J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Saturday, December 03, 2016

New Education Center at the Paul Revere House

Years back, I gave a teachers’ workshop at the Paul Revere House in the North End. It took place upstairs in the neighboring Pierce-Hichborn house.

As I recall, we had about two dozen people crowded into a small, irregularly shaped room with sloping ceilings. It really gave one a sense of what it must have been like to live in that neighborhood in a family of fourteen.

Now the Paul Revere House has a lot more space. This weekend it opens its new Education and Visitor Center at Lathrop Place. The museum bought another neighboring building—an old tenement put up in 1835—and fixed it up into new exhibit, meeting, sales, and office space. In the process, the Revere house became wheelchair-accessible as well.

All told, this project required raising more than $4 million and overseeing extensive construction. As museums have to do these days, several of the new spaces are named for donors. Thus, there’s an Revere Education Room, a Curtis Classroom, and a Citizens Bank Enrichment Center [get it?].

I visited the new building last night along with other friends of the site. It’s a very impressive expansion—all the more impressive when one sees photographs of the same rooms before renovation. Lathrop Place will be open to the public all this weekend. There will be refreshments, music, and demonstrations of tinware and basketmaking.

This diorama is part of a new permanent exhibit about Revere’s many businesses, including as a silversmith, engraver, and dentist. It shows pre-industrial production in Revere’s shop.
Ben Edwards, Boston tour guide and Revere descendant, told me that this scene was originally made for the Boston Museum of Science maybe fifty years ago. After years on display there, the diorama was retired. Later, when that museum decided to throw it out deaccession it, a manager called to ask if the Paul Revere House wanted it. The scene spent several more years in storage until the house had just the right spot to display it, and now it does.

To go with its new building, the Paul Revere House also has a new website with good resources for people who can’t get to the North End.

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