In the Galleries
With one of the oldest collections of revolutionary and literary history in the country, the Museum is renowned for its national treasures. In the history galleries and period rooms of the Museum, visitors discover the famous lantern hung in the steeple on the night of Paul Revere’s ride in 1775, the contents of Henry D. Thoreau’s house at Walden Pond, including the desk on which he wrote “Civil Disobedience” and Walden, and Ralph Waldo Emerson’s study, where he wrote his influential essays and met with other distinguished writers and thinkers during the American literary renaissance. A nationally significant collection of Concord-made clocks, furniture, silver, and other decorative arts serve to illustrate three centuries of Concord’s domestic life.
Why Concord?, a six-gallery exhibition, explores the making of Concord as a particular community and as a New England and American symbol. The town of Concord, Massachusetts has played a significant part in the history of New England and the nation. Founded by English settlers in 1635, it was the first inland town in Massachusetts, an advanced outpost of Puritan civilization in an area occupied by Native Americans for centuries. Over a century later, as the site of the battle of April 19, 1775 between Minutemen and Redcoats at the North Bridge, Concord was the birthplace of the Revolutionary War. In the mid-nineteenth century, the community became the center of an intellectual revolution that remade American literature and thought. Concord was the site of Henry D. Thoreau’s experiment in independent living at Walden Pond and the base from which Ralph Waldo Emerson preached his philosophy of self-reliance. Thanks to these associations, Concord has assumed a special place in the American imagination.
Through a process of historical inquiry, Why Concord? examines the people, events, and ideas which shaped this influential community’s development. In the galleries, visitors of all ages learn about the principles of freedom, self-government, environmentalism, and our shared cultural heritage. “Establishing Concord,” “Defending Concord,” “Reforming Concord” and “Memorializing Concord” are the dynamic themes explored throughout the six galleries. Each of the galleries has its own distinct story to tell through rarely seen photographs, maps and documents, audio presentations, oral histories, creative hands-on activities and, most importantly, through the artifacts from the Museum’s renowned collection. This permanent exhibition serves as a gateway to the town through an engaging overview of Concord history.
Rich with furnishings from Concord homes, the Museum's five period rooms offer a glimpse into the domestic lives of men and women of Concord. At the Concord Museum, visitors enjoy a privileged, inside look at an icon of American letters that is perhaps without parallel—the Study of Ralph Waldo Emerson. Housed at the Museum since 1930, the Study serves as an ideal starting point for visitors to understand Emerson and his world. The Study’s furnishings, paintings and prints, and the personal objects on view offer an intimate, up-close look at a place “made pleasant by pictures and sunshine.”
Drawing from an encyclopedic collection of over 30,000 objects—from tall clocks to costumes, from looking glasses to samplers—the Museum's decorative arts galleries focus on subjects as diverse as 18th century furniture, weathervanes, Concord-made silver, 19th century childhood pastimes, and the Concord clockmakers.
There's always something new at the Concord Museum. Throughout the year, the Museum presents a variety of special exhibitions in the Graham Gund-designed galleries drawn from the Museum’s permanent collection, as well as from distinguished museums around the country.
Whether you are a collector, fascinated by pop culture, love history, fine craftsmanship or literary traditions, enjoy beautiful art or want to explore an inter-generational, hands-on exhibit, there’s something for you at the Concord Museum.