This Week @ MHS
As we approach the long Memorial Day weekend, there is a lull in the activity here at the MHS. There are no public programs scheduled this week. However, this is your last chance to view our three current exhibitions concerning slavery, abolition, and Emancipation in Massachusetts. The exhibits will be available every day this week, Monday-Friday, 10:00am-4:00pm, and are free to the public. The final day of the exhibits is Friday, 24 May. After that, we will make way for our next installment: "The Object of History: 18th-century treasures from the Massachusetts Historical Society." Stay tuned for more information or visit our online calendar of events.
And please take note that the Society will be closed this Saturday, 25 May, and Monday, 27 May, in observance of the Memorial Day holiday. Normal hours will resume on Tuesday, 28 May. Enjoy the long weekend!
| Published: Monday, 20 May, 2013, 8:00 AM
Last Chance to Visit Proclaim Liberty Throughout All the Land
By Jim Connolly, Publications
Boston enjoys a reputation for its role in the founding of the United States. That reputation is well deserved, but the American Revolution was hardly the last time Boston figured significantly in a radical and righteous cause.
In the decades leading up to the Civil War, Boston became a center of the national antislavery movement. In 1831, William Lloyd Garrison, a key figure in the movement, began the publication of The Liberator, the country’s leading abolitionist newspaper. On the first page of the first issue (1 January 1831), Garrison fired a bold volley against not only proslavery attitudes, but apathy and arguments for a cautious and gradual approach to abolition. “Urge me not to use moderation in a cause like the present. I am in earnest—I will not equivocate—I will not excuse—I will not retreat a single inch.—AND I WILL BE HEARD.”
William Lloyd Garrison and several other prominent Boston abolitionists are the subjects of the Society’s current exhibition, Proclaim Liberty Throughout All the Land": Boston Abolitionists, 1831–1865. Manuscripts, portraits, broadsides, and artifacts from the MHS collections illustrate the role of Massachusetts in the national struggle over slavery. Among the most fantastic objects on display are John Brown’s Colt revolver, first editions of Uncle Tom’s Cabin and The Narrative of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, and the imposing table on which Garrison set the type for The Liberator, which has not been displayed at the Society in many years.
The exhibition closes Friday, 24 May 2013, so come down to 1154 Boylston Street as soon as you can. It’s free and open to the public from 10 AM to 4 PM, Monday through Saturday.
And for those who can’t make it to Boston, you can explore the exhibition’s companion web feature, Boston Abolitionists, 1831–1865.
| Published: Friday, 17 May, 2013, 10:00 AM
Massachusetts History Day: Young Historians at Work
By Anna J. Cook, Reader Services
On Saturday, April 6 -- one of the first truly spring-like days of the year -- I left my apartment before dawn to make my coffee-clutching way, along with several Massachusetts Historical Society colleagues, to Stoneham High School. What were we doing at a high school so early on a Saturday morning? We were there to serve as volunteer judges for the state round of the annual Massachusetts History Day competition. We were there to celebrate young historians at work crafting history.
This was my second year volunteering as a judge for Massachusetts History Day (MHD). Beginning in 2012, the MHS has co-sponsored MHD alongside the Massachusetts Council for the Social Studies. MHD is the state affiliate of National History Day, an annual competition that encourages middle and high school students to undertake extensive primary-source based research on a topic related to the annual theme and build a historical argument in one of five categories: research paper, exhibition, performance, documentary, and website. Beginning in the fall (or even over summer vacation), young people embark upon their research, either individually or in groups, narrow their topic, craft a thesis, and eventually design a final project. Some face an initial in-school round before moving on to the district level competition, in early March, where the top two entries in each category move on to state. State winners will travel to the national competition in June.
On the day of the district and state competitions, students come before a panel of volunteer judges to present and discuss their hard work, after which each group of judges is faced with the difficult task of selecting the two best projects to advance to the next round -- as well as awarding honorable mentions and special prizes.
As a judge, my favorite part of each round is the chance, on the competition day, to meet with each student or student group to talk with them about their research. It is often in these conversations that the young person’s excitement about their topic and their depth of knowledge come to the fore. There is nothing that warms my historian’s heart quite so much as the opportunity to see a teenager’s eyes light up as she talks about the direction she’d like to take her work in the future, or when he describes the discovery of a key primary source.
This year we had projects ranging across time and space, all touching upon the annual theme of “turning points”: students tackled topics ranging from the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956 to the role of the Internet in the Arab Spring, from the fall of apartheid in South Africa to the publication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring.
One of my favorite things about working as a reference librarian at the MHS is the opportunity to work with scholars at all stages of their research, from initial question to final footnote. Every year, young people visit our library to work on MHD topics; as a reference librarian I get to help them refine their research questions and locate primary source materials. As a History Day judge, I get to see the fruits of their hard work on competition day.
The 1st and 2nd place project winners from the Massachusetts History Day state competition will be traveling to the University of Maryland in College Park, Maryland, June 9-13 to participate in the national contest along with winners from across the country. We are proud to have our young scholars and their fine work represent Massachusetts and wish them the best of luck (and lots of fun!) while they are there.
| Published: Wednesday, 15 May, 2013, 12:00 AM
This Week @ MHS
Last week saw the close to the seminar season here at the Society and as summer approaches the calendar opens up a bit. Still, there are some great programs coming up this week to experience. Here is what is on tap at the MHS this week.
First, on Wednesday, 15 May 2013, come on in for a Brown Bag Lunch discussion as Reiner Smolinski of Georgia State University presents "Cotton Mather encounters the gods of Egypt: The Transatlantic Enlightenment and the Origin of Pagan Religions." The presentation is based on Prof. Smolinski's ongoing work for his forthcoming intellectual biography of Cotton Mather. Brown Bag lunches are free and open to the public and begin at noon.
The following day, Thursday, 16 May, the MHS hosts "The Tender Heart & Brave: The Politics and Friendship of Charles Sumner & Henry Wadsworth Longfellow." This talk, co-sponsored by the Longfellow House-Washington National Historic Site and the Boston African American National Historic Site, examines how the fiery abolitionist Sumner and the genteel poet Longfellow became the closest of friends. Dramatic readings of actual historic documents such as letters, journals, poetry, and speeches will show the deep personal relationship shared between the two men. The reading, done by author Stephen Puleo and the Longefellow House's Rob Velella, takes listeners from the earliest friendship to antislavery advocacy of these two men, from personal triumphs and tragedies to their final years, weaving through the events of the nation during their lifetimes, including the Emancipation. Mr. Puleo, author of "The Caning: the assault that drove America to Civil War" will provide commentary and sign copies of his book. Reservations are requested for this event at no cost. Please RSVP. Contact the education department for more information at email@example.com. Program begins with a reception at 5:30pm, talk begins at 6:00pm.
And on Saturday, 18 May, come to 1154 Boylston at 10:00am for a free building tour, The History and Collections of the MHS. This 90-minute, docent-led tour takes guests through all of the Society's public rooms while providing information about the history and collections of the institution. The tour is free and open to the public. No reservation is required for individuals or small groups. Parties of 8 or more should contact the MHS prior to attending a tour. For more information please contact Curator of Art Anne Bentley at 617-646-0508 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Finally, there are only two weeks left to view three current exhibitions, all focusing on varying aspects of the path to Emancipation in the mid-19th century. Exhibits are open to the public six days a week, Mon-Sat, 10:00am - 4:00pm. The present displays are on view until Friday, 24 May, so do not miss them!
| Published: Monday, 13 May, 2013, 1:00 AM
Stephen Greenleaf Bulfinch Diary, Post 21
The following excerpt is from the diary of Stephen Greenleaf Bulfinch.
Monday, May 11th 1863
I must leave to history the public events of this agitating time; but I have sadly to record that my dear pupil and friend, Frank A. Eliot, was killed in the recent battle at Chancellorsville, near Fredericksburg, Va. He was captain of the Phila [Braves?], - about 35 years of age, - brother of Dawes and William G. Eliot. We hope that an honorable end of this awful strife is near.
| Published: Saturday, 11 May, 2013, 8:00 AM