By Anna J. Cook
On Wednesday, 19 October, the Massachusetts Historical Society opened its doors to current and potential associate members for a reception and presentation of some of the “gloriously gruesome” items in our collections. Guests were treated to food and drink in the historic Dowse Library, followed by a show and tell given by Elaine Grublin, Head of Reader Services.
Refreshments were catered by Formaggio Kitchen (Cambridge, Mass.) and the appropriately gruesome “dark and stormy” rum punch received high marks from the taste-testers.
During the reception portion of the evening, guests wandered the public galleries on a scavenger hunt. Here, two attendees examine manuscript items on display as part of The Purchase of Blood: Massachusetts in the Civil War, 1861-1862 exhibition.
The presentation was held in our portrait gallery, and following a brief welcome by Dennis Fiori, President of the Society, Elaine Grublin introduced a number of objects in our collections with shady histories. These included a bronze death mask, an account of murder and dismemberment at Harvard Medical School, a scrap of towel bearing the blood of Abraham Lincoln, specimens of human hair and bone, a bird preserved in arsenic, and the noose that is purported to have hanged John Brown.
For those unable to attend, a number of these items were highlighted in Boston Magazine in 2009 and an online version of that article is still available.
Following the talk, guests were invited to the front of the room for a closer viewing.
We were excited to see many first-time visitors at the Society, and hope that everyone felt warmly welcomed. We invite folks to consider membership at the MHS, to return as researchers, or to attend one of our many public programs