Exhibitions at the Old State House

All exhibitions are permanent unless otherwise noted.

A British Town: The Council Chamber in Boston before the American Revolution


The Council Chamber in Boston's Town House (now the Old State House), where the Royal Governor of Massachusetts met with members of his Council, was once a nerve center for the British empire in North America. Now, for the first time in 250 years, visitors to the Old State House can see this historic room as it appeared during the 1760s, when the fate of the British empire turned on the decisions made within its walls. Sit in the Royal Governor's chair, thumb through reproduction documents on display at the Council table, and investigate the tea service, where wares once sold by obscure Bostonians are on display. In this playful, hands-on setting, visitors will discover the surprising story of Boston before the American Revolution, a time when most colonists took fierce pride in their "English liberties," followed the latest London fashions, and sought advancement by cultivating the favor of the royal court. We invite you to enter the Council Chamber and explore how culture, commerce, and ideas combined to define a distinctly "British" Boston just prior to the American Revolution.

 

The Bostonian Society wishes to thank the National Park Service for its generous support of this project. The Society also thanks its partner, the North Bennet Street School, whose talented faculty and alumni crafted the furniture on display in the Council Chamber.

 

The Old State House: A Hands-on History

Image courtesy of Michael Dwyer, photographer
The Old State House: A Hands-on History invites children and adults alike to learn about the Old State House in a fun, interactive exhibition. The exhibition aims to help museum visitors better understand the Old State House by exploring how the building has changed over time, and learning about the events of national significance that have taken place here.
You can:
  • Recreate the Old State House's walls
    with foam bricks
  • Peek behind the hidden doors of
    our Old State House façade
  • Meet Otis, the Old State House mouse.

  • TBS would like to thank The William E. Schrafft and Bertha E. Schrafft Charitable Trust and the Massachusetts Foundation for the Humanities for their generous financial support, which helped make this exhibition possible.

    The Boston Massacre Multimedia Presentation

    The Bloody Massacre perpetrated in King Street, Boston, March 5, 1770, by a party of the 29th Regiment, after Henry Pelham, Paul Revere, printmaker.
    The Boston Massacre was a seminal event in American history, but do you know the truth about the bloody confrontation? Paul Revere's print of the event is used in countless textbooks on the subject, but did you know that Revere's depiction was a calculated piece of political propaganda, designed to rouse antagonism toward the Crown? Did you know only five people were killed at the Massacre? Or that the name itself, "The Massacre," was coined by the Sons of Liberty to further their cause? This object theatre presentation will transport you back to the cold, snowy evening of March 5, 1770, when Boston was occupied by British soldiers. Hear a young apprentice taunting a sentry, and through a gripping story illuminated by spotlighted artifacts, images, and ghostly shadows, learn how this insignificant exchange between resident and soldier escalated into a deadly riot.

    From Colony to Commonwealth

    This exhibition interprets the role of Boston, and in particular the role of the Old State House, in the events leading up to the American Revolution. Whether you are a longtime Boston resident wanting to understand your city better or an out-of-town tourist walking the Freedom Trail, this exhibition will help you master the basics of Boston’s revolutionary story. The exhibition uses 150 images and artifacts to trace the changing relationship of the colonial citizens to the crown, the break with England, and the establishment of a new state. Highlights of the room include a coat belonging to John Hancock, tea from the Boston Tea Party, and Paul Revere's engraving of the Boston Massacre.

    Our Favorite Things: Boston Stories

    For this exhibition, staff of The Bostonian Society have brought out objects from collection storage that represent their favorite Boston story. See some of the fascinating artifacts that have been hiding in storage, and learn from our staff what each object means to the history of Boston. Then choose your favorite thing in the museum. Several of the objects in this exhibition are being exhibited for the first time.

    Preservation of the Old State House

    How do you take care of a 300-year-old building? This exhibition chronicles the architectural alterations that have been made to the Old State House over time, and illustrates the restoration efforts and preservation processes used since 1881 to ensure that it continues to inspire future generations.

     

    Virtual Exhibitions

     

    Sweet History: Dorchester and the Chocolate Factory

    http://www.bostonhistory.org/sub/bakerschocolate/

     

    The 5th of November in Boston: Guy Fawkes Day

    http://display.5thofnovember.us/

     

    From Baby Caps to Mourning Rings: The Material Culture of Boston's 18th-Century Girls & Women

    http://bostonhistory.org/sub/bostonwomen/