2020 Four Nations Concert Series at NEHGS

by Verity Ahlin

Boston has no shortage of rich history and distinguished institutions dedicated to preserving that history. Simply walking down Newbury Street will land you at one of these institutions, and may inspire you to investigate your own family heritage. The New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS), established in 1845, is a longstanding Bostonian institution that, along with their online repository American Ancestors (americanancestors.org), is dedicated to preserving and promoting the study of familial history in America.

With the execution of their “2020” project, commemorating the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower, they have successfully planned a variety of events that cater to those wishing to not only learn more about Pilgrim history, but also their own genealogical roots.

“2020” is a project produced by American Ancestors and NEHGS that very thoughtfully showcases some of the more intangible facets of Pilgrim culture. According to Ryan J. Woods, Senior Vice President and COO of NEHGS, the project includes a variety of “programs, publications, exhibitions, and tours that will touch on the key themes of exploration, innovation, religious freedom, self-governance, immigration, and Thanksgiving as we honor and learn from the enduring legacies of the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag.” I was particularly intrigued by the 2020 Four Nation Concert Series, so I bought a ticket!

On February 13, I had the pleasure of attending the first concert in this series, Pilgrims’ Progress: Music of the Plimoth Colony Settlers 1590-1650, featuring Seven Times Salt, held at NEHGS on Newbury Street in Boston.

Using reproductions of 17th century instruments, the members of Seven Times Salt make up a classic “English Consort,” a four person ensemble consisting of traditional wind and string instruments. In addition to being an enjoyable musical experience, the musicians made sure to explain important historical context for their song choices.

Seven Times Salt kicked off their performance with popular songs from England in the years 1590-1608, before the Mayflower set sail. Next, the musicians explained some of the lesser known history of the Pilgrims’ stay in the Netherlands, playing songs from the region in the years 1608-1620. Seeking religious freedom, Pilgrims lived in the Netherlands prior to their emigration to America. After spending over a decade in the Netherlands, many Pilgrims still sought freedoms that they were not receiving from the Dutch. When they left for America and finally ended their arduous journey on the Mayflower, the Plimoth colonists came with diverse tastes in music, such as psalms, rounds, part-songs, and dance tunes. Seven Times Salt presented these varied musical genres in their final portion of the concert, which focused on Plimoth in the years 1620-1645.

After the performance, the musicians from Seven Times Salt answered questions from the audience followed by a reception, where participants could learn more about the “2020” project as well as NEHGS and American Ancestors.

In addition to the concert series, NEHGS provides interested participants opportunities to learn more about the Mayflower voyage and the early days of American history through talks, tours, and even essay contests for students in grades 5-8 and 9-12. While I can only speak to the concert I attended, I can testify that this program is a successful act of user outreach. Whether it be through experience, study, or participation, everyone can find something that strikes their imagination with the “2020” project.

The professionals at American Ancestors and NEHGS clearly value and care for this rich aspect of American history, and by putting on performances that people enjoy, they create a thirst for further understanding. Once that thirst is established, NEHGS provides the tools for additional study; encouraging users to explore their own history.

The project is currently on-going, and I highly recommend attending one of their events to see how this history comes to life for yourself.

Upcoming dates in the 2020 Four Nation Concert Series are as follows:

  • May 14, 2020: The Beggars’ Songbook: Revolt in the Spanish Netherlands, Historical and Musical Illustration of the Pilgrims’ 10-Year sojourn in the Netherlands, featuring Long & Away.
  • August 13, 2020: Wampanoag Nation Song & Dance, featuring Wampanoag Nation Singers and Dancers.
  • November 19, 2020: The Immigrant Experience to America, featuring Promised Land.

If you would like to attend part of this concert series, participate in another aspect of the “2020” project, or explore your own heritage, I recommend visiting their website: https://mayflower.americanancestors.org/.

“Photography and Corporate Public Relations: The Case of U.S. Steel, 1930-1960” at the Baker Library Special Collections

by Smith Umland

Harvard Business School’s Baker Library Special Collections always takes full advantage of its spot just inside the front door of the library with its exhibitions and it’s no different with Photography and Corporate Public Relations: The Case of U.S. Steel, 1930-1960. The exhibition stands in the front lobby, which is visible from both front and back entrances and the vibrant blues and golden yellow accents of the backlit stanchions and displays catches the eye no matter which door you step in. Four stands in the corners of the room and a table by the front door hold 40-page booklets designed to accompany the exhibition, full of background information, contributions from the director of Special Collections, Laura Linard, and the guest curator, Melissa Banta, and high quality photographs of the pieces shown in the exhibition. Even this initial introduction shows the resources the department has available and how much has gone into this collection, it’s maintenance, and now it’s exhibition.

Eight glass cases stand on either side of backlit displays that organize the exhibition into eight themes that are based on the various public relations strategies that the steel industry took during this time period. Once in the center of these displays, a look to either side shows there are two additional rooms with the broader themes of “Public Relations and U.S. Steel” on one side and “Corporate Commissions and Industrial Photography” on the other. The exhibit’s structure allows anyone to walk into any of the three sections and be able to begin to move through the exhibition from exactly where they are. Unfortunately the stanchions and structure of the exhibition don’t direct you to the reading room of the Special Collections, which is on one side of the front lobby just past the front door. The focus is on the objects themselves, as a way of showing what the archives collect, how it is relevant to Harvard Business School, and how large their collection is. The exhibition displays high quality photographs, original advertisements and marketing materials, books of photography that were released to the public, internal communication and records, and even a video.

It’s clear that this exhibition is designed to capture not only the gaze of students, faculty, and staff who move through the building, but also tourists, who can actually catch a weekly tour of the building starting near the reading room’s entrance. These people can see, first, that the Business School Archives holds amazing collections, but second that the archives support the mission of the Business School by collecting records having to do with one of the largest industries in the U.S. The first aspect might be geared more towards the public in general, but the second one is most certainly geared towards students and faculty, who are there specifically to do research on business and economics. In this way the Special Collections engage with more traditional users, while also demonstrating their value and power of and to not only the Business School, but Harvard overall, as they show just how much Harvard has in terms of collection size, financial value, and research value. This exhibition is a vibrant way to introduce whoever might come to the Baker Library to a small sample of what this archives can provide. It’s clear from the images of further records (such as individual pages from larger books or photographs and advertisements) not on display that this collection is so much larger than what is shown, and works to pull visitors in to not only everything this collection can offer, but also everything the archives can offer, especially in terms of powerful and U.S.-shaping corporations. This is exactly what visitors to the Business School are looking for, whether the public or faculty, staff, or students. It’s clear the department is aware of this and this exhibition is an excellent demonstration of that.

Our Voices; Our Community A Trip to the Thomas Crane Public Library and their February Exhibit, “Our Voices: Woodward Celebrates 100 Years of Women’s Suffrage”

by Hannah Arnow

The exhibit is hard to miss. As you cross the threshold into Thomas Crane Public Library in Quincy, MA a brightly painted image declaring, “Don’t look back… you’re not going that way” captures your eye. Vivid, bold, it invites you into the exhibit, which is off to the left as you enter.

The exhibit, “Our Voices: Woodward Celebrates 100 Years of Women’s Suffrage,” celebrates the centennial of the ratification of the 19th amendment, which granted women the right to vote in the United States. The exhibit features the paintings of 24 art students at the Woodward School for Girls in Quincy, MA. The students were asked “what messages they would want people to rally behind today” and these paintings are their response.

The exhibit reaches two audiences: Student Artists and the Community.   Marguerite White, the art teacher at the Woodward School, frames this exhibit as a learning opportunity. She taught students to engage with history and archival materials in a new way and how to incorporate it into their art. She guided her students through an examination of old suffrage posters to learn how women in the past articulated their beliefs and presented strong messages. These lessons show through their attention to detail and strong messages. The artwork, created by the students, reflects bold messages about climate change, women’s rights, immigrant rights, vegetarianism, self-love, coming out, and more. This exhibition creates a space for these art students to share their passion and their voices at the library. Through amplifying the students’ work, the library created a conversation piece, sparking a community engagement.

As you approach the exhibition space, there is a small sign and notebook: “We welcome the chance to hear from the community, so please take a moment to add your own thoughts or concerns in the notebook below.” This exhibit reaches out, beyond the art, asking the observer to participate. It welcomes you in and asks you the same questions posed to the students. It creates a community dialogue.

These paintings moved me. As I took in the names and ages of the artists, the concerns that preoccupied these students caused me to reflect on my own beliefs and the causes that have stuck with me from childhood. I slowly walked through the exhibition, taking it all in. Before leaving, I wrote a comment and felt connected to these students and their causes. With this exhibit, Thomas Crane Public Library creates a space for the community generally, along with the students specifically, to have their voice heard and displayed.

This exhibit invites the community into the library and into art. It encourages people coming into the library to see it as a space where their voice – all our voices – matter. Where they can be heard and be a part of the community. The library uses art to reach into the community, transcending traditional barriers, and inviting people to engage with the institution in a new way.

The exhibit will be on display through the end of February 2020. If you are unable to attend in person, you can view the “Our Voices” Exhibit virtually through Thomas Crane Public Library’s flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/thomascranelibrary/sets/72157712914607312/with/49468630141/


Learn more about the “Our Voices” Exhibit through the words of the artists with a Quincy Access Television interview with Marguerite White and some of the Woodward Art Students: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zn2wDb_PpTA&feature=youtu.be

Thomas Crane Public Library hosts monthly art exhibits that serve to invite the community in and visit the library. They are intended to be thought provoking and provide a point of conversation between the artists on exhibition and the community. Learn more about Thomas Crane Public Library’s current exhibits here: http://thomascranelibrary.org/events/exhibits