"Precious Metals" is designed to complement the American Numismatics Association's World's Fair of Money, to be held 10-14 August at the Hynes Convention Center.
I had the chance to view the exhibit this morning, and it's really something to see (not to mention by far the shiniest exhibit I've ever seen at MHS). Do stop by and take a look.
| Published: Monday, 2 August, 2010, 8:33 AM
We've got a full calendar of special events over the next month or so, which I thought I'd just highlight so you can mark your calendars. We hope to see you often!
On Monday, 22 March our new exhibit opens: "'A More Interior Revolution': Elizabeth Peabody, Margaret Fuller, and the Women of the American Renaissance" will be available for viewing Monday through Saturday from 1-4 p.m., and will be up through 30 June. Guest curator Megan Marshall has selected letters and journals written by Fuller and Peabody, together with writings and works of art created by other women who participated in the literary renaissance in New England between 1830 and Fuller's death in 1850. The exhibition draws upon the collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society and the Concord Free Public Library. You can find more information on the exhibit here.
Some events associated with the show include a special preview of the show for MHS members and fellows (more info here), and two public gallery talks: "The Lost Letters of Margaret Fuller" by Stephen T. Riley Librarian Peter Drummey will be held on Saturday, 27 March, at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. as part of the MHS Annual Open House. On Friday, 23 April, at 2 p.m., Leslie Perrin Wilson, Curator of the William Munroe Special Collections at the Concord Free Public Library, will give a talk entitled "'No Worthless Books'": Elizabeth Peabody's Foreign Library and Bookstore, 1840-1852." The MHS also will sponsor a three-day conference, Margaret Fuller and Her Circles, 8-10 April 2010. For information on the conference program, please visit the conference webpage. The opening keynote for the Fuller conference, "'The Measure of my Footprint': Margaret Fuller's Unfinished Revolution" will be delivered by Mary Kelley at 6 p.m. on Thursday, 8 April, and is free and open to the public.
I mentioned the Open House above: we do hope you'll join us on Saturday, 27 March from 10 a.m. - 3 p.m. for the exhibit talks (11 a.m. and 1 p.m.) or for guided tours of the MHS building (10 a.m., 12 p.m., 2 p.m.). You can learn more about MHS programs and events, become a member, and enjoy some special refreshments.
And if you've been following along with John Quincy Adams' tweets from Russia (or even if you haven't) we hope you'll join us for a talk by author Michael O'Brien on Wednesday, 31 March. Mr. O'Brien's new book is Mrs. Adams in Winter: A Journey in the Last Days of Napoleon (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2010) about Louisa Catherine Adams' trek across Europe in early 1815. Refreshments will be served at 5:30 p.m., and the talk will start at 6 p.m. Reservations for this event are requested; please go here for more information or to submit a reservation.
| Published: Tuesday, 9 March, 2010, 8:35 AM
Remembering John Brown
On the 150th anniversary of John Brown's execution (2 December 1859), a reminder that you can visit our current exhibition, "John Brown: Martyr to Freedom or American Terrorist - Or Both?" through 23 December, Monday - Saturday from 1-4 p.m. The exhibit includes personal papers, photographs, broadsides, engravings, weapons, and artifacts that illuminate Brown's life together with evidence of the continuing arguments about the morality and meaning of his actions.
And since there are a number of interesting columns about Brown and his legacy in the newspapers today I thought I'd link to those: at History News Network, David Blight's essay "'He Knew How to Die": John Brown on the Gallows, December 2, 1859" examines the difficult lessons of Brown's life and actions, concluding "John Brown should confound and trouble us. Martyrs are made by history; people choose their martyrs just as we choose to define good and evil. And we will be forever making and unmaking John Brown as Americans face not only their own racial past, but the ever changing reputation of violence in the present."
In the New York Times, Tony Horwitz calls Brown's raid "The 9/11 of 1859," and points out parallels he sees between Brown's raid and the attacks made on 11 September 2001 (and between Brown's trial and the upcoming trial of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed).
Also in the Times, David Reynolds argues in "Freedom's Martyr" that Brown should be remembered as an "American hero," and suggests that Virginia governor Tim Kaine and President Barack Obama should posthumously pardon Brown.
| Published: Wednesday, 2 December, 2009, 9:05 AM