About the MHS

Making the Past Last

Founded in 1791, the Massachusetts Historical Society is an invaluable resource for American history, life, and culture. Its extraordinary collections tell the story of America through millions of rare and unique documents, artifacts, and irreplaceable national treasures.

Accessible To All

As the nation’s first historical society, the MHS strives to enhance the understanding of our nation’s past and its connection to the present, demonstrating that history is not just a series of events that happened to individuals long ago but is integral to the fabric of our daily lives. Its collections are accessible to anyone with an interest in American history. Beyond research, the MHS offers many ways for the public to enjoy its collections including engaging programs, thought-provoking exhibitions, publications, seminars, and teacher workshops.

National Treasures

The MHS collections are particularly well-known for extensive holdings of personal papers from three presidents: John Adams, John Quincy Adams, and Thomas Jefferson. The collections contain many famous documents including Paul Revere's own account of his famous ride and Abigail Adams’s famous "Remember the Ladies” letter to John Adams, where she advocates for the rights of women to be included in the founding of the United States. In addition, the MHS holds several imprints of the Declaration of Independence, and Thomas Jefferson's architectural drawings, among many other treasures.

Upcoming Events

Early American History Seminar

Panel: Nathaniel Hawthorne and Friends

2May 5:15PM 2017

Gould’s essay, “Hawthorne and the State of War,” reads the under-studied travel memoir Our Old Home (1863) as a meditation on the important—and, ...

Brown Bag

Politics of Civil War Governance: A Conversation about Lincoln and his Loyal Governors during the ...

3May 12:00PM 2017

Engle will discuss his most recent book, Gathering to Save a Nation: Lincoln and the Union’s War Governors (2016) and how it led to his current project, a ...

Cooking Boston

Cooking Boston: Where to Go

3May 6:00PM 2017
There will be a pre-talk reception at 5:30pm.

Cooking Boston: Where to Go This series of programs explores the culinary history of Boston and the impact the city has had on the American diet. In the first half of ...

From our Blog

Reference Man in Catalog Land : Describing publications in the George ...

We here in the Library Reader Services department at the MHS concern ourselves with the user/researcher side of our collections. This job allows us to continually sharpen the skills of reference ...

“Legible only to myself”: John Quincy Adams’s Shorthand

A line in John Quincy Adams’s 1788 diary is the earliest example of his use of English poet John Byrom’s shorthand system. The system replaces words with symbols to make writing faster and ...

Read more from our blog

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