These Photos Of American Landscapes Have A Powerful Message About Native History

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Lexington has a paradeSmall town has a big celebration of AmericaBob Gross, Times Herald

From the shot heard round the world, to its famous transcendentalists, Concord has played a major role in American history.

And after a decade of renovations, the Concord Museum is finally able to tell that history the way it was intended.

Photos: The Concord Museum is open with new galleries and exhibits

As of Sept. 1, the museum has been welcoming the public to view 10 new galleries and take in Concord’s history from a modern perspective.  

“We’re absolutely thrilled how it all came together and it was a wonderful team effort, beginning with the residents of Concord who have supported us throughout and we are excited to welcome members of the public to come see Concord’s history in a whole new light,” said Tom Putnam, director of the museum.  

Into the 21st century 

The $16 million renovation is the final stage of a decade-long effort to overhaul the museum. 

Phase one included a $13 million project to demolish one building making room for the Anna and Neil Rasmussen Education Center, which opened in 2018. Once complete, the museum was able to empty the main building and renovate it with new electrical wiring and security systems.  

“We used to joke that the janitor couldn’t plug the vacuum cleaner in this whole part of the building because it would short the circuits, so they had to run a really long extension cord,” Putnam said.  

Once the main building was renovated, the museum raised an additional $3 million for new exhibits, aimed to bring the museum into the modern age with new technology as well as a focus on inclusivity, Putnam said.  

“It’s a 21st century museum and the previous one was a 20th century museum. So we are using the newest technology but it’s important to balance the technology with the artifacts themselves because the artifacts are so powerful and they really speak through centuries,” Putnam said. 

Thoreau's world 

Guests are invited to immerse themselves in Henry David Thoreau's world in a video gallery. The wind blows through the trees at Walden Pond as birds sing and quotes from Thoreau's journals scroll. After a few seconds, the screens shift into a darker period as Thoreau writes "Civil Disobedience" in response to slavery.  

“We wanted to introduce Thoreau to visitors in the best way possible, which is as a thinker and a writer and this is the world he saw and surrounded himself with,” Curator Erica Lome said.

Visitors can also fawn over his simple green desk, where he wrote his most famous works, as well as his bed and snowshoes from his home at Walden. 

“We packed this gallery full of information because we know that there are people who take pilgrimages to Concord who love Thoreau, so we wanted to really give them something to reward them for that.” 

Battle lines being drawn 

Another exhibit features a timeline of animated battle scenes adapted from centuries-old engravings of events on April 19, 1775. A multimedia map plots the movements of the Minutemen as they take on British regulars. Visitors can listen to recordings recounting eyewitness accounts. In the middle of the room, on prominent display is the Paul Revere lanterns, among the museum’s most prized possessions. 

A voice to the minorities 

Another goal: Telling more inclusive stories, shining a light on its underrepresented residents and cultures.  

Among the new galleries explains the town’s indigenous roots, and how European colonization altered the area  known as Concord. The museum has more than 20,000 stone tools, some dating to the Ice Age.  

The museum teamed up with representatives from tribal nations including the Nipmuc, the Massachusett and the Wampanoag to showcase the artifacts.  

Visitors can watch a video of a native artist carving the wood handle for a stone tool as he explains its cultural significance. Stone projectile points are plotted out by age in the shape of a turtle. A map of Massachusetts prior to colonization invites guests to consider the impact of European settlement on native populations and resource. 

“We’re kind of are asking our visitors to sit for a little bit with their discomfort, and what we're hoping the visitor takes away is that many of these tribal communities remain part of the landscape today,” Lome said. 

Revolutionary roots

Concord has always been a town of revolutionary ideas and politics, Curator David Wood said.

“The idea is that there’s more than one revolution in Concord, with April 19 being the obvious one,” Wood said. “The challenge there is it’s not really clear why that should be the case, why this little town of 1,500 should over and over again be doing it.”

One object showcasing that culture is a 17th century needlework by a  Concord woman depicting the story of King Ahasuerus and his Wife Queen Esther, in which Esther prevents genocide of the Jewish people by reminding the king they are  lawful citizens. 

“This is a big political statement to be making in the 1660s, which is exactly the point that the Concord citizens are essentially petitioning the English parliament to treat them as English citizens,” Lome said. “We don’t often get to develop the voices of women in the 17th century because the historical record is weighted towards their fathers, their husbands, their brothers, their sons, but here is a pretty great example of a woman wielding a needle to have a political message, to contribute to that discourse.” 

Along with Concord’s pivotal role in the Revolution, the town was equally as invested in the Civil War and the abolition movement. At the forefront were its educated white women, including Louisa May Alcott and Mary Merrick Brooks, members of the Concord Female Antislavery Movement.  

More: Concord Museum celebrates town's 386th birthday with free admission 

“The Uncle Tom figurine showed that you were a supporter of the abolition of slavery and perhaps a supporter of the Underground Railroad, in much of the way when we drive by and there’s a Black Lives Matter banner on a church or home, we kind of know what their perspective is,” Putnam said. 

Putnam said he hopes to attract even more national and international visitors.

“In some ways we are a local history museum, but in a town that played a national role in our nation’s history that’s probably unparalleled,” Putnam said. 

The museum is located at 53 Cambridge Turnpike in Concord, and is open Tuesday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.  

To celebrate the reopening, the museum is hosting a series of events ending Sunday, Sept. 12. For more information, visit

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