I’m writing to tell you more about how we are preparing for the move to the Archives and Research Center (ARC) at Munroe Tavern. We will be opening a bit later than originally planned – but fear not! Plans are well underway to get the archives up and running in the next few months, and we are so excited to finally get to share our new building with the public!
First, we are happy to announce that in October, we had our custom designed compact shelving installed in the basement vaults, as well as additional fixed shelving and locking gun cabinets. We also received the metal bookcases ordered for our reading room on the first floor and the rare bookshelves for the second floor. Additionally, we ordered and assembled several metal processing tables that will be used primarily by our volunteers and interns in our processing room. In October, we purchased two large exhibit cases that will be located in the reading room, and we also received a donation of two table exhibit cases from the International Museum of World War II that recently closed in Natick.
We are still waiting to receive some additional wire shelving for both the second floor of the ARC and the basement vaults, as well as metal flat file map drawers for the second floor. Our window treatments, special ordered for our unique windows, will be installed the third week of November. As you can see, preparations have certainly been underway and are nearly complete!
On to the move itself! This project has a lot of moving parts (no pun intended), and we have split it up into “phases” to keep each step straight.
Phase One, weather permitting, will be taking place this Wednesday, November 20. This phase will involve moving most archival collections from the current archives, located in the Hancock-Clarke House basement, into the new archival compact shelving at the ARC. This includes our reading room browsing library and our rare book collection. We will then spend the next few weeks arranging the collections in the new space at the ARC, as well as rearranging the old archival storage spaces at Hancock-Clarke in preparation for Phase Two.
Phase Two will involve moving large framed artwork, signs, and any exhibit related materials that had previously been stored at Munroe Tavern to the old Hancock-Clarke archives (which will now be freed up after Phase One is complete). An exciting thing to point out about this collections move is that we are not losing any space that we already had – we are just gaining additional space! So, we will be re-purposing the Hancock-Clarke archival vaults in order to store these oversize materials that are not accessed frequently. The Phase Two move will be completed by fine arts handlers at T. E. Andreson in order to assure the safety of these items while in transit. Phase Two is planned for late December or early January.
After Phase Two, and in preparation for Phase Three, we will be moving most of the technology, including computers, scanners, and the server, from Hancock-Clarke archives into the new spaces in the ARC. Any remaining collections items at the ARC that have not yet been placed on shelving will be arranged on the new wire shelving (which will, at this point, have been delivered and installed). The staff offices will be prepared and furnished, and the processing room will be prepared for volunteer work spaces.
Phase Three is the final phase, and it is tentatively scheduled for January 28, 2020. This is the least intensive phase, and it involves moving all extraneous items left at Hancock-Clarke archives after Phase One to the ARC (such as filing cabinets, oversize map files, and any remaining archival collections). All remaining office furniture at Hancock-Clarke archives will either be moved to the ARC or disposed of, and the office spaces will also be re-purposed for collections storage.
By this time, when all three phases are complete, it will likely be early February. At that point, we will spend the next several weeks putting the finishing touches on our public reading room space, as well as updating object and box locations in our database, thereby allowing us to accommodate researchers and research requests. We expect these preparations to be completed so that we can be fully open to the public by late spring or early summer of 2020. We look forward to welcoming you into the archives’ new home!
-Elizabeth Mubarek, Archives Manager
This past month I portrayed Elijah Sanderson in Lexington Historical Society's annual "Ghosts and Graves" experience. I played my character in the warm Tap Room at Buckman Tavern (where in fact Elijah was that night), but in between performances I got to wondering. Thinking about those dark and chilly hours on April 19, 1775 - with people coming and going from the tavern bearing a variety of information - were the local militia drinking alcohol that night and morning? I had thought about it before - all we veteran tour guides have - but this time I really was trying more than ever before to understand their position.
The answer for many amateur tour guides with a peripheral knowledge of the events in Lexington is a smiling "yes" - they will tell their visitors with a wink and a nudge that the militia had been imbibing "liquid courage" which advanced their next act of taking a stand on the town green that day. This version of events is not confined to colorful retelling but indeed has been enshrined in some popular histories.
Several years ago, a local historian who had just published a successful account of the opening events of the war came to Lexington to deliver a lecture and to field questions. Many of the modern Lexington Minutemen were in attendance, and they took issue with this writer’s assertion that the Lexington militia were “possibly in an alcohol induced haze” on the morning of April 19, 1775. Since the 1775 company were gathered in a tavern, the whole scenario seems to make sense, given (in large part, I suspect) the modern idea of what a "tavern" is. But for the Minuteman company of today, it was grossly egregious to besmirch their honorable reputation by the author’s going so far as to suggest that some were drunk.
In eighteenth century Massachusetts a tavern was a necessary and reputable establishment for sustaining traveling merchants on their way to and from Boston. In many places, including Lexington, a settlement's main tavern provided a warm setting for official town business on days when the unheated church building would not do. It was a decent and convenient place for men and women alike to socialize between church services. In short, Lexington's Buckman Tavern was hardly a place known for revelry and heavy drinking.
For the eighteenth-century Yankee farmers of Lexington, alcohol was probably a daily part of life. It was less potent than today’s equivalents since less sugar was available for fermentation. It contained sediments which we would find unpalatable today but were an added source of nutrition for the colonists. They would have taken beer and alcoholic cider from an early age. Clean water was available in a place like Lexington, but it does not seem to have been the beverage of choice for the Revolutionary war-era colonists. Alcohol was not at all disapproved of, but drunkenness, like any disorderly behavior, most certainly was.
All this notwithstanding, the night of April 18, 1775 was a frightening one for all concerned. The tavern became a hive of activity, with people of all ages - but mostly men - filling the rooms and sharing news. Would the British arrest John Hancock and Samuel Adams as they passed through the town? Would they ransack or burn the inhabitants' houses?
It cannot be said for certain what (if indeed John Buckman made his supply available that night at all) any of the militia who would face the redcoats on Lexington green that morning drank just beforehand. Yet we historians deal in evidence where we can, and there is no evidence that alcohol was a factor in the decisions made that fateful morning. The very fact that there is no evidence of this carries special force. Of the myriad sources we have describing the events of that day, not one - British or American - notes that the opposing gunmen seemed in any way impaired. And each side certainly had every reason to characterize the other as disorderly.
There is more to debunking this myth than mere splitting of hairs. It belies the very real fact that the participants in the battle of Lexington understood all too well what was at stake and what they were about. They were in no mood for merrymaking. And when they did what they ultimately decided to do, it was entirely of their own, coherent volition.
-James Miele, Buckman Tavern Shop Manager
Featuring the voices of Lexington Historical Society permanent staff and occasional guest authors.