November 30, 2016

A new voice On King Street!

Sira Dooley Fairchild has been working at the Bostonian Society since February as the Finance and Administrative Assistant.  In December, she will begin a new position as the Society's Collections Manager, where she will be a regular contributor to On King Street. Get to know Sira a bit in this introduction post!

Although I have written a few posts on this blog previously, I’d like to take a minute to formally introduce myself as the Society's new Collection Manager. The Bostonian Society's object holdings include some 6,500 artifacts and pieces of art. I am very excited to get started as the Collections Manager and I can’t wait to feature some of the most interesting objects from the collection.

Sira at the Durham Cathedral
I am a broadly-trained archaeologist, with experience digging and surveying on two continents. I received my Ph.D in archaeology from the University of Durham in 2013, where my research focused on early medieval religious change through an historiographical lens. But my very first experience with Collections Management began many years before, when I was just 12 years old and I began to volunteer at the Boston City Archaeological Laboratory, which at that time was located in the North End. Home to thousands of artifacts, many of them from the Big Dig, the lab had recently experienced a flood in one of their collections storage areas and many of the artifacts required cleaning, relabeling, and improved storage conditions.

Since then I have worked as a commercial archaeologist, digging my way across New England and the Deep South, done landscape survey in Iceland, and ground penetrating radar on an Iron Age oppidum in Gloucestershire in England. I have collected soil samples and C-14 samples and conducted GPS mapping. I have sifted through thousands of unnumbered photos from the 1953 excavation at Yeavering in Northumbria. I have written the site report for the site of Scutchamer’s Knob in Oxfordshire, after analyzing the entire collection of objects recovered from the site in earlier excavations. I am excited to be back in Boston, where this adventure began, and excited for the challenge of getting my head around this diverse collection. Please join me in exploring some of the most interesting objects from Revolutionary Boston as I begin to write about them for the blog.

By Sira Dooley Fairchild, Collections Manager

November 23, 2016

Days of Reflection: proclamations on view at the Old State House

Last year, we marked Thanksgiving by highlighting a special item from our archival collection - a Proclamation for a Day of Thanksgiving and Prayer, issued by Governor John Hancock in November of 1783. This year, that proclamation is temporarily on display in the Old State House. It is paired with a Proclamation for a Day of Public Fasting and Prayer, also from 1783. Both of these proclamations were issued by Governor Hancock from the Council Chamber of the Old State House, just a few feet away from where they are currently on display.

A Proclamation for a Day of Public Fast and Prayer, 1783
MS0119/Doc. 394.26 H2343
I have previously written about the Thanksgiving proclamation but it is important to point out that the "Thanksgiving" it references differs from the holiday we know today. In 1783 Thanksgiving was not yet a nationally or a federally celebrated holiday. Instead, the governors of individual colonies would declare days of thanksgiving for various reasons, such a bountiful harvest or the successful completion of a significant event. Even though the exact function of the Thanksgiving proclamation is different from what we know today, we can connect to its intention. The proclamation urged citizens to assemble together and celebrate their blessings, which is something that many of us do this time of year.

Detail of MS0119/Doc. 394.26 H2343
It can be a bit harder for us to draw a connection to a proclamation for a day of fasting and prayer, especially in November and December, when many of us are doing the opposite of fasting. But the Proclamation for a Day of Public Fasting and Prayer is displayed with the Thanksgiving proclamation because the two have similar roots. Historically, days of fasting were typically set in the spring and summer, and days of thanksgiving were set in fall. During the Revolutionary War, the colonies set days of fasting and prayer throughout the year as a means of protest against the British. While similar to days of thanksgiving, a day of fasting called for more somber reflection and set aside a day for religious worship and abstaining from labor and recreation. The proclamation called for citizens to humble themselves, confess their sins, and implore forgiveness.

If you are in the Boston area, be sure to stop by the Old State House to take a close look at these two documents. And we hope you enjoy your day of Thanksgiving, but in moderation so you don't feel like celebrating a day of fasting afterward!

By Elizabeth Roscio, Library and Archives Manager

November 3, 2016

Is Funding Tangible?

Education Associate Jennifer Guerin giving a tour on the Boston
Massacre inside the Council Chamber of the Old State House
On King Street usually features the work of the Bostonian Society's history and education staff, but there are many other departments hard at work here, often behind the scenes.  One of those departments is Development, which does the important job of handling memberships, donor relations, and securing funding for the Society and the Old State House.  In this post our Development Associate, Heather Rockwood, gives our readers a look into one of our funding sources and answers the question "is funding tangible?"

When non-profits raise money, can it be seen, felt? Is it tangible? YES! The Bostonian Society relies on the money raised through ticket sales to the museum, items purchased in our three Revolutionary Boston Museum Gift Shops, through membership and individual and corporate donors, and lastly through grant writing to foundations and the government.

The Massachusetts Cultural Council (MCC) is a government agency that gives money to Massachusetts cultural non-profits. The people of Massachusetts and visitors from all over the world can see and feel the difference the MCC makes to the Old State House museum through the funds given to the Bostonian Society.

The funding the Bostonian Society receives from the MCC goes toward keeping the Old State House open and available for visitors. Without this vital funding, the Bostonian Society could not keep highly-trained and well-informed professional staff running the museum.  Funding from the MCC also goes towards this beautiful 300 year old building’s utilities costs. As you can imagine, keeping a large (by 18th century standards) building cool in the summer, and warm in the winter, with consideration towards all the important historical artifacts on display within the museum, can be a challenge!

Coming into the Old State House and viewing the galleries, taking a tour, or reading this blog allows everyone to see and feel the difference the MCC makes to the Old State House and the Bostonian Society.

By Heather Rockwood, Development Associate