A website from the Massachusetts Historical Society; founded 1791.


John Adams wrote a letter to Abigail Adams in 1780 which is now considered iconic for its views on education. The letter provided the inspiration and framework for the exhibition, The Object of History: 18th-Century Treasures from the Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society. Said Adams: 

I must study Politicks and War that my sons may have liberty to study Painting and Poetry Mathematicks and Philosophy. My sons ought to study Mathematicks and Philosophy, Geography, natural History, Naval Architecture, navigation, Commerce and Agriculture, in order to give their Children a right to study Painting, Poetry, Musick, Architecture, Statuary, Tapestry and Porcelaine.

This companion website is divided into three parts according to John Adams’s scheme: “Politicks and War,” “Mathematicks and Philosophy,” and “Painting, Poetry ... and Porcelaine." It consists of artifacts, manuscripts, medals, paintings, engravings, furniture, clothing, and early publications. These historical objects form a solid foundation on which the collections of the MHS have been built and inform us today about how our ancestors lived.


Exhibition: 13 June to 7 September 2013

What is the meaning of historical objects? Why are they preserved, and why have they survived? Are they valued for their associations with notable historical figures or landmark events, as objects of beauty, as the survival of relics from a distant past, or for the stories they convey? This exhibition explores these questions through the display of 18th-century portraits and objects from the Society's collections, along with rarely seen engravings, needlework, maps, weapons, furniture, clothing, scientific instruments, and silver.

The exhibit runs from 13 June through 7 September 2013, Monday through Saturday, 10:00 AM - 4:00 PM.

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