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Concord Museum Sets September Public Opening of $16 Million Renovation


This last installation marks the completion of the redesign of the entire Museum and over 20,000 square footage of space. 

Concord Museum Sets September Public Opening of $16 Million Renovation

The much-anticipated final phase of Concord Museum's decade-long $16 million renovation project will culminate with the opening of 10 new permanent galleries and a public celebration starting on Labor Day, September 6 through September 12, 2021. This last installation marks the completion of the redesign of the entire Museum and over 20,000 square footage of space.

The ten new galleries opening in September include a renewed focus on Concord's famous Transcendentalists Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, Louisa May Alcott, the women who led the effort to abolish slavery, and African Americans who lived in Concord before and after the Civil War.

"Concord has played an outsized role in our nation's history," said Tom Putnam, Edward W. Kane Executive Director. "And these new galleries - combining iconic artifacts and dazzling media components -bring that story to life in a dramatic new way."

"The great strength of the Concord Museum collection lies in the many objects that were present at and even participating in the epochal events narrated in the history books," explained David Wood, Curator. "In the newly opened galleries these artifacts offer insights into the cultural and political conflicts and accommodations that define Concord's history from its incorporation in 1635, reflecting on lives lived in the spotlight of fame as well as lives lived almost invisibly."

The lives of two of Concord's most prominent and influential intellectuals, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, feature prominently in the new spaces. In 1930, the Ralph Waldo Emerson Memorial Association decided to move the furnishings of Emerson's study to the Concord Museum so that people could visit it year-round. The Museum's new re-installation includes an interactive element, allowing visitors to learn more about the objects on display in his study and some of the famous people who visited his study- like Louisa May Alcott. Nearby is bust of Emerson made by sculptor Daniel Chester French. Emerson sat for the young artist over 30 times and arguably, this is the best portrait sculpture of the famous writer.

The Concord Museum has long been a site of pilgrimage for readers of Henry David Thoreau, and two new galleries celebrate his life and works as never before seen. In one, visitors stand in front of Thoreau's desk and are immersed in a media presentation based on a series of quotes from his writing. An elegant text treatment of these quotes animates from individual screens and at times surrounds visitors on all sides. Filled with texture and evocative imagery inspired by the natural, spiritual, and social world in which Thoreau was steeped, this presentation expresses his philosophy and viewpoint of a world in which boundaries between the individual and the universal are blurred.

A second gallery features iconic artifacts from the Museum's collection of over 250 objects related to Thoreau. Guided prompts and interactive media accompany the visitor as they encounter artifacts Thoreau made or used himself, such as his flute. Thoreau once described his approach to playing the flute as "unpremeditated music" improvising against his own echo while on the water.

Another exhibit explores slavery in Concord, using maps, probate records, and other archival material to bring to life the experiences of the men, women, and children whom the law referred to as "servants for life." By 1830, when the institution of slavery had ended in Massachusetts, Concord was home to 30 African American inhabitants, including the Garrison family. Jack Garrison (1768-1860) arrived in Concord in 1810, having fled enslavement in New Jersey. Two years later, he married Susan Robbins Middleton, who had grown up in Concord. At the age of 92 Jack Garrison was gifted a walking stick to honor his longevity. This walking stick, displayed in the gallery along with his portrait, acts as one entry point to explore the African American experience in Concord. Included here are artifacts associated with the Concord Female Anti-Slavery Society, established by Mary Merrick Brooks in 1830 to raise awareness and rally funds to support the abolition of slavery and immediate emancipation for enslaved people. Susan Garrison was a member of the Society and worked with her neighbors to make Concord into a hub of antislavery activism, attracting notable speakers like John Brown and Frederick Douglass.

In the final set of new galleries visitors encounter a silversmith plying his craft in a workshop on the Milldam, a Black yeoman farmer at work in his fields, a wealthy magistrate welcoming visitors to his parlor, and family secretly preparing rebellion on the eve of April 19, 1775. Taken together these galleries showcase decorative arts made and sold in Concord and provide a glimpse into the home of men and women who lived at both ends of the economic spectrum.

"We are thrilled to be opening these new permanent galleries," said Executive Director Tom Putnam, "which completes the transformation of the Museum and will allow visitors to see Concord's history in a whole new light."

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