Boston History Museums

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If you are a history buff and are planning an upcoming trip to Boston, you may want to visit one of the city’s many history museums.

Not only do these museums feature artifacts and exhibits highlighting Boston’s vast history, but many of them are also historic sites themselves and are stops on the various Boston History Tours available in the city.

The following is a list of history museums in Boston:

Old State House Museum:

Address: 206 Washington Street, Boston, Mass
Website: www.bostonhistory.org

The Old State House Museum is dedicated to the American Revolution in Boston. The building was the seat of the British government during the early colonial days and was later the seat of the Massachusetts legislature until 1798. The building is most known for being the site of the Boston Massacre in 1770, which occurred on the sidewalk outside.

The museum’s galleries contain interactive exhibits, artifacts and 18th century artwork. Some of the artifacts include John Hancock’s velvet jacket, Paul Revere’s engraving of the Boston Massacre, tea salvaged from the Boston Tea Party, rare documents from the Bostonian Society’s archives, and items made by Paul Revere and Lydia Hutchinson.

Visitors can explore the Council Chamber where the Royal Governor of Massachusetts met with members of his council and watch a multi-media sound and light presentation about the Boston Massacre.

Old State House, Boston, Mass, circa 1900

The building was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1960.

The museum is open seven days a week. Labor Day through Memorial Day the museum is open 9am-5pm except for holidays.

Museum of African American History:

Address: 46 Joy Street, Boston, Mass
Website: maah.org

The Museum of African American History is New England’s largest museum dedicated to African American history. The museum is housed in the old African meeting house on Beacon Hill. The meeting house is the oldest Black church in America and was the center of the African American community in the 19th century.

The museum contains various revolving exhibits that contain photographs, sculptures, documents and etc.

Also located on the property is the Abiel Smith School which is the oldest building in the U.S. built solely to house a black public school.

The buildings were designated National Historic Landmarks in 1974.

Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum:

Address: 306 Congress Street, Boston, Mass
Website: www.bostonteapartyship.com

The Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum is an interactive museum dedicated to the Boston Tea Party and is located near the original site where it happened.

The museum features historical interpreters, an interactive colonial town meeting, historic artifacts such as the Robinson Tea Chest which is the only known surviving tea chest from the Boston Tea Party, a multi-sensory documentary and a full-scale restored 18th century sailing vessel where attendees can recreate the Boston Tea Party. Touring the museum takes about one hour and is a fully-guided tour.

The museum has been rebuilt several times after a series of fires, the first time was in 2001 when it caught fire after being struck by lightening and the second time was in 2007 when it caught fire again due to sparks from a welding torch on nearby bridge construction.

During the in-season hours, from April to October, the museum is open daily, seven days a week, from 10am to 5pm. During the off season, from November to March, the museum is open daily, seven days a week from 10am to 4pm.

You can save money on this museum with Boston Tea Party Museum coupons & discount tickets.

Commonwealth Museum:

Address: 220 Morrissey Blvd, Boston, Mass
Website: www.sec.state.ma.us/mus

The Commonwealth Museum is dedicated to the history of Massachusetts and features interactive exhibits and a gallery of historic documents. The museum has a number of revolving exhibits as well as a permanent exhibit called The Massachusetts Experiment in Democracy: 1620-Today which traces the history of Massachusetts from the early colonial period through today. The exhibit explores four representations of Massachusetts residents: Native-Americans, English, Irish and African-Americans.

The museum is open May through October, Monday – Friday from 9am to 4:45pm, Saturday and Sunday from 9am to 3pm.

The USS Constitution Museum:

Address: Building 22, Charlestown Navy Yard, Charlestown, Mass
Website: ussconstitutionmuseum.org

The USS Constitution Museum is dedicated to the oldest warship in America, the USS Constitution. The museum is located at the Charlestown Naval Yard right next to the dock where the ship is located.

The museum features exhibits and over 2000 artifacts, such as swords and pistols from the 18th and 19th century, historic clothing and personal possessions from the ship’s crew, trophies taken from enemy ships during the USS Constitution’s many naval battles, and commemorative items made from pieces of the ship during its various restorations over the centuries.

The museum also features interactive hands-on exhibits where visitors can construct a mini-version of the ship, dress up like sailor and learn how to furl a sail and scrub a deck.

The museum is open daily, April through October, 9am to 6pm and November through March, 10am to 5pm.

Old South Meeting House:

Address: 310 Washington Street, Boston, Mass
Website: www.osmh.org

The Old South Meeting House is a historic church where many meetings took place during the American Revolution, including the meeting where the Boston Tea Party began.

Old South Meeting house, Washington, St., scene of tea party, 1773, Boston, Mass. circa 1910

The meeting house features exhibits, an audio program and artifacts such as John Hancock’s portable writing desk, a statue of enslaved poet Phillis Wheatley and her first edition 1773 book of poems.

The Old South Meeting House is open daily 9:30 am to 5 pm year round.

Paul Revere House:

Address: 19 N Square, Boston, Mass
Website: www.paulreverehouse.org

Paul Revere House is a historic house museum where Paul Revere lived during the American Revolution. Revere lived in the home at the time he made his famous midnight ride in 1775.

The museum features exhibits about Revere’s ride and his business ventures, a new Education and Visitor center as well as a guided tour of the historic house.

The Paul Revere House is open year round, April 15 – October 31: 9:30am to 5:15 pm, November 1 to April 14: 9:30am to 4:15pm.

Bunker Hill Museum:

Address: 43 Monument Square, Charlestown, Massachusetts
Website: www.nps.gov/bost/learn/historyculture/bhmuseum.htm

The Bunker Hill Museum is dedicated to the American Revolution and the founding of Charlestown, Massachusetts. The museum features exhibits that tell the story of the Battle of Bunker Hill and discuss how it was later commemorated. The collection contain a 360-degree cyclorama mural of the battle as well as refurbished dioramas and artifacts.

The museum is open year round, November 28-April 28: 1pm-5pm, April 28-November 27: 9am-5pm

Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology at Harvard University:

Address: 11 Divinity Ave, Cambridge, Mass
Website: www.peabody.harvard.edu

The Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology at Harvard University is dedicated to human cultural history and is one of the oldest archaeological and ethnographic museums in the world.

The museum was founded in 1866 and houses one of the largest collections of cultural objects in the Western hemisphere. The collection includes 1.2 million individual objects, 500,000 photographic images, and substantial archival records. Its strongest collections are from North, Central and South America but it also contains items from Europe, Africa and Asia.

Some of the artifacts on display are Native-American tools collected by Henry David Thoreau, cultural objects produced by indigenous people of the 19th century, cultural objects from pre-1492 Latin America and etc.

The Peabody Museum is a member of the Harvard Museums of Science & Culture. The museum is open year round, seven days a week from 9am to 5pm.

Harvard Museum of Natural History:

Address: 26 Oxford Street, Cambridge, Mass
Website: hmnh.harvard.edu

The Harvard Museum of Natural History is dedicated to natural history such as zoology, mineralogy and geology.

The Harvard Museum of Natural History was established in 1998 as the public face of three research museums: the Museum of Comparative Zoology, the Harvard University Herbaria, and the Mineralogical & Geological Museum.

The museum houses specimens such as fossils, minerals, taxidermy animals, glass models of plants and specimens of birds, marine life and anthropods from all over the world.

The museum is open daily from 9am to 5pm.

Sources:
Boston Globe; Eleven House Museums Around New England; Andrew Doerfler; October 2012: www.bostonglobe.com/arts/2012/10/20/house-museums-around-new-england-welcome-visitors/t3frAKnKEcLgEd6ehcIkZN/story.html
Museums of Boston: www.museumsofboston.org/index.php
Boston Globe; The Commonwealth Museums, A Hidden Gem; Frances Folsom; October 2016: www.bostonglobe.com/lifestyle/travel/2016/10/13/the-commonwealth-museum-hidden-gem/ZNBj3VEkRIJRoPFn0j2QiJ/story.html

About Rebecca Beatrice Brooks

Rebecca Beatrice Brooks is the writer and publisher of the History of Massachusetts Blog. Rebecca is a freelance writer and history lover who got her start in journalism working for small-town newspapers in Massachusetts and New Hampshire after she graduated from the University of New Hampshire with a B.A. in journalism. Visit this site’s About page to find out more about Rebecca.

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