The Beehive: the official blog of the Massachusetts Historical Society

This Week @ MHS

It is time once again to run through the events on tap for the week ahead. With five days of programs coming there are plenty of reasons to stop by the Society and get a dose of history. Before we jump into the events, though, please note that the library of the MHS closes early at 2:30PM on Wednesday, 7 May, in preparation for the evening's event. 

First up on Tuesday, 6 May, is an Early American History seminar presented lead by Hari Vishwanadha of Santa Monica College. "Through Novanglus's Eyes: Forms of Empire in India" looks at how Yankee merchants in the India trade successfully negotiated the competing claims of Indian society and the British Raj. As the empire flourished, the merchants prospered. The experiences of two prominent men, Henry Lee and Charles Eliot Norton, are representative of the rich and complex relationship among the tree peoples and their cultures and served as a template for subsequent merchants engaged in the India trade during the nineteenth century. Eliga H. Gould of the University of New Hampshire will provide comment for this seminar that begins at 5:15PM. Be sure to RSVP for this program by emailing or phoning 617-646-0568.

Next, on Wednesday, 7 May, swing by at noon for a Brown Bag talk with short-term research fellow Chris Florio of Princeton University. In the mid-nineteenth century, American and British observers struggled to distinguish the poor from the slave. Tracing a key shift in the moral imagination, this dissertation explores how the boundaries of poverty and slavery blurred during the so-called "age of emancipation." Florio asks the question: how did poverty and slavery, as political categories and social conditions, entangle with one another in locations spanning the United States and the British Empire? "The Poor Always with You: Poverty in an Age of Emancipation, 1833-1879" is free and open to the public and begins at 12:00PM. 

On Wednesday evening there is a special Member Event, the John F. Kennedy Medal Presentation. The John F. Kennedy medal is awarded by the Massachusetts Historical Society to persons who have rendered distinguished service to the cause of history. It is not limited to any field of history or to any particular kind of service to history. MHS Fellows and Members are invited to attend this presentation of the Kennedy Medal to David McCullough. Reception begins at 5:30PM, presentation of the medal and remarks by Mr. McCullough begins at 6:00PM. This event is sold out. If you would like to be placed on the waiting list, please call 617-646-0552.

Join us on Thursday evening, 8 May, for the public program "The Adams Portraits & Other Treats: 18th-Century Artist Benjamin Blyth." Blyth, the Salem artist of the Society's iconic portraits of John and Abigail Adams, also left a large, delightful number of other portraits of local families, merchants, and participants in the American Revolution. His brother Samuel, a jack-of-all-trades in the construction and home-decorating businesses, was far more successful. But because of Benjamin's flight from Salem to Virginia in 1782, he and his brother seemed to swap careers, and therein lies the tale. This talk is presented by retired museum professional, Bettina A. Norton and begins at 6:00PM with a pre-talk reception at 5:30PM. Registration required at no cost. Click here to register online, or call the MHS reservations line at 617-646-0560.

"Classroom Currents: Childhood Education Reforms in Nineteenth-Century Boston and Buenos Aires" is a project which traces the origins and evolution of nineteenth-century public educational theories and their significance to nation-building processes within the Americas. Focusing on the Atlantic seaboard cities of Boston in the United States and Buenos Aires in Argentina as case studies, it analyzes how educational ideas traveled and were reshaped by local conditions. The similarities in the nature and scope - and ultimately, the differences in the implementation - of educational policies in each city supports a larger analysis on the transformation of politics and the shaping of distinct national identities in the nineteenth-century Americas. This free program is presented by Carolina Zumaglini of Florida International University and takes place Friday, 9 May, at noon.

And finally, on Saturday, 10 May, there is not one but two tours taking place. The History and Collections of the MHS is a 90-minute docent-led tour of the public spaces in the Society's building at 1154 Boylston Street. The tour touches on the art, architecture, collections, and history of the MHS and 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 Tour begins at 10:00AM.

Also on Saturday is "Created Equal: Walking Tour of Boston Black Heritage Trail." This tour is offered in conjunction with the Created Equal Film & Discussion Series and is presented by our partner organization, Boston African American National Historic Site. The tour is scheduled to begin at 10:00AM and last for approximately two hours. For more information, please calle 617-646-0557 or e-mail

permalink | Published: Monday, 5 May, 2014, 9:13 AM