Public Programs and Special Events

The MHS offers many engaging programs and special events.

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Public Program City Water, City Life: The Infrastructure of Ideas in Urbanizing Boston 23 September 2013. Monday, 6:00 PM - 7:30 PM Please RSVP   this event requires a feeregistration required Pre-talk reception at 5:30 pm Carl Smith, Northwestern University

City Water, City LifeCarl Smith will discuss how a city is more than a massing of citizens, a layout of buildings and streets, or an arrangement of political, economic, and social institutions. It is also an infrastructure of ideas, an embodiment of the beliefs, values, and aspirations of the people who created it.

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Public Program Amy Lowell Anew 24 September 2013. Tuesday, 12:00 PM - 1:00 PM this event is free Carl Rollyson, Baruch College details
Public Program New Thoughts on Old Things: Four Centuries of Furnishing the Northeast 4 October 2013. Friday, 10:00 AM - 5:30 PM free eventregistration required at no cost Location: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Co-sponsored by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the Colonial Society of Massachusetts, and the Massachusetts Historical Society, this day-long symposium is devoted to new scholarly research on the design, production, and circulation of furnishings in New England.

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Public Program Behind the Scenes at the Museum: The Curator’s View of "Boston Furniture from Private Collections" 9 October 2013. Wednesday, 6:00 PM - 7:30 PM Please RSVP   this event requires a feeregistration required Pre-talk reception at 5:30 pm Gerald W. R. Ward, Museum of Fine Arts Boston This program is part of the Massachusetts Furniture Series

Boston’s history is written not only in documents and manuscripts but in the three-dimensional objects that its craftsmen and factories have made, and its citizens have used, since 1630. This presentation will offer an opportunity to learn about and tour this loan exhibition of more than 40 rarely seen examples of Boston furniture from ca. 1690 to ca. 1900 with guest curator Gerald W. R. Ward.

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Public Program MHS Open House 14 October 2013. Monday, 10:00 AM - 3:00 PM this event is free This event is free and open to the public.

Join us as part of the Fenway Cultural District’s Opening Our Doors, Boston’s largest single day of free arts and cultural events.

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Public Program Capital of the World: The Race to Host the United Nations 16 October 2013. Wednesday, 6:00 PM - 7:30 PM Please RSVP   this event requires a feeregistration required Pre-talk reception at 5:30 pm Charlene Mires, Rutgers University

In 1945–1946, Bostonians pursued an ambitious dream: to become not only “the Hub” but also the Capital of the World—the headquarters site for the new United Nations. Charlene Mires will present an illustrated talk about the dramatic, surprising, and often comic story of civic boosterism awakened by the UN ’s search for a home.

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Public Program Book of Ages: The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin 17 October 2013. Thursday, 6:00 PM - 7:00 PM this event is free Location: Boston Public Library, Copley Square Jill Lepore, Harvard University

Jane Franklin, the sister of Benjamin Franklin, was a constant presence and influence in her brother's life. Like her brother, Jane Franklin was a passionate reader, a gifted writer, and an astonishingly shrewd political commentator. Making use of a collection of little-studied material, including documents, objects, and recently discovered portraits, author Jill Lepore brings Jane Franklin to life.

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Public Program The Call of Classicism: Boston Furniture from the Early 19th Century 18 October 2013. Friday, 2:00 PM - 3:00 PM this event is free Exhibition Spotlight Irfan Ali

The early 19th century was a time of prosperity for the City of Boston and produced some extraordinary furniture. Irfan Ali, a collector of American furniture, will examine Boston’s answer to the call of classicism by looking at furniture made by craftsmen such as Thomas Seymour, Isaac Vose, and Archibald and Emmons.

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Public Program “Newest Fashion” Furniture in Boston, 1690–1730: A Transatlantic View 23 October 2013. Wednesday, 6:00 PM - 7:30 PM Please RSVP   this event requires a feeregistration required Pre-talk reception at 5:30 pm Edward S. Cooke, Jr., Yale University This event is part of the Massachusetts Furniture Series

This program will explore how the influx of English cabinetmakers and chairmakers and the fashionable desires of a new Boston elite combined to transform the furniture trade in Boston in the period after the establishment of the new Charter in 1691. Producers and consumers collaborated to invent a new Boston that was a commercial center more than a providential city on a hill.

details
Public Program Around the World in 500 Years 30 October 2013. Wednesday, 6:00 PM - 7:30 PM Please RSVP   this event requires a feeregistration required Pre-talk reception at 5:30 pm Joyce Chaplin, Harvard University

Round About the EarthAround-the-world travelers' long and self-aware tradition of engagement with the planet questions our sense of uniqueness and may teach us something worth knowing about why we think of the Earth the way we do.

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Public Programbegins Old Towns/New Country: The First Years of a New Nation 15 November 2013. Friday, 8:30 AM - 3:30 PM this event requires a feeregistration required 15 November 2013 to 16 November 2013 This program will take place in Pittsfield, Massachusetts

What was it like to live in a town that had been around for a long time in a country that was new? Join us in western Massachusetts as we explore the region's history during the years after the American Revolution.

details
Public Program Early Boston Furniture: Style, Construction, Materials, & Use 15 November 2013. Friday, 2:00 PM - 3:00 PM this event is free Exhibition Spotlight John and Marie Vander Sande

American furniture collectors John and Marie Vander Sande will discuss late 17th-century joined case pieces, early 18th-century cabinetwork, and pre-1730 chairs produced in Boston. The style, construction techniques, woods chosen, and motivation for the applied decoration, as well as the use of the pieces in the home, will be highlighted.

details
Public Programends Old Towns/New Country: The First Years of a New Nation 16 November 2013. Saturday, 8:30 AM - 3:30 PM this event requires a feeregistration required This program will take place in Pittsfield, Massachusetts

What was it like to live in a town that had been around for a long time in a country that was new? Join us in western Massachusetts as we explore the region's history during the years after the American Revolution.

details
Public Program The Sullivan Brothers 19 November 2013. Tuesday, 12:00 PM - 1:00 PM this event is free Murray Forbes

Governor James and General John Sullivan, two brothers who forged remarkable and versatile careers during the American Revolution and early republic, were honored in their own time and remained remembered and respected through the 19th century. How should we remember them today? Join Murray Forbes as he discusses his work on the fascinating lives of these two men.

details
Public Program Boston & Its Craft Community, 1650–1850 20 November 2013. Wednesday, 6:00 PM - 7:30 PM Please RSVP   this event requires a feeregistration required Pre-talk reception at 5:30 pm J. Ritchie Garrison, Winterthur This program is part of the Massachusetts Furniture Series

J. Ritchie Garrison, the Director of the Winterthur Program in American Material Culture, will explore Boston’s craft community with a focus on three themes: production as part of a regional network, inequalities that drove artisans’ decisions, and the city’s furnituremakers’ adaptations to a number of factors.

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More events
23 September 2013 Please RSVP   this event requires a feeregistration required Public Program

City Water, City Life: The Infrastructure of Ideas in Urbanizing Boston

6:00 PM - 7:30 PM
Pre-talk reception at 5:30 pm Carl Smith, Northwestern University

City Water, City LifeThis talk will discuss how a city is more than a massing of citizens, a layout of buildings and streets, or an arrangement of political, economic, and social institutions. It is also an infrastructure of ideas, an embodiment of the beliefs, values, and aspirations of the people who created it. In no instance was this more the case than in the construction of Boston’s first comprehensive public waterworks, the Cochituate aqueduct system, which opened on 25 October 1848.

Carl Smith is the Franklyn Bliss Snyder Professor of English & American Studies at Northwestern University where he teaches American literature and cultural history. He is the author of numerous books, including Chicago and the American Literary Imagination, 1880-1920 (1984) and of Urban Disorder and the Shape of Belief: The Great Chicago Fire, the Haymarket Bomb, and the Model Town of Pullman (1994), which won the Urban History Association's prize for Best Book in North American Urban History and the Society of Midland Authors' first prize for non-fiction. His most recent book, The Plan of Chicago: Daniel Burnham and the Remaking of the American City (2006), won the Lewis Mumford Prize for Best Book in Planning History, given by the Society of American City, Regional, and Planning History.

To Register: Tickets are $10 per person (no charge for Fellows and Members). Please call 617-646-0560 or register online by clicking the ticket icon above.

24 September 2013 this event is free Public Program

Amy Lowell Anew

12:00 PM - 1:00 PM
Carl Rollyson, Baruch College

The controversial American poet Amy Lowell (1874–1925) excelled as the impresario for the “new poetry” that became news across the U.S. in the years after World War I. This provocative new biography restores Amy Lowell to her full humanity in an era that, at last, is beginning to appreciate the contributions of gays and lesbians to America’s cultural heritage.

Carl Rollyson, professor of journalism at Baruch College, will focus on the discovery of letters in the Society’s collections that altered his understanding of the shape and significance of the poet’s life. Rollyson has published more than 40 books ranging in subject matter from biographies of Marilyn Monroe, Lillian Hellman, Martha Gellhorn, Norman Mailer, Rebecca West, Susan Sontag, Jill Craigie, Dana Andrews, Sylvia Plath, and Amy Lowell to studies of American culture, genealogy, children's biography, film and literary criticism.

4 October 2013 free eventregistration required at no cost Public Program

New Thoughts on Old Things: Four Centuries of Furnishing the Northeast

10:00 AM - 5:30 PM
Location: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Co-sponsored by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the Colonial Society of Massachusetts, and the Massachusetts Historical Society, this day-long symposium is devoted to new scholarly research on the design, production, and circulation of furnishings in New England. New Thoughts on Old Things will feature keynote speaker Glenn Adamson, Head of Research at the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) in London, along with a select group of emerging scholars. The event is associated with Four Centuries of Massachusetts Furniture—a collaborative of 11 institutions celebrating furniture and furniture-making in Massachusetts. For more information on the Four Centuries initiative and events, please visit: http://www.fourcenturies.org/.

To Reserve: The symposium is free with admission to the museum. Advanced ticketing recommended. For information, please contact Lauren Spengler at lspengler@mfa.org.

Event Details

Keynote Speaker: Glenn Adamson, Head of Research, V&A Museum, Furniture History: The View from Old England

Speakers

  • Tania Batley, E. W. Vaill Patent Chair Manufacturer (Worcester, MA)
  • Nicole Belolan, Aunt Patty's Furniture: Adult Cradles and the History of Physical Mobility Impairment in Early America
  • Louisa Brouwer, “Vanishable Antiques”: The Story of Israel Sack, Inc., and the Building of an American Industry
  • Ben Colman, Between Memory and Antiquity:The Circulation of Seventeenth-Century Furniture in 18th-Century Plymouth
  • Philippe Halbert, Noblesse in New France: Furnishing the Hôtel de Vaudreuil and the Chateau Saint-Louis 1725-1760
  • Marissa S. Hershon, The Egyptian Revival in the 1870's: The Reception Room at Cedar Hill (Warwick, RI)
  • Jennifer N. Johnson, Patterns of Gentility: Pictorial Needlework Upholstery of Eighteenth-Century Newport
9 October 2013 Please RSVP   this event requires a feeregistration required Public Program

Behind the Scenes at the Museum: The Curator’s View of "Boston Furniture from Private Collections"

6:00 PM - 7:30 PM
Pre-talk reception at 5:30 pm Gerald W. R. Ward, Museum of Fine Arts Boston This program is part of the Massachusetts Furniture Series

Boston’s history is written not only in documents and manuscripts but in the three-dimensional objects that its craftsmen and factories have made, and its citizens have used, since 1630. This presentation will offer an opportunity to learn about and tour this loan exhibition of more than 40 rarely seen examples of Boston furniture from ca. 1690 to ca. 1900 with guest curator Gerald W. R. Ward.

Gerald W. R. Ward is the Katherine Lane Weems Senior Curator of American Decorative Arts and Sculpture, Art of the Americas, at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

To Register: Tickets are $10 per person (no charge for Fellows and Members). Please call 617-646-0560 or register online by clicking the ticket icon above.

14 October 2013 this event is free Public Program

MHS Open House

10:00 AM - 3:00 PM
This event is free and open to the public.

Join us as part of the Fenway Cultural District’s Opening Our Doors, Boston’s largest single day of free arts and cultural events. Visit the MHS and view The Cabinetmaker & the Carver: Boston Furniture from Private Collections and enjoy a demonstration related to furniture on display by craftsmen from the North Bennet Street School.

This event is free and open to the public.

16 October 2013 Please RSVP   this event requires a feeregistration required Public Program

Capital of the World: The Race to Host the United Nations

6:00 PM - 7:30 PM
Pre-talk reception at 5:30 pm Charlene Mires, Rutgers University

In 1945–1946, Bostonians pursued an ambitious dream: to become not only “the Hub” but also the Capital of the World—the headquarters site for the new United Nations. Drawing from her book, Charlene Mires will present an illustrated talk about the dramatic, surprising, and often comic story of civic boosterism awakened by the UN ’s search for a home.

Charlene Mires is Associate Professor of History and Director of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Center for the Humanities at Rutgers University—Camden. She is the author of Independence Hall in American Memory, editor-in-chief of The Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia, and a co-recipient of a Pulitzer Prize in journalism.

To Register: Tickets are $10 per person (no charge for Fellows and Members). Please call 617-646-0560 or register online by clicking the ticket icon above.

17 October 2013 this event is free Public Program

Book of Ages: The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin

6:00 PM - 7:00 PM
Location: Boston Public Library, Copley Square Jill Lepore, Harvard University

Jane Franklin, the sister of Benjamin Franklin, was a constant presence and influence in her brother's life. Like her brother, Jane Franklin was a passionate reader, a gifted writer, and an astonishingly shrewd political commentator. Making use of a collection of little-studied material, including documents, objects, and recently discovered portraits, author Jill Lepore brings Jane Franklin to life. Lepore provides a revelatory portrait of Benjamin Franklin’s youngest sister and a history of history itself.

Jill Lepore is the David Woods Kemper '41 Professor of American History at Harvard University and a staff writer at The New Yorker.

To Reserve: This event is free and open to the public. Visit the Boston Public Library's website for additional information and directions.

18 October 2013 this event is free Public Program

The Call of Classicism: Boston Furniture from the Early 19th Century

2:00 PM - 3:00 PM
Exhibition Spotlight Irfan Ali

The early 19th century was a time of prosperity for the City of Boston and produced some extraordinary furniture. Irfan Ali, a collector of American furniture, will examine Boston’s answer to the call of classicism by looking at furniture made by craftsmen such as Thomas Seymour, Isaac Vose, and Archibald and Emmons.

To Register: This program is free and open to the public.

23 October 2013 Please RSVP   this event requires a feeregistration required Public Program

“Newest Fashion” Furniture in Boston, 1690–1730: A Transatlantic View

6:00 PM - 7:30 PM
Pre-talk reception at 5:30 pm Edward S. Cooke, Jr., Yale University This event is part of the Massachusetts Furniture Series

This program will explore how the influx of English cabinetmakers and chairmakers and the fashionable desires of a new Boston elite combined to transform the furniture trade in Boston in the period after the establishment of the new Charter in 1691. Producers and consumers collaborated to invent a new Boston that was a commercial center more than a providential city on a hill. 

Edward S. Cooke, Jr., the Charles F. Montgomery Professor of American Decorative Arts in the Department of the History of Art at Yale University, has published extensively on both historical and contemporary furniture. Prior to returning to Yale in 1992, he was a curator at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and taught at Boston University.

To Register: Tickets are $10 per person (no charge for Fellows and Members). Please call 617-646-0560 or register online by clicking the ticket icon above.

30 October 2013 Please RSVP   this event requires a feeregistration required Public Program

Around the World in 500 Years

6:00 PM - 7:30 PM
Pre-talk reception at 5:30 pm Joyce Chaplin, Harvard University

Round About the EarthAre we more "global" today than people in the past were, better able to span and understand the entire planet?  Planetary consciousness, our awareness of living on a globe with finite resources, did not begin with those luminous, exquisitely beautiful Apollo 8 photographs of the Earth taken from space in 1968, as is often asserted. Rather, it began with the now-500-year-old tradition of going around the world, the longest human activity done on a planetary scale. Around-the-world travelers' long and self-aware tradition of engagement with the planet questions our sense of uniqueness and may teach us something worth knowing about why we think of the Earth the way we do.

Joyce E. Chaplin is the James Duncan Phillips Professor of Early American History at Harvard University and author of Round About the Earth: Circumnavigation from Magellan to Orbit.

To Register: Tickets are $10 per person (no charge for Fellows and Members). Please call 617-646-0560 or register online by clicking the ticket icon above.

this event requires a feeregistration required Public Program

Old Towns/New Country: The First Years of a New Nation

15 November 2013 to 16 November 2013 8:30 AM - 3:30 PM
This program will take place in Pittsfield, Massachusetts

This two-day workshop explores how to use local resources – documents, artifacts, landscapes and the rich expertise in every town – to examine historical issues with a national focus. We will concentrate on the period just after the Revolution and the concerns and conflicts, hopes and fears, experiences and expectations of the people living in western Massachusetts at a time of uncertainty, fragility, and possibility. We will investigate such questions as: What was it like to live in a town that had been around for a long time in a country that was new? When the nation was first forming after the Revolution, what were people in our town/region worried about? How much did the geography, economy, culture, and social makeup of our region influence those concerns? How can we find out? What resources/pieces of evidence does our community have that relate to this time period and the people living in it? How can we best present this evidence and allow people of all ages to discover answers to some of these questions? How does our local focus add a crucial dimension to our understanding of a key period in American history?

The workshop is open to teachers, librarians, archivists, members of local historical societies, and all interested local history enthusiasts. Workshop faculty will include the MHS Department of Education and Public Programs, Gary Shattuck, author of Artful and Designing Men: The Trials of Job Shattuck and the Regulation of 1786-1787, MHS Teacher Fellow Dean Eastman, and the staff of the Berkshire Historical Society. The program will also include visits to the Berkshire Athenaeum and the Crane Museum of Papermaking. There is a $25 charge to cover lunches both days; program and material costs have been generously funded by the Richard Saltonstall Charitable Foundation. Educators can earn 15 PDPs and 1 Graduate Credit (for an additional fee) from Framingham State University.

To Register: Please complete this registration form and send it with your payment to: Kathleen Barker, Massachusetts Historical Society, 1154 Boylston Street, Boston, MA 02215.

For Additional Information: Contact the Education Department: 617-646-0557 or  education@masshist.org.

15 November 2013 this event is free Public Program

Early Boston Furniture: Style, Construction, Materials, & Use

2:00 PM - 3:00 PM
Exhibition Spotlight John and Marie Vander Sande

American furniture collectors John and Marie Vander Sande will discuss late 17th-century joined case pieces, early 18th-century cabinetwork, and pre-1730 chairs produced in Boston. The style, construction techniques, woods chosen, and motivation for the applied decoration, as well as the use of the pieces in the home, will be highlighted.

To Register: This program is free and open to the public.

19 November 2013 this event is free Public Program

The Sullivan Brothers

12:00 PM - 1:00 PM
Murray Forbes

Governor James and General John Sullivan, two brothers who forged remarkable and versatile careers during the American Revolution and early republic, were honored in their own time and remained remembered and respected through the 19th century. How should we remember them today? Join Murray Forbes as he discusses his work on the fascinating lives of these two men.

Today we remember James Sullivan as first Massachusetts Governor of Irish descent and as founder and first president of The Massachusetts Historical Society. Yet his achievements defending Irish immigrants, elucidating injustices in Irish history and his landmark legal defense of the Catholic Church against being taxed to support the Commonwealth's official Protestant religion, remain almost unknown. He was also a significant diplomat, a brilliant legal scholar, and historian who influenced the creation of the United States Constitution. He continued throughout his political career to be the principal voice in Massachusetts supporting popular rights.

His brother John Sullivan initiated hostilities of the American Revolution in New Hampshire, played a major role in the Siege of Boston, performed heroically at Long Island, Brandywine, and Germantown, brilliantly at Trenton and Princeton, and incomparably at Butte's Hill.  While serving in Canada he kept the American Army intact during the failed invasion of 1776, and in 1779, Sullivan led a massive campaign against the Iroquois who had sided with the British in the Revolution. As member of the Continental Congress he strengthened the French and Spanish alliances and allayed anti-Catholic prejudice. After the war, he served three terms as Governor of New Hampshire and, confronting hundreds of angry farmers, personally averted another Shays's rebellion. Yet Sullivan's military career has sometimes been downplayed, while his other accomplishments have been undervalued.

Their immigrant father, an indentured servant and dispossessed Chief of Clan O'Sullivan Beara, had extraordinary Irish forbears who rose to prominence in conditions partly presaging the American Revolution. He passed something extraordinary on to these sons.

20 November 2013 Please RSVP   this event requires a feeregistration required Public Program

Boston & Its Craft Community, 1650–1850

6:00 PM - 7:30 PM
Pre-talk reception at 5:30 pm J. Ritchie Garrison, Winterthur This program is part of the Massachusetts Furniture Series

J. Ritchie Garrison, the Director of the Winterthur Program in American Material Culture, will explore Boston’s craft community with a focus on three themes: production as part of a regional network, inequalities that drove artisans’ decisions, and the city’s furnituremakers’ adaptations to a number of factors.

To Register: Tickets are $10 per person (no charge for Fellows and Members). Please call 617-646-0560 or register online by clicking the ticket icon above.


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