Sunday, October 26, 2014

Online Exhibit: From Baby Caps to Mourning Rings

If you have been in or around Boston this month, you have likely heard about the time capsule in the lion's head on the Old State House. The Old State House is the oldest surviving public building in Boston. It was built in 1713 as the seat of Royal government. It was the site of the Boston Massacre, which helped incite the colonists against the British and lead to the American Revolution. Although the loin and unicorn adorning its front were symbols of the British Empire, they were preserved even after the King was ousted from the former colonies.


The Old State House is currently undergoing preservation, and the lion and unicorn taken down for conservation. A1901 newspaper article alluded to the fact that a time capsule had been placed in the lion's head the last time the animals were conserved and that article was just proved correct. Earlier this month, conservators removed a lead box from the head. It is filled with books, newspapers and letters from local politicians. A full list and a glimpse of the contents is available here. When the lion goes back up on the State House, a new time capsule will be inside.


The Old State House is owned by the Bostonian Society, a private organization "...dedicated to studying, and preserving Boston’s uniquely important history, embodied in materials, records, and structures such as the Old State House, and in sharing an understanding of the revolutionary ideas born here." Because the Old State House is on the Freedom Trail, they get millions of visitors each year and they do a nice job of interpreting Boston's history.


Looking for information about the lion's head time capsule, I was recently on their web site and discovered a lovely exhibit of Boston artifacts titled, From Baby Caps to Mourning Rings: The Material Culture of Boston's 18th-Century Girls and Women. It is a collection of intimate objects owned by women during the Revolution, including caps, dresses and school girl embroideries among other artifacts. The exhibit is set up around a clock face symbolizing both the hours of the day and a single lifespan. I suggest that you begin at 7 o'clock and work you way around the face of the clock. Some of the embroideries are simply stunning. The baby caps and the embroidered map of Boston were my favorites. I was grateful that it was easy to enlarge the photos and that when enlarged they were so crisp.


There is just enough text to wet an appetite to learn more about Revolutionary life and it makes me want to know what else may be in Bostonian Society's holdings. Although I worked right next door when I was with the National Park Service in Boston (you can see the brown NPS sign to the left of the Old State House in the photo) I assumed wrongly that the collection was mostly political papers. I'm thrilled that they are sharing these treasures over the internet and I think you will be too.

Photo from:



1 comment: