This Week @MHS

While the MHS is closed on Monday, 11 November, there is still a lot planned for the week. Here is a look:

On Tuesday, 12 November, at 5:15 PM: Engineering, Politics, & Dams: John R. Freeman & San Francisco’s Hetch Hetchy Water Supply with Donald C. Jackson, Lafayette College, and comment by Conevery Bolton Valencius, Boston College.San Francisco’s Hetch Hetchy Dam sparked one of America’s first great environmental controversies. This paper explores John R. Freeman’s work as a consulting engineer and his essential role in championing the city’s Sierra Nevada water supply. Freeman was among the most influential engineers of the Progressive Era and his technocratic vision underlay hydraulic projects throughout North America. For good or ill, Freeman’s vision has had a long and enduring legacy, not just for San Francisco but for dams and watersheds nationwide. This is part of the Boston Seminar on Environmental History series. Seminars are free and open to the public.

On Wednesday, November 13, at 12:00 PM: Staged Readings: Parlor Play & Contesting Class in 19th-Century America with Michael D’Alessandro, Duke University. This talk focuses on the curious practice of nineteenth-century parlor theatricals in the United States. In the postbellum years, the country’s evolving middle classes created elaborate sets, donned fancy costumes, and even attempted amateur special effects as a means of entertainment. While they staged these shows in order to create class definition and solidarity, the performances often revealed unforeseen social anxieties and prejudices. This is part of the Brown-bag lunch programBrown-bags are free and open to the public.

On Wednesday, 13 November, at 6:00 PM: Housing as History: the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative & Orchard Gardens with Karilyn Crockett, MIT; Tony Hernandez, Dudley Neighbors, Inc.; and Valerie Shelley, Orchard Gardens Resident Association. By the 1980s the Dudley Square neighborhood of Roxbury was facing significant challenges. Absentee landlords had allowed property to deteriorate, left units vacant, or had used arson to raze buildings and make insurance claims. Facing what many considered insurmountable obstacles, the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative was formed to create a comprehensive plan for “development without displacement.” The first non-governmental organization in America to be granted eminent domain authority, they began purchasing vacant land, protecting affordable housing and creating a community land trust. Meanwhile, the nearby housing project Orchard Park became notorious for crime and drugs. The Orchard Park Tenants Association lobbied for years for improvements and by the mid-1990s began to see a path forward partnering with the police and using community organizing to reduce crime and linking the redevelopment to the new federal HOPE VI program which was meant to revitalize the worst housing projects in America. HOPE VI was in part modeled on the redevelopment of Columbia Point and encouraged partnerships with private developers and a mixture of incomes among the residents. Through community action and smart development, Orchard Park was redeveloped as Orchard Gardens and became a safe, stable neighborhood. This is part three of a series of four programs that is made possible by the generosity of Mass Humanities and the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University. It will be held at the Dewitt Center, 122 Dewitt Drive, Boston. A pre-talk reception begins at 5:30 PM; the speaking program begins at 6:00 PM.

On Thursday, 14 November, at 6:00 PM: Atlas of Boston History with Nancy Seasholes, Robert Allison, Richard Garver, and Jim Vrabel. Few American cities possess a history as long, rich, and fascinating as Boston’s. The Atlas of Boston History traces the history of Boston from late prehistoric times to the present using thematic maps that are drawn from the latest scholarship and supplemented with historical images, maps, illustrations, and graphs as well as explanatory text. The subjects of the maps and atlas plates were determined by a board of noted scholars. The editor will present the project and then discuss the process of determining the contents of the atlas with three of the consulting scholars.  A pre-talk reception begins at 5:30. There is a $10 per person fee (no charge for MHS Fellows and Members or EBT cardholders). Please note that registration for this program is now closed.

On Saturday, 16 November, at 4:00 PM: Legacies of 1619: Black Radicalism / Black Power with John Stauffer, Harvard University; Jeffrey O.G. Ogbar, University of Connecticut; Adrienne Lentz-Smith, Duke University; and moderator Valerie Roberson, Roxbury Community College. Facing the hegemonic force of slavery, discrimination, and disenfranchisement, communities of color have resisted and presented radical models of empowerment. Along with countless and often unknown stories of personal courage, large scale resistance, such as Nat Turner’s Rebellion, go back to the very beginnings of the United States. This program will explore the different forms African Americans have taken to assert their agency and autonomy. This program is part three of a series of four programs co-sponsored by the Museum of African American History and the Roxbury Community College. It will be held at Roxbury Community College, Student Commons, 1234 Columbus Avenue. There will be a pre-talk reception at 3:30 PM; the speaking program begins at 4:00 PM.

Abigail Adams: Life & Legacy Pop-Up Display
Abigail Adams urged her husband to “Remember the Ladies” and made herself impossible to forget. But Abigail is memorable for more than her famous 1776 admonition. This final Remember Abigail display uses documents and artifacts through the ages to consider the way Abigail viewed her own legacy and to explore how and why we continue to Remember Abigail. Join us for a gallery talk on 22 November at 2:00 PM.

Fire! Voices from the Boston Massacre now open!
On the evening of March 5, 1770, soldiers occupying the town of Boston shot into a crowd, killing or fatally wounding five civilians. In the aftermath of what soon became known as the Boston  Massacre, questions about the command to “Fire!” became crucial. Who yelled it? When and why? Because the answers would determine the guilt or innocence of the soldiers, defense counsel John Adams insisted that “Facts are stubborn things.” But what are the facts? The evidence, often contradictory, drew upon testimony from dozens of witnesses. Through a selection of artifacts, eyewitness accounts, and trial testimony—the voices of ordinary men and women—Fire! Voice from the Boston Massacre explores how this flashpoint changed American history. The exhibition is on display at the MHS October 31, 2019 through June 30, 2020, Monday and Wednesday through Saturday from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM, and Tuesday from 10:00 AM to 7:00 PM.