Lexington Historical Society is much more than a room with piles of old documents and artifacts; it is a vibrant organization, active all year round, with an engaged staff and volunteer base. To give you an idea of just how active Lexington Historical Society is, here are some fun facts!
• 20,000 people walk through the doors of our museums
• LHS presents an average of 50 public programs
• An average of 2,500 students participate in education programs at our museums
• We receive about 100 research inquiries
So how do we fund our extensive operations?
Many people think that we receive funding from the town or National Park Service. The truth is, though, we are a private non-profit organization. While we sometimes receive grants from a local or state government entity, we do not receive regular funding from any one source.
Each year, we rely on income from the sale of our museum tickets, membership dues, our two appeal campaigns in the fall and spring, and various fundraisers throughout the year such as our golf tournament and Relinquished Treasures sale.
A New Initiative
We recently began planning for an additional fundraiser in the fall, with the goal of it being our major fundraiser of the year. The theme for this year’s fundraiser is “Mid-Century Marvels: Bauhaus and Beyond.” Our aim is that, through sponsorships, ticket sales, and advertisement space in the events’ program books, the Mid-Century Marvels fundraiser will help us close out 2019 with a bang, poised for growth and success in 2020.
This series of events is scheduled to coincide with the centennial anniversary of the Staatliches Bauhaus, a design school that began in 1919 in Germany that influenced art and architecture all over the world. Lexington is home to hundreds of mid-century modern homes, so the Bauhaus anniversary has strong ties to Lexington’s history.
Mid-Century Marvels Events
The first event takes place this Thursday, September 12 at the Gropius House in Lincoln. The evening begins with wine and hors d’oeuvres on the patio behind the house, and ends with a special tour by Gropius House staff with interesting collections pieces on display. The space is very limited, and there are only a few tickets remaining! For tickets, please call our office at (781) 862-1703.
After the Gropius House tour there will be a tour of the Gamota’s house (now sold out) showing mid-century modern art, a Cronin Lecture by Sasaki Associates discussing the life and work of the late Lexington resident Hideo Sasaki, and a cocktail party in a mid-century modern home in Shaker Glen. For information on the Sasaki lecture and the cocktail party, please visit www.lexingtonhistory.org/events.
Support from Individuals and Businesses
The individuals and businesses who sponsor these events know the value of Lexington Historical Society and want to support our important work. Many of our supporters return year after year and we also hope to engage new individuals and businesses each year to enhance our ties with the community and allow us to do more for Lexington and for our visitors from around the world.
I would like to thank the following individuals and businesses who are sponsoring Mid-Century Marvels: Bauhaus and Beyond:
• Christina Gamota
• George Gamota
• Hisel Flynn Architects
• Janovitz & Tse
• Lester E. Savage Real Estate
• Kane Investments
• Reside, Inc.
• Seasons Four
The Mid-Century Marvels: Bauhaus and Beyond events are crucial to Lexington Historical Society’s end-of-year fundraising goals. Without fundraising, our organization would not be able to care for our collections, welcome thousands of students, or open our museums’ doors to thousands of visitors. Please consider supporting us through our Mid-Century Marvels Initiative by joining us at an event or making a donation at www.lexingtonhistory.org/financial-donations. Thank you for your support!
-Erica McAvoy, Executive Director
If you’ve driven past Munroe Tavern in the past week, you might have noticed a cadre of ladders and workers painting the exterior of the building. Like all homes, our historic properties need to be touched up occasionally so they can look their best for all those wonderful photos that our visitors snap of them during the season. Wondering how each of the unique colors of Buckman Tavern, Hancock-Clarke House and Munroe Tavern were selected? Well, allow me to peel back the curtain and explain how each house got their color.
Buckman Tavern: With construction of Buckman Tavern taking place in 1710, one can imagine that the exterior of the building has been painted hundreds of times of its life. However, once Lexington Historical Society began interpreting the tavern, we have at least some idea of how many times the exterior has been painted. According to records the exterior of Buckman Tavern was painted in 1915, 1926, 1941, 1955, 1959, 1969 and 1989.
The yellow walls and cream color trim that you see on the tavern today were chosen as a result of an exterior paint study done in 1987 by Sara Chase of SPNEA (now Historic New England) Conservation Center. During that study, Sara took historic research, including using Amos Doolittle’s engraving, and scientific analysis of paint layers found on old clapboards to determine the potential color of Buckman Tavern. During her work she discovered that the first paint layers on the clapboards was “a thick medium dull ochre yellow, a thick slightly greenish ochre yellow, a layer of oil glaze and a warm light tan.” Sara later notes in her report that the “tan and cream [trim] is probably a little late for 1775” and concludes with the suggestion that a yellow and cream scheme was the best recommendation for the exterior paint of Buckman Tavern. This color scheme is still adhered to today and was at one point such a popular color for homes that ACE hardware in Lexington used to carry a “Buckman Tavern Yellow” paint option.
Hancock-Clarke House: Like Buckman Tavern, the Hancock-Clarke House, built in 1737, has seen countless paint jobs. However, during the restoration of the home in 2008, much research was done by Rykerson Architecture to try to determine the correct exterior color of the home. Again, a combination of physical evidence and scientific testing would help determine the color scheme that is currently being followed. In their report, Rykerson noted that an oil painting of the home dating to around 1840 showed the house being painted a yellow ochre. Rykerson was able to discover that “when first restored in 1897, the windows were painted a contrasting white; the house and trim were by then a uniform color.
A previous report on the exterior paint of the Hancock-Clarke house completed in 1977 by Dr. Judith Selwyn of SPNEA found many layers of paint on the house. But Dr. Selwyn felt that the “curry” color put on the house in 1970 was similar to the earliest layers. She noted that at a paint mine in Lexington yellow ochre paint was mined in the eighteenth century and provided some explanation as to the possibility of the exterior being painted a yellow color. The last bit of research done regarding the exterior paint colors was done by Brian Powell, who examined the paint in 2006. Brian found that paint on both sections of the house were of a “early yellow ochre- a medium or light green- possibly a layer of another yellow ochre—3 layers of grey/brown including the present paint.” With this information obtained from the various reports and visual aids, the current color scheme was selected and has was last used in 2018. The current colors of the house are part of the California Paints Historic Colors of America series. The body of the building is Georgian Yellow with a Polish trim.
Munroe Tavern: Munroe Tavern was built in 1735 and has undergone several changes to the exterior of the building throughout its history. Due to the replacement of the exterior finishing materials over these years, Rykerson Architecture in their Historic Structures report from 2010 was unable to determine an exact original color of the building. However, they did note that since 1939, the exterior has been painted red. However, some clues as to the original color of the building can be found in a 1991 report done by Sara Chase prior to the replacement of clapboards and corner boards that were done in 1993.
As Sara notes in her report: “Sample chips were taken where the wood had been sheltered or where wood was secured with cut nails. The sampled corner board was cut and the lower portion of the wood obviously had been cut when the [tap room was removed] …There were earlier and later cut nails and we looked for wood attached with earlier nails. The early cut nails, with diagonally opposite cutting flanges might date from as early as 1815. No wrought nails were found on the exterior wood . . . It appears that there are three layers of dark red paint, each slightly different in value, of most recent paints. Next below that are three layers of greys of quite different values on the clapboards and lighter ivory on the trim. The earliest paints found on the samples are a dull ochre with a lighter cream trim. The ochre, cream and at least one grey layer are pre 1870, pre-machine made paints, because of their unevenly ground and poorly dispersed pigment particle.”
As Sara concluded, the earliest paint samples dated were a grey color that dated to before 1870. She also notes, as did Rykerson Architecture, that it was not possible to determine the exterior color of Munroe Tavern during the 1770-1780 time period. With this information in mind, the decision was made in 2011 to continue the tradition started in 1939 of painting the exterior a red color scheme with the addition of using white trim instead of an all solid red scheme. The current colors of the house are part of the California Paints Historic Colors of America series. The body of the building is Cogswell Cedar with a Lead White trim.
In conclusion, if you’re considering an update to your own dwelling and are looking for examples of historic house colors, all three of our properties have been researched to determine possible original colors and can serve as great examples of what colors to choose. If you need more information regarding the specific make-up of the colors, please don’t hesitate to reach out. We’re always happy to assist.
-Chris Kauffman, Education and Interpretation Manager
The book shown above is a ledger/account book covering the period from 1871-1886. We discovered it in our collection in the spring of 2018. We were surprised to realize that the ledger has come quite a long way! It contains the business (and sometimes personal) accounts of Thomas and John Long of Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island.
Though this is certainly a valuable piece of history, we investigated further and found no evidence of a connection to Lexington. Our mission at the Historical Society is to be a premier interpreter of the events of April 1775, and the faithful steward of all of the town's history through time. Given that this ledger did not help fulfill that mission, we decided to remove it from our collection and try to find a place for it that would be more suitable.
Therefore, the ledger was deaccessioned (more on what that means) this spring per a recommendation by staff and a vote by the Society's collections committee. We then contacted the Prince Edward Island Provincial Archives in Charlottetown to attempt to find a better home for the Long’s records.
Success! They were interested in the ledger. They agreed to take a look at it, though were clear that reviewing it did not mean it would definitely be accepted into their collections. This is a common practice with us and many other museums as well. Sometimes, objects or books or photos or documents offered to an organization may not be in as good condition as we might like, or may have a copyright issue, or there may be another reason to reconsider accepting the donation.
Once we got the go-ahead to bring the ledger to the Provincial Archives for review, the next step was to get it there. Luckily, we were well prepared for that! I have family and a summer cottage on Prince Edward Island and visit every year. The path being clear, I made preparations to bring the ledger with me in July 2019. It traveled in the trunk of my car, housed in an archival folder and a wooden case to protect it from damage. The case may not have been strictly necessary, but with my two children and two dogs in the car as well, it gave me much-appreciated peace of mind.
I delivered the ledger to the Provincial Archives in late July. Historically housed in Province House, a renovation of that historic site moved both the archives and the Offices of the Government next door in 2015. I signed in, got my security badge, and headed up to the fourth floor with the ledger in its case. Once in the reading room of the archives, I had a nice conversation with one of the archivists about the ledger and also generic museums & archives chit chat. The Provincial Archives staff will consider the ledger at some point soon and let us know if and when they accept it. Payload delivered, I headed back outside to the summer heat, pleased that the plan came together and the Longs were back in Charlottetown!
-Stacey Fraser, Collections and Outreach Manager
Anyone who is familiar with those who work in the museum world knows that we just cannot stop learning. In our spare time, we find ourselves attending lectures and symposiums, watching documentaries, and reading the newest, weightiest volumes that we can find on a variety of historical topics and civics issues. The fact that we love to continue learning and discovering new theories, methods, and points of view on a variety of topics also goes hand-in-hand with our professions.
All staff members regularly attend relevant annual conferences and meetings that pertain directly to our individual positions, but we also strive to do even more. We’ve written in the past about some of the ways we do this, but wanted to share an update and a new endeavor in which I am engaged!
Executive Director Erica recently completed a certificate program in nonprofit management and leadership at Boston University. Collections and Outreach Manager Stacey regularly attends workshops on collections care, marketing, and exhibit best practices, including two this past June on the latter topics, presented by the New England Museum Association (NEMA). Programs Manager Sarah attended a panel discussion at Old South Meeting House in February on interpreting slavery at museums, so as to better implement the history of slavery in our interpretation and programming. Education and Interpretation Manager Chris recently took part in a NEMA workshop on “Finding Your Way Through Interpretive Planning.”
And so, with the Society’s support, I recently embarked upon a new pursuit: obtaining an archival Arrangement and Description Certificate through the Society of American Archivists (SAA). SAA is the oldest and largest professional archival association in North America, and thus this is a very credible and reputable program dedicated to the successful teaching of archival best practices. This program requires that I complete eight courses within four tiers of study inside three years, and the courses can be offered periodically in locations across the country. In May, I attended an archival “bootcamp” which took place at University of South Carolina in Columbia and where I completed the three required courses within a four day period.
The courses that I completed were excellent – they were taught by engaging and qualified professionals who tailored the coursework to the needs of the attendees. The attendees themselves varied from an archivist at Linfield College working with the Oregon Wine History Archive, to an archivist from California working with Pixar, to a variety of university and museum archivists. It’s always interesting and informative to learn about what similar and different issues other archivists within the profession face daily. Building these networked relationships and connections with other professionals is incredibly beneficial.
The courses I attended were:
And with that, I’m nearly halfway to completing this program! The remaining five courses are electives, so this will be an excellent chance to choose courses that pertain most to our needs at the Society – especially as our needs grow, change, and professionalize with the opening of our new Archives and Research Center in the fall! I’m very excited to continue pursuing this certificate and to make sure that I am staying current with archival best practice. After all, I love to learn!
-Elizabeth Mubarek, Archives Manager
Visitors come from near and far to visit Lexington and walk in the footsteps of the militiamen and patriots who brought Lexington to the world’s attention in April of 1775. For some time now, Lexington Historical Society has used volunteers through our historic house greeter program to welcome visitors to two of our three historic house museums open to public: the Hancock-Clarke House (36 Hancock Street) and Munroe Tavern (1332 Massachusetts Avenue). Simply put, greeters welcome visitors to the houses, take and sell admission tickets, and orient visitors with the tour-style of that particular house museum. However, this does not fully convey the importance of these volunteers.
For a number of visitors to Lexington, a greeter is the first representative of Lexington Historical Society they will interact with. Being volunteers, greeters have chosen to be there, and visitors can tell that they are genuinely excited to share their significant local history with others. While we wish that every visitor to Lexington had the time to tour one or more of the historic houses, even if they don’t, greeters are still providing way-finding information and local restaurant recommendations, adding to that visitor’s experience of Lexington as a whole. So, for these visitors, greeters are not only the face of the historical society, but also of the community.
Given that the houses are open seven days a week for five months out of the year, it is a significant task to keep the welcome desks staffed. At any given time, the greeter program has 50-60 current volunteers. Starting in April, greeters begin welcoming visitors to the houses on the weekends, and after Memorial Day the greeters fill over 100 shifts each month, June through October. As of July 15, 2019 greeters have volunteered for over 550 hours since April, and we are not even half-way through the season!
Part of what makes this program so successful is how different styles of volunteering come together to build a strong, yet flexible, volunteer program. At the core, there are a handful of greeters who have made the commitment to fill the same shift (or two) each week for most weeks of the season. Others seek to volunteer at least once a week but have a more variable schedule that adapts to our needs from month-to-month. Finally, some greeters may find their availability better lends to volunteering twice a month, filling in where they see the greatest need. The volunteers themselves are equally diverse. They include high school and college students, working professionals, parents and grandparents, and retirees. They are lifelong Lexingtonians, 50+ year residents, new arrivals, and exchange students here for just a year. What they share though is a passion for Lexington’s history and a desire to welcome all those visitors who open the door to the Hancock-Clarke House or Munroe Tavern seeking to experience that history for themselves.
Are you interested in learning how to become a historic house greeter? Contact Melissa Drake at firstname.lastname@example.org.
-Melissa Drake, Weekend Manager
Long before the events of April 19, 1775, Massachusetts was already fighting the British government. As taxation soared following the end of the French and Indian War, early Patriots organized boycotts and protests against the Crown. Not everyone had an equal opportunity for voicing their concerns, however. While elite men could involve themselves in government, and men and women of the lower classes could take to the streets in protest, middle and upper-class women were forced by society to think of their reputations and remain silent. Apparently, women who set fire to the stamp-collector’s house just weren’t considered prime marriage material! However, this doesn’t mean that these women were not actively involved in politics in their own way.
At Buckman Tavern, I am often struck by the way gendered spaces in the building are arranged – we believe that the small parlor next to the kitchen at the back of the house was used as a ladies’ parlor, and it sits directly behind the West Room, a frequent spot for clandestine Patriot meetings. There is no closeable door between these two rooms, allowing the inhabitants of the back parlor to eavesdrop on conversations in the front. I like to think that that the women of Lexington hatched most of their patriotic plans in this room, including the Lexington Spinning Bee, which celebrates its 250th anniversary this year.
Fashion in the 18th century was serious business for both men and women. Your status in society was displayed by your clothing: how in style it was, and what materials it was made of. Fashion also benefited the British economy, as dressmaking fabric was made in England and then imported. Therefore, a fabric boycott was an obvious choice for the Patriot cause, and women, long stereotyped as textile producers, were able to step up to organize and implement these boycotts.
In urban towns like Lexington, most women had only a basic knowledge of textile production. Many were taught to spin, but most houses were producing only coarse, basic linen fabric that could be used around the house for utilitarian purposes. This all changed during boycott years. Sales for spinning wheels skyrocketed as women rushed to be seen creating homespun fabric for the Patriot cause. Ads in newspapers and protest songs proclaimed that local women were refusing marriage proposals from anyone not following the boycott, and tying up their hair with twine instead of silk ribbon.
This culminated in Lexington on August 31, 1769, when forty-five women congregated with their spinning wheels at the home of Daniel Harrington, facing the town common (the house, torn down after the Bicentennial, is now the empty lot on Harrington Street). Over the course of the day, from sunup to sundown, they spun 602 “knots” of 40 yards each of linen and 546 knots of cotton, almost enough thread to cover a marathon route. The thread produced at these spinning matches was often lumpy and unusable, but, as it was ceremoniously presented to Anna Harrington at the end of the day, the crowd would have been proud that they had not only created something that could further the Patriot cause, but that they had been able to hold a public protest nearly fifty people strong under the guise of “genteel women’s work”. Anyone from that point forward seen wearing homespun would automatically be recognized as a true Patriot.
250 years to the day, the Historical Society is recreating this event in its original location. Both historical reenactors and modern spinners alike will be gathering at the Harrington property to demonstrate their craft and talk about the politics of the original protest. Visitors will be able to get a sense of the whole process of creating clothing from start to finish in the 18th century, from combing freshly shorn wool and flax, to spinning, weaving, cutting, and sewing.
We will also be kicking off this event earlier in the month with a special lecture, “I Am An Honest Woman: Female Revolutionary Resistance” by Dr. Emily Murphy of the National Park Service. Join us on August 8th at 7:00 PM at the Depot to find out just how revolutionary these protests were before you see it live for yourself. Space is limited for lectures and reservations are required; email email@example.com to reserve your seat. Be sure to keep an eye on our events page over the summer for more information!
-Sarah McDonough, Programs Manager
Our Board of Directors recently voted to join the #opentoall initiative through LexPride. According to their website, “Open To All is a nationwide campaign to build awareness about the importance of nondiscrimination laws—and to defend the principle that when businesses open their doors to the public, they should be Open To All.” This past spring, we posted our Open to All decals signifying that we do not discriminate and that our buildings are open to all. I am proud that our organization is participating in this program.
Part of our mission at Lexington Historical Society is to “document, preserve, interpret, and present to the public the history of Lexington as a whole.” This means telling the stories all kinds of people who have called Lexington home. I could not help but notice, especially as we hung our #opentoall decals, that our museums and programs do not tell the stories of the many LGBTQ+ people in Lexington today and throughout history. While it might be difficult to learn about LGBTQ+ people in the past, as the written record may not reflect their experiences, I thought that it is certainly possible to learn more about LGBTQ+ people in Lexington’s recent past and to better capture their stories for posterity.
With that in mind, I reached out to Val Overton of LexPride and asked if they might want to partner on a program that features LGBTQ history. Val was on board, and we formed a focus group to put a program together in time for Pride Month.
After a great meeting and dozens of emails, our program, in partnership with LexPride and Greater Boston PFLAG, is happening! Tonight, Thursday, June 20, we will host Dr. Gary Bailey of Simmons College who will discuss the last half century of LGBTQ history since the 1969 Stonewall Uprising. Following the lecture, there will be a panel discussion featuring LGBTQ Lexingtonians who will share their stories of coming of age in Lexington over the last fifty years.
This is an exciting moment for Lexington Historical Society, as we are exploring a new side of history, one that is not often told. However, we still have a long way to go. Like the fight for equal rights for those who identify as LGBTQ+, our inclusion of their stories in our interpretation and programming is still developing and hopefully improving.
I look forward to our continued partnership with LexPride and PFLAG, and anticipate more insightful programs in the future. We at Lexington Historical Society are continuously working to tell the stories of all of Lexington’s people, and I am proud that we are taking this important step.
The program will take place at the Depot, 13 Depot Square, at 7PM. It is free and open to the public, though donations are appreciated. For more information please visit www.lexingtonhistory.org/events.
-Erica McAvoy, Executive Director
Tattoos have a long history in world culture. We don't have a lot of imagery of people showing tattoos in the Historical Society’s photograph collection, however, as they were not widely acceptable in the United States in the 20th century. However, tattoos have become quite common for people aged 40 and under. Our collections manager (me!) has a number of them - some inspired obliquely by museum objects and one that I will show you today that was inspired directly by an item in our collection.
The item shown on the left above is the Reuben Locke powder horn. Reuben Locke fought in the Battle of Lexington. He continued his service in the Revolutionary War as a foot soldier and privateer, was taken prisoner in 1777, and imprisoned in Portsmouth, England. Locke’s experience is one of many amazing stories lived by Lexington’s Revolutionary War veterans.
Of particular note is the carving on Locke’s horn. It's conceivable that the carvings were done while he was imprisoned in Portsmouth England, as a way to pass the time. We don't know the specific inspiration for Reuben’s carvings, but there are daisy wheels and circles and hearts often seen in English folk imagery (more about daisy wheels, or hexafoils). Happily, Locke's story ends well. He survived the war, returned home to Lexington, married his pre-war fiancee Jerusha, had 8 children, and served as a tax collector. He died in 1823.
We featured Locke's powder horn in a exhibit in the CVS pharmacy windows in the spring of 2017. At the time, I was struck by the intricacy and beauty of the carvings on the horn and it quickly became one of my favorite objects in our collection. I selected nine shapes from the horn to be tattooed on my right forearm. And yes, I filled out a permission for use of images form!
When I showed the tattoos (some pictured above) to the collections and marketing committees, we started thinking about other objects in our collections that might make a great tattoo. I have identified a few in the images below, but I will also post more on a future #TattooTuesday. In the meantime, you can visit our online collections website and see if you can find any inspiration yourself!
-Stacey Fraser, Collections and Outreach Manager
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.