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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Monday, May 18, 2015

Ropes Mansion Reopening in Salem, 23 May

On Saturday, 23 May, the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem will reopen its historic Ropes Mansion to the public. The museum says the site “reimagines what a historic house experience can be,…in which present-day and personal life experiences are placed in dialogue with the past.”

Some more background:
Built in 1727 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Ropes Mansion was home to four generations of the Ropes family and is recognized as one of New England’s most significant and thoroughly documented historic houses. Filled with original furnishings, the house contains superb examples of 18th- and 19th-century furniture, ceramics and glass, silver, kitchenwares, textiles and personal objects. The property has been closed to the public since 2009, following a fire that was swiftly contained by firefighters, and its reopening ushers in a new chapter for this stately and illustrious Georgian Colonial. . . .

On the first floor, the dining room is set as it would have appeared for Christmas dinner in 1847, details gleaned from a letter by Sally Fisk Ropes Orne who hosted the event. The installation features an elaborate dinner service, menu and serving techniques used on that festive occasion. The nearby kitchen offers a glimpse into the lives of the parlor maid and cook employed by the Ropes family in 1894 and the housekeeping practices used in their daily tasks. Cooking implements, recipes, as well as the plain china used by the servants are on view in the kitchen. Towels hanging near the sink feature printed instructions to kitchen staff on the correct way to wash dishes and clean silverware. Elsewhere, guests are invited to try their hand at historic napkin-folding techniques and learn period table manners and etiquette.

Upstairs bedrooms present tales of marriage, housekeeping and child rearing, as well as emotionally charged accounts of illness and death within the family. The childhood toys, books and seashells of Elizabeth Ropes Orne are given stark contrast by the locket, containing a lock of her hair, that was commissioned and worn by her mother after Elizabeth died of tuberculosis at age 24.

Period rooms within the Ropes Mansion welcome guests to explore the intimate surroundings with as few barriers as possible. Open drawers, trunks and desks are designed to pique curiosity and offer a naturalistic glimpse into the lives of Ropes family members. Reproduction bed hangings, carpet and wallpaper introduce vibrant color and texture to the home and, for the first time, the 1894-period bathroom will be on view.
The Ropes Mansion is at 318 Essex Street in Salem, a ten-minute walk from the museum. It will be open free to the public in season, Saturdays and Sundays, from noon to 4:00 P.M. Visitors will be able to freely circulate instead of following a tour, though guides will be present to answer questions.

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