The right visual can really make the message. I am very lucky that when I begin to plan marketing for the various programs, events, and initiatives the Historical Society executes annually, I have access to thousands of photos, objects, documents, paintings, etc. to help communicate our message.
There are many benefits to using images from our collections for social posting, press releases, and such when we need them. We are most likely to have a clear copyright with items for our collections and using them in our communications collateral helps showcase the richness of our collection.
For example, when I created the top left graphic in the grid, I knew we had some great photos of winter fun in the collection, but wasn’t sure which would be the best fit for the message. I searched by keyword (you can too on our online collections site) for “sled” and this image of Levi Doran with his grandsons on a sled in the early 20th century popped up. I knew it would be a great one for our winter holiday post.
We also like to use our portraiture for events, as it’s wonderful to see some of our sober seated portrait subjects reimagined for a modern audience or situation. You can see above how we showed John Buckman as a bidder for our Bids for History auctions in 2020 and 2021. We also gave William Munroe the proper PPE for our hard hat tour of the new Archives and Research Center in March 2019.
One consideration, especially with human subjects, is respect. We would never show the people in our collection in unusual or disrespectful positions. It’s one of the basic tenets of museum best practice to care for the items in our collection as though they were our own and this applies to the subjects as well. Many of our uses of human subjects in marketing collateral are lighthearted, but we are careful to respect the humanity of the subjects in our care.
It’s much simpler with photos of landscapes or objects. In the above grid, I’ve used images of Lexington Park and a set of 18th century embroidered bed hangings to illustrate information for events and historic houses. And sometimes we can pair archival images with images from present-day Lexington, such as in the Then & Now duo of the Old Reservoir in 1968 and 2021.
As I mentioned earlier, one of the benefits of using our own photos, paintings, decorative arts, documents, etc. in our communications is how it allows us to share our rich collections with both the general public and the press involved in getting the story to the public. Often, a background image from a social post or a press release will spark a research request and someone who didn’t know we even existed will realize that we have something they are looking for! It’s highly gratifying when this happens and it reminds us that ultimately, caring for and sharing our collections is the purest form of mission fulfilment.
-Stacey Fraser, Collections and Outreach Manager
Over the course of our staff blog, I’ve written about some of the more frequently asked questions our visitors have regarding our historic houses (original floorboards and original paint colors). Today I’m going to continue looking at our FAQs and chat a bit about the windows at each house. The information presented below comes from the historic structures reports on each house and serve as a wonderful resource if you ever find yourself asking, “I wonder if that’s original?”
We’ll start our discussion with the oldest home we manage, Buckman Tavern, built in 1710. While most of the original windows were replaced sometime around 1870 to stay in line with the popular Victorian style of 2 panes over 2 panes, there is evidence that the westernmost window in the northeast chamber (present office space on the second floor) is a surviving 18th century window. It is described by Abbie Griffing as being “Mary’s clothes room” and being full to the brim of clothing, so it is possible the room was too full for workers in 1870 to get in and replace the window. All the other windows showing the popular 12 panes over 12 panes style were reproduced in the first major restoration of the building in 1917. The only other surviving 18th century window is the inner transom window above the front door and has a popular “bull’s eye” pattern set in it. Despite the panes being replaced over the years, the frames of the windows all date to the 18th century and were more than likely installed sometime before the Tavern’s final expansion in 1755.
Despite moving locations back and forth across Hancock Street, the window frames of the Hancock-Clarke House have not changed in size or their location on the building due to the fact that the openings are integral to the original window trim that is located in the interior of the building. However, the design of glass windows have been changed at least twice over the course of the building’s history. There is evidence that the original configuration of the windows was a nine over nine construction (9 panes over 9 panes) as evidenced by a painting of the home from the 1840s. However, that design was changed to the current design of the windows that features a twelve over sixteen (12 panes over 16 panes) in 1897.
One unique aspect of the windows at Hancock-Clarke House has that the other two houses do not have are interior shutters. The four main rooms (Keeping Room, Hancock-Adams Room, Dorothy Quincy Room and Rev. Clarke’s Study) all have interior shutters installed and have a unique story. For example, the shutters located in the Keeping Room and the Hancock-Adams Room are original to the construction of the home, however, were shifted around during the 1897 restoration of the home. Both rooms have a combination of 3-panel shutters and 2-panel shutters, but originally the 3-panel shutters would have been reserved for the Hancock-Adams room as it was the most elaborate room in the home. The shutters located in the Dorothy Quincy Room and Rev. Clarke’s Study were reproduced in 1897, so while they are “old”, they aren’t “old, old” like the shutters on the first floor.
Munroe Tavern has seen the most exterior work of the three houses done over it’s lifetime and as a result, not many original aspects of the windows remain in the current structure. All the windows and frames are reproductions of 18th century windows that were installed during a major restoration in 1939. After studying a pre-1859 photo we are able to determine that the windows originally were of a 6 pane by 9 pane style that are displayed in the Tavern today (seen in the pre-1859 image). The 1939 restoration also restored to original locations of the window frames to pre-1860 locations, the post-1860 locations of the window frames are shown in the below photo. So while Munroe’s windows and frames are not original, the story behind how they look today is intriguing.
Stay tuned for more information on our historic doors and if you have questions/ suggestions for another “Is it original?” blog feel free to comment below!
-Chris Kauffman, Education and Interpretation Manager
It is only fitting that our the ribbon cutting for our brand new Archives and Research Center (ARC) took place in October – American Archives Month. After years of planning, the completion of the building project in 2019, the completion of the collections move in early 2020, the cancellation of our originally scheduled opening in April 2020, and a prolonged closure due to the pandemic for the bulk of the next eighteen months, we are very excited to announce that our grand opening took place on October 7, 2021. It was a lovely event which gave us the chance to thank our donors and supporters, and it was certainly a long time coming.
With that, we are pleased to announce that today, November 1, we are officially opening our doors to the public for research access. With our custom built shelving and storage for our archival and curatorial collections, our spacious processing room for volunteers and staff, and our beautiful reading room with a browsing library and exhibit cases, we are more prepared than ever to share Lexington’s history with visitors, scholars, and researchers.
Our previous Archival Procedures remain generally unchanged for researchers visiting this new space; however, as seems to frequently be the case recently, the pandemic has necessitated that we implement some additional requirements for those wishing to do research in the new space. We will be requiring proof of vaccination prior to research visits, masks will be necessary for all visitors, and the number of researchers permitted in the space at any given time is limited to two. We hope to make the space as safe as possible for staff, volunteers, and researchers.
If you are interested in making an appointment for research, please fill out a Research Request Form on our website. We will accommodate researchers as soon as possible, but please allow three weeks for research appointments to be scheduled, and please allow three weeks for us to respond to all research requests.
We look forward to sharing ARC with all of you, and we are incredibly excited to finally have this wonderful storage space for all of our historic treasures!
-Elizabeth Mubarek, Archives Manager
Behold all you that passeth by
As you are now, so once was I
As I am now, so you must be
Prepare for death and follow me
It’s a cliché by now: surely this poem was written by some Gothic New Englander looking back on the Puritan days with a morbid fascination, like Hawthorne. One can easily hear the folksy voice of Bing Crosby sneaking it into a scene in the old Disney cartoon of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. But in fact, this was a very real sentiment inscribed on hundreds if not thousands of gravestones in the 18th century.
Several are right here in Lexington.
The Puritans were an interesting bunch. Believing in the theology of predestination, they operated under the assumption that their place both in life and death had been chosen by God even before their birth: He knew exactly whether each and every one of us was destined for Heaven or Hell, pulled along by the twisted hands of fate. Of course, this only went so far, as adherence to laws and outward displays of good works were both within one’s control and a sign of salvation. And in a world in which war, disease, and natural disasters were all too common, death was a constant neighbor. To that end, they filled their sermons and their lives with reminders that none of us are long for this world, and that we had better shape up while we still can.
Walking into the Old Burying Ground from its oldest side (near St. Bridget’s Church) you are treated to the perfect October sight: neat rows of gravestones adorned with skulls and crossbones, empty hourglasses, and Latin inscriptions of memento mori (remember death) and fugit hora (time flies). Just in case visiting the dead was not enough of a reminder of your own mortality, the ancestors wanted to make sure you remember where your final resting place will be, by any pictographic means necessary if you don’t read Latin. The earliest gravestones are the most grim; by the 18th century the skulls had grown flesh to represent the spirit, but the old sentiments remained in the writing on the stones. Ruth Buckman, tavernkeeper in Lexington in 1775, lies under a “Behold all you” inscription, and similar sentiments echo throughout the burying ground.
By the early 19th century, these fatalistic reminders of death had given way to romanticization, as the harsh physical iconography of bones gave way entirely to abstract symbols like weeping willow trees and classical urns. Cemeteries became more than mere repositories for the dead as landscapers created rolling hills and trees to soften the imagery. All these years later though, it is the iconic “death’s head” of the winged skull and the eerie poetry beneath that still captures the imagination this time of year. The meaning is still clear: always remember death, because it will certainly remember you.
-Sarah McDonough, Programs Manager
As an art historian it’s become innate in my habits to walk into any room and look at objects, and with looking at those objects come the questions of who made it, what was/is it used for, when was it made and why is it important (more on that concept later). We’re surrounded by objects in our life - some utilitarian, some precious treasures which hold memories, and others somewhere in between.
The reason I became an art historian, and then decided to work in the museum field, is partly because I was always intrigued by the questions surrounding objects. I remember walking into the Tate Britain my junior year of high school and stopping cold in front of a particular painting (Ophelia by John Everett Millais) and all of a sudden wanting to know everything about it. I’d come to learn later that my desire to know about that work of art was the study of art history. Added on to this thirst for knowledge about art and objects was an equally rich need to share my knowledge with others, if I know about these amazing artworks than everyone else should know too! Further to my education I would come to learn that this fell into the world of museum education, and my eternal gratitude goes to Dr. Tom Somma at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, VA for teaching and guiding me to the path I’m on today.
The path has been winding for sure, with curves I never thought I would take, and thankfully it has now led me to Lexington Historical Society as the new Executive Director. One of the major reasons I accepted the position was the depth of the history surrounding the four sites overseen by LHS. How can you not be in awe of houses that literally saw the birth of our country? And the fact that they are still standing, still here for us and future generations is thanks to all who came before us and lends gravitas to me and my staff being stewards of that history now. Tied into this is how do we make these sites speak to contemporary audiences and showcase our collection in new and interesting ways to get people just as excited about the stories behind objects as I am.
One of the first things I did, week one of my tenure, was walk through each site and take notes on the interpretations, and anything that came to mind for the future. What ended up happening though as well, and it came as no surprise to me, is I would stop every minute or two to take macro photos of various collections objects. On my off days you’ll find me stretching my photographer muscles, and macro photography is a love of mine. So as I walked through Buckman Tavern, Hancock-Clarke House, and Munroe Tavern I stopped, slowed down and really looked at the smaller objects in the collection. When you slow down it’s amazing what you’ll find and see, and whether it’s the light coming through the stopper of a decanter, the tulip decoration on a jar, or the decorations on a tea cup it begs the question what is the story behind this object?
Sometimes as museum professionals we get caught up in dates, famous names, preserving the collection at all costs, which is all important and valid. But at the heart of the mission, in my eyes, is to tell the stories of the objects and the people connected to them. Sometime, two hundred years ago, someone was using that decanter during dinner, just as people are doing today. These objects are witnesses to history and can connect us to that history through shared experiences, feelings and purpose.
Museums and historic sites are here to educate, to embrace the community we serve, and first and foremost to tell the stories of the people and objects which have come before us. It is also our job, and so important to me as the new Director of LHS, to continue those stories through weaving them with contemporary narratives and art to continue our mission for the next two hundred years.
-Carol S. Ward, Executive Director
One item in the collection at Lexington Historical Society of great interest is a sampler created by Lucebia Windship. It was finished sometime after 1780, and it depicts Lucebia's siblings as branches of a tree, growing from her parents. The purpose of samplers was to show off the needlework skills of the creator. One look at the tight, little green stitches on every single leaf of the tree will leave no doubt as to the ability of Eusebeia to create beautiful, lady-like art. But this piece has more to tell us.
When I began giving tours at Munroe Tavern in 2012, this piece was a prime feature in the exhibit. It was placed in the “women’s bedroom," as we were interpreting it at the time, and we were using the opportunity to say something about the history of Lexington’s women. Unfortunately, we didn’t have much to say. Women in the 18th century would have been literate, as this was a tenet of the then-current prevailing Puritanical values of understanding the Bible for oneself. However, since the written records – town meeting minutes, sermons, tax records, etc. – were the exclusive domain of men, most of women’s stories have not come down to us.
This sampler, as well as others, does give us a window into their world, though. This sampler was meant to be displayed for company, and it records that there were two Daniels in the family tree, as well as two Eusebias. This was because you did not have the luxury, in the eighteenth century, of expecting all of your babies to grow up. It was a hard fact of life. Also apparent is the fact that Eusebia saw no problem in recording that her parents were wed on May 3, 1760 and that her elder brother Levi was born just six months later on November 9.
-James Miele, Museum Store Manager
History has many methods to capture one's interest and encompasses everything we do. It's not only our past but also our future. This is one of the reasons I chose to study history.
A little bit more about me, my name is Lizzie, and I'm a rising senior at the University of New Hampshire. I'm majoring in History with a Minor in Italian Studies, and Classics. I was given the opportunity to intern with the Lexington Historical Society this past summer and couldn't pass up the chance to work in my future field. With the help of Dr. Kimberly Alexander, as well as Stacey Fraser, the Collections and Outreach Manager at Lexington Historical Society, I was able to peek behind the curtain of how a historical society is run and the amount of time and effort that are poured into it.
When we visit these historic houses, we don't always think about the amount of effort that was put into every room, the amount of research that was conducted to get all the right information to make a memorable experience for anyone who walks through the door. I was able to see that all of the staff, volunteers, and tour guides are very passionate about what they do and it's inspiring.
The Society receives historical materials pertaining to the American Revolution and other eras studied at the Society. These materials are catalogued and stored based on 2D versus 3D materials. Each type is stored based on their needs and is temperature controlled. The storage of these materials is crucial to their longevity and quality. Cataloguing these materials is a multiple step process that includes electronic entries, as well as the physical storing of these items. Stacey and Elizabeth Mubarek, the Archives Manager, manage these 3D and 2D materials respectively, and care very greatly for every item they receive.
I worked primarily with Stacey, the Collections and Outreach Manager at the Lexington Historical Society. She was incredibly helpful whenever I had questions and showed me the ropes on how to handle the marketing of a non-profit, something that is much harder and more intricate than one may think. With her, I was able to design social media posts, create a posting schedule, as well as other related tasks, and of course, write this blog post!
Working on the marketing aspect of history has been such a great learning experience, and my appreciation for history only grew throughout this experience. I’m grateful that I was able to get the chance to work in my future field and observe and participate in a museum studies setting. Interning at the Lexington Historical Society has been a pivotal stepping stone in figuring out my future, and for that I’m forever grateful. I'd like to thank Stacey and everyone at the Historical Society for their help and support this past summer and for granting me this great opportunity!
-Elizabeth Racioppi, 2021 Summer Intern
Lexington is known as the “Birthplace of American Liberty,” and you certainly can’t have a Founding Birth without a Founding Mother.
If you take a look around Lexington Green, you’ll notice an abundance of monuments and plaques: the iconic statue of Captain Parker, eternally waiting for the next coming of the redcoats from Boston, the obelisk dedicated to the fallen of the Battle of Lexington, where they are also buried, another monument to Parker’s speech before the battle, a monument to the entire company of Lexington militia, and plaques with trees in memory of Lexington’s World War I casualties. The men who fought for freedom across the ages in town were heroes, but there were others quietly – and at times not so quietly – fought in their own way and kept society running during both war and peace, who have not received such recognition.
Lexington Historical Society has been working with a local group called LexSeeHer, which is dedicated to researching Lexington’s historical women, bringing their stories to the public, and establishing a monument in the town center in their memory. In addition to this project, LexSeeHer has been offering virtual lectures, working with the local Girl Scouts, who designed beautiful banners honoring four centuries of Lexington women (that you can now see hanging from the lightposts downtown!), and planning for future living history events where visitors can interact with some of these historical women in person.
As part of the long pre-planning for these events, as well as doing extensive research to create the most accurate images possible for the upcoming statue, the LexSeeHer research team has been meeting weekly to discuss the variety of female heroes in town throughout the centuries, new findings from historical documents, and the clothing that would have been worn by these women during the most formative parts of their stories. Recently the group was able to meet for the first time in person to look over some of the 18th century clothing its members have already crafted for themselves, and to plan the design and construction of historical clothing for Margaret Tulip, an enslaved woman who successfully sued for her freedom in 1768, and Julia Robbins, an active abolitionist in the 1850s.
LexSeeHer has many ideas for projects and events moving forward, and its next endeavor will be a recognition of Lexington’s revolutionary spinning protest of 1769. Forty-five women gathered with spinning wheels at the home of Anna Harrington on August 31, 1769, to spin cotton and flax into thread that could be made into homespun clothing. Operating in defiance of British import taxes, these women were able to make a strong political statement in the open, as well as offering a practical solution to the problem at hand. This year, on the 252nd anniversary of the event, LexSeeHer members will gather at the former site of the Harrington House on Harrington Road to demonstrate just how much of an impact a group of forty-five women would have made on our landscape.
Be sure to join us at 3 Harrington Road at 6:00 PM on August 31st to view LexSeeHer's tableau, learn more about our founding mothers, and view the proposed spot for the new women's history monument!
- Sarah McDonough, Programs Manager
In August 2020, local group LexChat - Community Conversation offered Lexington Historical Society a Black Lives Matter flag to fly in front of the Lexington Depot, our headquarters for the last twenty years. We accepted, excited to show our support for our Black members, neighbors, and friends . . . and to prove that our then-recently-published racial equity statement was not just words.
On June 28 of this year, we will relocate the BLM flag temporarily to honor our annual tradition of hanging a large-scale American flag in front of the building around Independence Day. This year, the flag has particular poignance in the face of so many Americans lost to the twin epidemics of COVID-19 and systemic racism.
On July 4, we will gather as a community on the lawn between Buckman Tavern and the Visitor’s Center, nearly on top of the spot where the American experiment began. We’ll hear the words that declare “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
On July 5, we will meet members of LexChat to raise a newly donated BLM flag and renew our commitment to the words in the Declaration and the words on the flag. Black Lives Matter. We would be untrue to generations of brave Americans if we believed otherwise.
Last May, I wrote a blog post discussing how Lexington Historical Society would very soon be launching What Life Was Like in Lexington: The COVID-19 History Project as its newest collecting initiative. The goal of this project was to document this period in Lexington’s history so that future generations would be better able to understand the year that was 2020. As best as possible, we wanted to do our part to ensure that history was collected as it was happening – a process called rapid response collecting. At that time, many of us did not foresee the pandemic’s effects lingering so prominently for quite so long . . .
Over a year later, though, COVID-19 continues to shape our daily life in many ways. The future is starting to look brighter, with many choosing to receive vaccinations, allowing us to re-enter society more safely. Many are back at school or work, which continues to look quite different than it did pre-COVID. Businesses are slowly reopening, albeit with social distancing measures still in place or modified hours. Some of us are even beginning to feel comfortable gathering again with small groups indoors or traveling to visit family that we have not been able to see or hug in months.
Many others, though, have chosen to not be vaccinated, or have had negative experiences when receiving the vaccine. Some of us have lost loved ones during the pandemic, and we continue to mourn the loss of jobs, opportunities, or life experiences that we have not been able to be a part of in this last year. And, of course, many are still experiencing anxiety and worry as we continue to hear more about a lack of “herd immunity,” as well as increased variants.
In many ways, COVID-19 continues to shape us as a community and as individuals, and the fact remains that future researchers will look to us to learn more about this time in history and how Lexington residents experienced and were impacted by it – even a year after the initial quarantine measures were imposed.
We still want to hear from you! You and your family can participate in this program in a variety of ways as you feel comfortable, and this project is open to Lexington residents of ALL ages. We are hoping to preserve a look at our overall experiences and how our lives have been altered:
Lexington Historical Society continues to ask you to document your experiences for posterity. Help us do our part in collecting and archiving this era for future benefit. Consider donating your photographs, correspondence, diaries, favorite take-out menus from the past year, and anything else that you feel really speaks to your experiences in Lexington during COVID-19. History is what is happening today – make sure you that YOU are a part of what is preserved!
Featuring the voices of Lexington Historical Society permanent staff and occasional guest authors.