My name is Laura Gillespie, I am an Education Associate (EA) and History Department Intern at the Old State House. Having worked as an EA in the museum over the summer months, I have been asked many interesting questions. For me, the main one has been “where are you from?”
It is understandable that people are interested in my background, as I am an American History graduate from Ireland. I completed a Masters in American History at Queen’s University Belfast last year, and am now interning at the Old State House for a year to gain hands-on experience in public history. Many of our museum visitors are surprised to find a person from Ireland educating them on their own country’s history, and so I usually get asked some variation of this question at the beginning or at the end of each tour. This is then often followed up with “why American history?”
I have always been very interested in American history, and when I was trying to decide where to come on my graduate visa, Boston really stood out to me as a city that was abundantly rich in history. The concept of the Freedom Trail, a pathway connecting many of the historic sites in the city, seemed like an innovative way to get the public interested in the history of both the country and of the Revolution. I started my internship with the History Department in February and became an EA in April, so I now know more about the Revolutionary War, and particularly Boston’s role in it, than I ever thought I would.
My time as an EA has been very beneficial, and I really enjoy interacting with the many visitors that come through the museum. The tour that we give on the Boston Massacre often leads to questions like “where exactly did the soldiers fire on the civilian crowd?” or “they called five deaths a massacre?” The “Massacre” took place March 5, 1770 outside the Town House on King Street, (as it was known in colonial times), which is now the Old State House on State Street. Teaching people that Paul Revere's engraving "The Bloody Massacre perpetrated in King Street, Boston, March 5, 1770, by a party of the 29th Regiment" could be seen in some ways as one of the first pieces of propaganda produced by the Sons of Liberty in the lead up to the Revolution is always an interesting part of the tour.
On the Old State House Tour, which goes through the history of the building, I often get asked questions like “did Samuel Adams speak in this chamber?” and “where was the Declaration of Independence first read to the people of Massachusetts?” Informing people that Adams spoke many times in Representatives’ Hall as a member of the Massachusetts Assembly and that the Declaration was first read from the balcony in the Council Chamber on July, 18 1776 are always fun topics to discuss with visitors. Many people seem to really appreciate the fact that they are standing in the space where these major historic events happened. This has impressed upon me the value of making history accessible to the public through spaces like the Old State House. I’m looking forward to seeing what interesting questions the coming months will bring!