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Who tells the story of our history?

The demolition of the Hancock Mansion in 1863 caused a massive public outcry and launched a Preservation Movement in New England that saved countless buildings and artifacts from destruction and decay. The pre-Revolutionary structures that stand today in Downtown Boston and the collections they house have an immeasurable influence on how we view the American Origin Story. But whose story is being told in these objects? And whose stories do we leave behind?

This summer, the Old State House opens an all-new temporary exhibit exploring how the objects we preserve shape the stories we remember. For the first time in decades, the front door of the Hancock Mansion will be displayed to the public, newly set in a meticulous recreation of its original surrounding entryway. The exhibit will feature additional items from the Bostonian Society’s collection relating to the Hancock Mansion and its inhabitants.

Enhanced by specialized tours, original programming, and performances of the site-specific play Cato & Dolly, the door serves as a gateway for visitors to re-examine the national narrative. How does selective preservation alter our perception of who we are? What barriers do we create by choosing one story over another? And what doors are yet to be opened?

The exhibition is included in the cost of admission to the Old State House.

To find out more about the North Bennet Street School's work setting the door in its re-created surround, visit their website.

Frequently Asked Questions >>


Selected Exhibition Images

Click an image below to learn more.


  • How do I get to the Old State House?
    Please visit our Maps & Directions page.

  • Where is the Through the Keyhole exhibit located?
    The exhibition is in Representatives Hall, on the second floor of the Old State House, up the spiral staircase.

  • Are there any accessibility concerns to attend the exhibit?
    Please visit our Accessibility FAQs.

  • What is Cato & Dolly?
    Cato & Dolly is a 25-minute historical drama examining life in the Hancock household through the eyes of John Hancock’s wife Dolly and Cato, an enslaved man serving in the house. It is performed in front of the door in the middle of the exhibit. For more information, please visit the Cato & Dolly page.


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