Museum Studies at Tufts University

Exploring ideas and engaging in conversation

Celebrating Halloween with Boston Museums

Still looking for plans for Halloween weekend? Local museums have you covered! Check out this list for a few spooky museum events in the Boston area.

The Peabody Essex Museum

When it comes to Halloween celebrations, no place does it better than Salem! The Peabody Essex Museum in Salem has a fantastic slate of exhibitions and events year-round, but now is an especially great time to check out their new exhibition The Salem Witch Trials: Reckoning and Reclaiming, which opened in September and runs through March. Get more information and purchase tickets here!

Ropes Mansion

Ropes Mansion, also in Salem, is an eighteenth-century historic home that is perhaps best known today for being featured in the beloved Halloween movie Hocus Pocus. On Friday, October 29, the Peabody Essex Museum is hosting a free screening of the film at the mansion. Learn more here!

Ropes Mansion at 318 Essex Street in Salem.

The Daniels House

The Daniels House, another historic home in Salem which today operates as a bed and breakfast, is offering a “Local Lore by Candlelight” event every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evening this month. Participants will get to hear several tales from New England history by candlelight in the seventeenth-century house (which some say is haunted). Get tickets here!

The Daniels House at 1 Daniels Street in Salem.

Plimoth Patuxet Museums

On October 29 and 30, Plimoth Patuxet is hosting “A Historically Spooky Halloween.” With activities including seventeenth-century games, spooky stories, and more, this event will be fun for the whole family! Find more information and get your tickets here.

The Discovery Museum

The Discovery Museum in Acton has a few exciting events for kids and families planned for Halloween, including a Halloween Trail Walk and Scavenger Hunt on October 29 and a Halloween Hullabaloo on October 30 and 31. Both events are free with admission!

The Boston Children’s Museum

The Boston Children’s Museum is hosting several Halloween-themed events this month, including their Boo-Tanical Garden (running from October 20 to October 31) and a Halloween Spooktacular on October 29 from 6–9pm. For both events, timed tickets must be purchased online in advance. Read more here!

Granary Burying Ground

Granary Burying Ground on Boston’s Freedom Trail, which dates back to 1660 and is believed to be the final resting place for more than five thousand people, has long been thought to be haunted. If you visit this Halloween, you might just run into the ghosts of some of the cemetery’s famous residents, including Paul Revere, Samuel Adams, and John Hancock! Learn more about the site’s history here.

Granary Burying Ground on Boston’s Freedom Trail.

We hope this list gives museum-lovers some inspiration for how to spend the upcoming holiday weekend. However you decide to celebrate, have a safe and happy Halloween!


Tis the Season: Reflections on a Remote Summer Practicum

This past summer I worked for Ken Turino of Historic New England and Tufts University(Exhibition Planning and Historic House Museums). Having been in remote school for a year at this time, I was prepared to conduct my museum studies practicum remotely. While my internship certainly was not the traditional practicum internship experience, I did gain a great deal of insight into the workings of regional heritage organizations like Historic New England. My responsibilities included assisting Ken and Max Van Balgooy on compiling a bibliography for their new book: Interpreting Christmas at House Museums and Historic Sites, as well as researching female abolitionists in New England and their contributions to the development of modern day Christmas traditions through abolitionist fairs. I was also able to attend a meeting with some of the book’s authors to further understand the process of writing a book with many different authors. 

The bibliography passed by rather quickly, and before I knew it I was on my way to researching female abolitionists in New England. My research focus is early modern Europe, specifically women and gender roles; so while I was familiar with women’s history I certainly didn’t have significant experience on either American History or late modern history. I entered the Tufts Museum Studies and History Graduate program with the intention of becoming a curator; a job which requires significant research skills. Through this internship I was able to hone my research skills as well as apply them to different objects and interpret them, something similar to the job of a curator. This summer research culminated into a presentation which Ken and I will present entitled, Deck the Halls: Female Abolitionist Societies and the Evolution of Christmas. This will be presented on November 30 from 6-7 PM. This Event is virtual, so anyone is welcome to reserve their spot via this link and attend! The content is fascinating and details some of the history of female abolitionists in New England and how they influenced the development of modern day Christmas traditions through holding abolitionist fairs during the Christmas season to raise money and awareness towards the abolitionist movement. 

Family and Changing the World: An Afternoon at Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House

I spent the past week with family. On the last day of my youngest sister and my mom’s visit to Boston, we journeyed out to Concord to spend the afternoon at Orchard House — the home where Louisa May Alcott scribbled furiously away at a book about her and her three sisters, beloved around the world to this day as Little Women.

Like many girls across the globe, my two younger sisters and I grew up enchanted by this story, just like our mom before us. We were children who, like the March (and Alcott) sisters, loved to put on meticulously written and rehearsed plays, and swore that we would never love anyone else the way we did each other. So it was unsurprising just how much we related to these four girls when our mom introduced us to the 1994 film adaptation of Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy’s lives; and just two years ago we sat tearfully in the movie theater watching Greta Gerwig’s acclaimed version, which resonated just as deeply for different, more grown-up reasons now that we are different and more grown-up. My littlest sister, who adores Alcott’s book and is a talented artist just like young Amy, knew that when she visited her two older siblings in Massachusetts, Orchard House was the highest-priority destination.

Orchard House. Via the museum’s website.

Concord is a beautiful place, and with the deep reds, browns, and oranges adorning every tree at this time of year, it seems especially magic — not to mention conducive to great art and philosophy. “There was something in the air here,” my middle sister mused upon realizing just how close the home of the Alcotts was to that of their dear friends Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and Nathaniel Hawthorne. The Alcotts’ parlor was frequented by these and other Transcendentalist thinkers, where conversations about such subjects as abolition, education, suffrage, and the restorative powers of nature flourished — conversations in which, unlike in most contemporary households, the Alcott girls and women were allowed and encouraged to participate.

Louisa May Alcott (“Jo March” in her beloved book Little Women), around the time her family moved into Orchard House.

No wonder, then, that Louisa May felt perfectly comfortable making such unconventional decisions as leaving home to serve as a Civil War nurse, refusing to ever marry, and making her living as a writer.

Like other historic house museums, the introductory video and guided tour at Orchard House give plenty of focus to the daily lives of the Alcott family — Bronson and Abigail, and their four daughters Anna, Louisa, Elizabeth, and May — that inspired the events of Little Women. But the ideals and actions of the Alcotts, which make them so extraordinary both in their day and ours, are what truly take center stage at this museum.

This was a family who not only talked about abolition but provided asylum to fugitive enslaved people, refused to wear cotton produced by the enslaved, and provided shelter to radical abolitionist John Brown’s widow and daughters after his execution. They were vegetarians in an era when the humane treatment of animals was hardly a thought for most people; they advocated for education reform which would lead to the end of physical punishment and more time for children to spend outdoors; they fought for women’s rights and ensured that the women in their family receive the best opportunities to follow their dreams. In an especially touching display of parental love and belief in his children’s gifts, Bronson Alcott built a writing desk for Louisa and an art studio for May, both of which visitors see on the tour. 

Louisa May Alcott’s bedroom, including the desk her father built for her where she wrote Little Women. Via the museum’s website.

Our time at Orchard House concluded with a call to action, imploring us to embody one of the Alcott family’s main tenets: to believe in our fellow human beings and support their dreams and aspirations. Who knows how many of today’s children might grow up to be Louisa May Alcotts, if only their gifts and beautiful minds are fostered and believed in, the way hers were?

Fall colors and a rainbow in Concord after our tour at Orchard House, which inspired us to pay special attention. Taken 15 October 2021.

After snapping plenty of sister and mother-daughter photos outside the house, we took our time on the walk back to the train station — paying special attention, now, to the autumn leaves, the fallen black walnuts, a rainbow in the sky. We talked about family, about beauty, about love and kindness, about standing by one’s convictions no matter how fierce the opposition, about daring to look at the world in a different way. We talked about the power of believing in each other and those around us.

Orchard House provides a prime example of all that historic house museums can accomplish in our current moment. Rather than highlight the furniture, clothing, food, and daily life of a particular era, or limit its interpretation to poignant but ultimately shallow anecdotes about a single historical family, this museum seeks to stir something deeper in the hearts of those who walk through its doors. It encourages visitors to do right, to think anew, and to undertake what is sometimes the bravest, most unconventional challenge: practicing kindness. On the pages of Little Women, and in every room at Orchard House, this important legacy permeates.

For more information on Orchard House and how to plan your visit, check out their website here.

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