Back in November I wrote a post about being thankful for our visitors and their understanding that Munroe Tavern had to be closed last season as construction of Lexington Historical Society’s Archives and Research Center was being completed. While the closure was not what any staff wanted, it did provide our Interpretation Committee the unique opportunity to reassess our interpretation of the historic tavern. Throughout the season last year, we discussed what stories were key to the house and what opportunities there were to make the experience at Munroe Tavern more immersive for our visitors. After months of discussions, we were ready to unveil the new interpretation at Munroe Tavern just in time for all of the fun events of Patriot’s Day weekend on April 13.
We’ve chosen to expand the story of the British Regulars on the first floor of the Tavern by including more first-person accounts of what the British troops experienced on April 19, 1775 through the use of audio clips that are playable in each room. Thanks to some diligent research done by Stacey Fraser, LHS Collections Manager, regarding what household items make the best blood stains, we’ve added some bloody bandages and even some broken furniture to the rooms on the first floor. The hope is that visitors will have a better sense of what the tavern might have looked like when the Munroe family returned home after the events of April 19th.
As visitors move up the stairs to the second floor of the tavern, they will reconnect with the Munroe family and have the opportunity to learn about the damage that was caused to the town of Lexington during the British retreat. Interpretation Committee member and guide Joan Paglicua and I had to opportunity to do some research at the Massachusetts State Archives and were able to locate the bills of damages that were submitted by Lexington residents following the Battle of Lexington, which are on display for visitors to study.
As always, our knowledgeable guides will be on hand roving through the tavern and interacting with visitors. They will be utilizing a roving interpretation method that has become increasingly popular in museums across the nation. This roving interpretation approach allows for the visitor to determine the path of the interaction and leads to a much more conversational tone between the visitor and the interpreter.
We have also begun to introduce objects from our teaching collection into the tavern interpretation. This will allow visitors to handle reproduction objects similar to items that would have been used by the Munroe family during their everyday normal lives or even the British Regulars during their brief visit to the Tavern on April 19th.
As I said earlier, we were able to open Munroe Tavern on April 13th and will continue to be open on weekends from 12 - 4 pm through Memorial Day. After that, the tavern will be open every day from 12 - 4 pm.
We’ll also be open for a special event on Wednesday May 22nd, as part of a Freedom’s Way Hidden Treasures. This event will be highlighting the Garden of Colonial Flowers outside Munroe Tavern. Members of the Lexington Field and Garden club will be on hand to discuss the garden and Munroe Tavern will be open from 10 am- 4 pm free of charge if you want to stop by for a quick visit.
-Chris Kauffman, Education and Interpretation Manager
As many may already be aware … Lexington Historical Society will open its new Archives and Research Center in the fall of 2019! This is a very exciting time for the Society, and for me as the Archives Manager. This new building will allow us to have a handicapped accessible facility for researchers, as well as additional storage space with state-of-the-art features for our growing collections. The new processing lab will provide ample space for volunteers, interns, and staff to process collections, and the new reading room will give us additional space to exhibit some of our smaller, lesser known holdings as well as a relaxed atmosphere for conducting research.
This project is very exciting and will have so many positive effects on the Society. But it also requires that we move our archival collections from their current location at Hancock-Clarke House to the new storage space … which will be located across town behind Munroe Tavern. And this comes with its own set of challenges.
Many of our archival collections are extremely old and/or extremely fragile. The Society has been in existence since 1886, so we have done our best to improve storage conditions to align with best practices over time. Storing archival collections “properly” can be very expensive and a very time-consuming process, so to some degree we had to triage our needs. Because collections have been able to stay put in our current archives until now, it hasn’t necessarily been imperative that they be stored in a way in which they were safe to be moved. In many cases, as long as an item has been stored safely on a shelf and remains stable in its current state, that has been enough until now.
Now that everything needs to be moved across town, though, all items need to be stored properly and very securely. This will be one of the most challenging parts of planning required for this exciting move. In preparation, we closed the archives to researchers and the public as of April 15, with plans to reopen in the new space sometime in the fall. Now we have begun the rehousing process – and the archives have been covered from floor to ceiling with archival boxes, enclosures, and folders of various shapes and sizes.
Making sure that collections are housed properly is not a quick and easy project – and as I mentioned, it’s not a cheap one either. Check out the costs of just a few of the items that we have needed to order several of (or in some cases, several dozen):
And these are just a few of our more standardized items! We have hundreds of glass plate negatives and glass lantern slides in a variety of sizes, with each variation in size requiring its own set of enclosures and its own storage boxes. We have a large Bible collection, and many of the Bibles are in very fragile conditions and need their own oversize boxes in unique sizes. Every scrapbook or photo album needs to be stored (either on its own or with other similar items) in a way that it won’t have too much space to slide around in a box when lifted off of a shelf and put onto a moving truck. Oral history collections require boxes made to store cassettes, postcard collections require postcard boxes, posters and blueprints that have just been sitting on shelves until now require archival poster tubes so that they don’t get crushed in the move – and on and on. So, this is a big undertaking!
And we haven’t even discussed the necessary labeling of these boxes after the rehousing process has been completed! Each box needs to be labeled with a collection name, as well as a unique identification number (which denotes the collection number and the box number within the collection). This newly implemented ID system will serve the purpose of allowing us to individually identify each box that is involved in the move and to be able to account for each box as we inventory.
We are very excited to think, though, that after this move has been completed, most of our items will be stored safely and securely. Our boxes will be labeled clearly and will make collections easy to identify and sort through. We will feel much more comfortable giving researchers access to collections in the new reading room space, since we will now have a much clearer idea of what items are in each box in each collection. And when everything is all said and done and the hecticness of the move is complete … when we get to put these brand-new boxes with their properly housed materials on their brand-new shelving units in a brand-new building …. well, it is then that we will take a deeply satisfied sigh.
-Elizabeth Mubarek, Archives Manager
Featuring the voices of Lexington Historical Society permanent staff and occasional guest authors.