Past Special Exhibitions

2017 | 2016 |2015 |20142013 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008  2007 | 2006 | 2005 | 2004 | 2003 2002 | 2001 | 2000

This Ever New Self: Thoreau and His Journal
September 29, 2017 through January 21, 2018

The most comprehensive exhibition ever devoted to the life of one of America’s most influential authors and thinkers brought together remarkable holdings from the world’s two most significant Thoreau collections: journals, manuscripts, books, and field notes from the Morgan Library & Museum; and, from the Concord Museum, unique personal items, including the very desk on which Thoreau wrote much of his journal.

Image: © The Morgan Library & Museum, MA 6069; Photography by Graham S. Haber, 2010

Walden: Four Views
February 10, 2017 through August 20, 2017

On the occasion of the bicentennial of Henry David Thoreau’s birth, Abelardo Morell, guided and inspired by Thoreau’s journals and his seminal work Walden, created panoramic photographic works that suggest fresh new angles from which to look at Walden Pond.

Image: Walden: Pond/Tent Camera Image, 2016, Abelardo Morell

The Anatomy of a Desk: Writing with Thoreau and Emerson
February 10, 2017 through September 4, 2017

This exhibition brought focus to two iconic desks that played a major role in America’s literary tradition. The first, a Windsor writing-arm chair, was the desk at which Ralph Waldo Emerson penned his first book, Nature. The second, the humble green desk of Henry David Thoreau, became no less a literary star as it accompanied Thoreau from the schoolroom where he taught with his brother to the pond where he drafted his most influential work, Walden. These two desks from the Concord Museum collection were exhibited side by side in the gallery.

Image: Ralph Waldo Emerson's Writing-Arm Windsor. Concord, 1800-20, white pine, maple, ash
Concord Museum, Gift of Cummings E. Davis (1886) F403
Photograph by Eric Roth, courtesy Design New England

The Art & Mystery of the Dollhouse
October 14, 2016 through January 15, 2017

This enchanting exhibition included some rarely-seen examples of dollhouses and their miniature contents—including dolls—drawn from an esteemed private collection and from the renowned collection of The Strong National Museum of Play, as well as from the family of Tasha Tudor, one of America’s best-known and most beloved illustrators.  The Art and Mystery of the Dollhouse delighted thousands of visitors, young and old, realists and dreamers, and all those who collect, make, and play (or have played) with dollhouses.

Image: Georgian House, England, 1730-50; Private Collection 


Women of Concord
May 13 through September 25, 2016

Editor, silversmith, social justice activist, artist, domestic, Army nurse, teacher, factory worker, author, farmer, mother, philanthropist…All describe the women of Concord – some famous, some almost invisible – featured in this special exhibition.  Each portrait, needlework, or piece of furniture, carefully preserved by succeeding generations and now by the Concord Museum, makes it possible to create meaning from the lives of ordinary citizens as well as prominent residents.
Image: Portrait of Mary Merrick Brooks (1801-1868), by Alonzo Hartwell (1805-1873); Boston, 1852; conte crayon on paper; Bequest of Mrs. Stedman Buttrick, Sr. (1965) Pi413

N.C. Wyeth's Men of Concord
April 15 through September 18, 2016

N.C. Wyeth's Men of Concord brought together, for the first time in nearly eighty years, the twelve original panels N.C. Wyeth painted for the book, Men of Concord and Some Others, as Portrayed in the Journal of Henry David Thoreau (1936). The exhibition also included charcoal drawings, watercolors, an additional artwork related to the series, including sketches created by Andrew Wyeth as illustrations for the book.

The exhibition was presented in collaboration with the Concord Free Public Library's William Munroe Special Collections, which featured From Thoreau's Seasons to Men of Concord: N.C. Wyeth Inspired in the Library Art Gallery. This exhibition explored N.C. Wyeth's fascination with Henry David Thoreau - in Wyeth's words, "the springhead for almost every move I can make" - by tracing the evolution of the book men of Concord from Wyeth's initial inspiration for it in 1918 to its long-delayed but triumphant publication in 1936.

Image credit: Thoreau Fishing, N.C. Wyeth, 1936. Private Collection. Used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.


Middlesex County Modern
 October 9, 2015 through March 20, 2016 

 Middlesex County Modern, organized by Guest Curator Rebecca Migdal, explored modern architecture in this region and its impact on design and the community. The exhibition focused on local purpose-built modern neighborhoods such as Conantum in Concord and iconic buildings such as Gropius House in Lincoln, as well as key agents in the spread of modern architecture, including the Harvard Graduate School of Design, The Architects’ Collaborative (TAC), and Design Research, architect Ben Thompson’s “lifestyle store.”

Click here to view the online exhibition for Middlesex County Modern.

The Art of Baseball
April 17, 2015 through September 20, 2015

The Art of Baseball explored the many ways that artists have responded to America's national pastime. Ranging from fine art to folk art and beyond, the exhibition included nearly 50 works, including paintings, sculpture, photography, furniture, textiles, and the decorative arts. Above all, the show celebrated baseball’s immediacy, accessibility, and all-American fun! Doris Kearns Goodwin served as Honorary Curator of the exhibition. Drawn primarily from an exceptional private collection in New York, the show featured works by acclaimed American artists -- including John Marin, Robert Rauschenberg, John Sloan, and William Zorach -- who were clearly inspired by baseball. Additional highlights included Boston Red Sox artifacts -- the bat used by Jim Rice to hit his 301st home run, a mask worn by Carlton Fisk, a cap worn by Carl Yastrzemski, a glove used by Ted Williams, and three Red Sox World Series rings -- courtesy of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum and a private collection.

Click here to view the online exhibition for The Art of Baseball.

Behind Closed Doors: Asleep in New England
October 10, 2014 through March 22, 2015

Behind Closed Doors: Asleep in New England uncovered the complex role sleep has played in everyday life throughout American history, drawing upon the expertise of Consulting Curators Jane and Richard Nylander and their groundbreaking research to explore the material culture of sleeping, as well as the Concord Museum’s exceptional collection. Dressing tables, necessary chairs, washstands, high chests, coffins, cradles, and adult cradles from the Concord Museum’s decorative arts collection and from the collections of Historic New England, Old Sturbridge Village, and other New England institutions were on display. 

Click here to view the online exhibition for "Behind Closed Doors: Asleep in New England"

The Shot Heard Round the World: April 19, 1775
April 18, 2014 through September 21, 2014

The Shot Heard Round the World: April 19, 1775 followed an hour-by-hour account of the actions of British Regulars and Patriots on April 19th, 1775, presenting a chronological and geographical timeline of the day and representing many of the communities surrounding Boston – Lexington, Concord, Lincoln, Arlington (Menotomy), and Cambridge – whose militias played a prominent role in the day-long engagement. Organized by Concord Museum curator David Wood and militaria expert Joel Bohy, the exhibition drew from the Museum’s important collection, as well as a number of private and institutional collections. 

Click here to view the online exhibition for The Shot Heard Round the World: April 19, 1775.

From the Minute Man to the Lincoln Memorial: The Timeless Sculpture of Daniel Chester French
October 11, 2013 through March 23, 2014

Daniel Chester French (1850-1931) is best known for his monuments of two icons of American history: the Minute Man in Concord, MA (1871-75) and the seated figure of Abraham Lincoln for the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC (1911-22). French completed over one hundred memorials and monuments during his productive career in Concord and later in New York  City and Stockbridge, Massachusetts. This exhibition included some rarely displayed objects from French’s Chesterwood studio highlighting the role that Concord played in French’s life and career. Click here to view the online exhibition for From the Minute Man to the Lincoln Memorial.

The Best Workman in the Shop: Cabinetmaker William Munroe of Concord
September 13, 2013 through March 23, 2014

The Best Workman in the Shop explored William Munroe’s (1778 – 1861) life and career through the objects he made – including some of the most beautiful clocks crafted in Massachusetts, exquisitely crafted furniture and his detailed shop records. This exhibition was presented in conjunction with the Four Centuries of Massachusetts Furniture project.

Early Spring: Henry Thoreau and Climate Change
April 12, 2013 through September 15, 2013

Early Spring explored three centuries of careful observation of seasonal natural phenomena in Concord, a pool of data on the relationship between climate and biology that is essentially without parallel in North America. The exhibition also provided an extraordinary opportunity to examine the Concord Museum’s renowned Thoreau collection that includes the desk on which Thoreau wrote Walden, together with examples of his original field notes, journal recordings, seasonal charts, and botanical specimens. Click here to view the online exhibition for Early Spring.

The Greatest Source of Wealth: Agriculture in Concord
October 12, 2012 through March 17, 2013

In Concord, farmers, educators, planners, environmental activists, food distributors, health professionals, parents, and policymakers engage in community-wide discussions about building local food connections. The town’s agrarian heritage and historic farmland were compelling starting points for that conversation. In celebration of this farming tradition, past and present, The Greatest Source of Wealth: Agriculture in Concord, explored the changing agricultural landscape of Concord over time. The exhibition focused on both the innovations of the 19th century, when Concord was at the forefront of agricultural reform, and the challenges of the 21st century.

Annie Leibovitz: Pilgrimage
June 28, 2012 through September 23, 2012 

Annie Leibovitz: Pilgrimage charted a new direction for one of America’s best-known living photographers. Unlike her staged and carefully lit portraits made on assignment for magazines and advertising clients, the photographs in this exhibition were taken simply because Annie Leibovitz was moved by the subject. The images spoke in a commonplace language to the photographer’s curiosity about the world she inherited, spanning landscapes both dramatic and quiet, interiors of living rooms and bedrooms, and objects that are talismans of past lives. 

Visiting the homes of iconic figures, including Eleanor Roosevelt, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Louisa May Alcott, Pete Seeger, and Elvis Presley, as well as places such as Niagara Falls, Gettysburg, Old Faithful, and the Yosemite Valley, she let her instincts and intuitions guide her to related subjects—hence the title “Pilgrimage.” The exhibition included approximately 70 photographs taken between April 2009 and May 2011—nine of them in Concord, Massachusetts. Annie Leibovitz: Pilgrimage was organized by the Smithsonian American Art Museum. The Bernie Stadiem Endowment Fund provided support for the exhibition. The C.F. Foundation of Atlanta supported the museum’s traveling exhibition program, Treasures to Go.

The Object of History: Colonial Treasures from
the Massachusetts Historical Society

April 13, 2012 through June 17, 2012

This innovative exhibition explored treasures from the Massachusetts Historical Society from a variety of perspectives—as items associated with important historical figures or events; as objects of beauty; as exceptional survivals from the past; and as conveyors of amazing stories. The layers of meaning imbedded in each object were revealed through the discerning eyes of Concord Museum Curator David Wood and Massachusetts Historical Society Librarian Peter Drummey. The exhibition included rarely exhibited 17th- and 18th-century objects and related documents from the Society’s exceptional holdings

Crowdsourcing a Collection
The Concord Museum’s 125th Anniversary Exhibition 
October 22, 2011 through March 18, 2012

In the fall of 2011, the Concord Museum marked the 125th anniversary of the establishment of the Concord Antiquarian Society in 1886. Pulitzer-prize winning author, historian, and Concord resident Doris Kearns Goodwin served as the Honorary Curator for the exhibition. A cross-section of the individuals who make up the Museum’s diverse community served as Guest Curators and selected objects from our holdings that had special meaning for them. Guest Curators include historians Nathaniel Philbrick and Laurel Thatcher Ulrich; Senator John Kerry; novelist and physicist Alan Lightman; author and Presidential Medal of Freedom honoree Robert Coles; craftsman and North Bennet Street School president Miguel Gómez-Ibáñez; arts journalist Joyce Kulhawik; Nanae, Japan mayor Yasukazu Nakamiya; Concord Honored Citizens Marian Thornton and Dot Higgins; and many others.

When Duty Whispers: Concord and the Civil War

April 15, 2011 through September 18, 2011

When Duty Whispers: Concord and the Civil War featured objects from the Concord Museum collection—some never before exhibited—including uniforms, accoutrements, arms, swords, flags, broadsides, portraits, correspondence and newspapers. The exhibition also brought together selections from the remarkable collections of the William Munroe Special Collections at the Concord Free Public Library; an extraordinary group of Gettysburg relics from the Carlisle Historical Society; a charcoal study for the monumental painting “Memories of Antietam” by Elizabeth Wentworth Roberts from the Concord Art Association; and representative examples from a private collection of Springfield arms. In addition, a recently-conserved flag of the 55th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, one of two black infantry regiments from Massachusetts during the Civil War, was included courtesy of The Middlesex School.

A little scrap for recollections sake: Quilts from the Concord Museum
October 8, 2010 through March 27, 2011

Rarely exhibited, the quilts on view in this special exhibition ranged from doll size to full size, and included bold geometrics, traditional patchwork, signature quilts and crazy quilts, most dating from the second half of the nineteenth century. Also included in the exhibition were patterns, quilt tops, shams and sewing tools. Each quilt on exhibit had a story to tell about the creative makers, the communities they lived in, and the period of history in which they were working.

"into your hands..."
April 16, 2010 through September 19, 2010 

The Concord Museum celebrated the 375th anniversary of the founding of the town of Concord with a special exhibition, "into your hands…" featuring objects that have been passed down in Concord’s families and then entrusted to the Concord Museum. The exhibition included portraits, jewelry, needlework, ceramics, clothing, furniture, clocks and silver, all donated to the Concord Museum by family members with the intent to preserve Concord’s history for generations to come.  The title "into your hands…" was taken from a 1942 letter written by Lucy Merriam Brigham describing her gift of family possessions to the Museum.

A Dedication to Craft:
 North Bennet Street School @ 125 

November 13, 2009 through March 21, 2010 

This juried exhibition of furniture, jewelry, musical instruments and fine bookbindings was crafted by 55 distinguished alumni of the renowned North Bennet Street School in celebration of the 125th anniversary of the founding of the school in Boston’s North End.

Setting the President
s Table: American Presidential China from the McNeil Americana Collection at the Philadelphia Museum of Art 
March 27, 2009 through October 12, 2009 

This special exhibition showcased over 100 pieces of porcelain used by American presidents from Washington to Lincoln and Roosevelt to Reagan as they entertained the world’s heads of state, distinguished literati, business leaders and cultural luminaries at the national “First Table.” This visual history of the American presidency was sure to fascinate anyone with an interest in American history and presidential politics, entertaining and style, collecting and decorative arts.

Street Smarts 
October 3, 2008 through March 1, 2009 

In Concord, we often say, there is history on every street corner.  And at the Concord Museum, we take that literally. How and when were today’s streets named? The answers are interesting ones that bring a human connection to the familiar green and white signs on Concord’s street corners.  To tell the story behind the sign we paired objects from the Museum’s wide-ranging collection with the street name. 

June 21, 2008 through September 14, 2008 

The four seasons—winter, spring, summer and fall—evoke distinctive individual memories, yet often with universal appeal. This engaging exhibition drew from the artifacts in the Concord Museum’s rich and varied collection to explore some of the nostalgic events, traditions, and rituals of each season in American culture. Opening to the public on the first full day of summer, the exhibition began by chronicling the season of outdoor recreations, summer breezes, and patriotic celebrations. Spring, fall and winter were similarly explored through artifacts that bring to mind a seasonal sense of time and place: spring cleaning and baseball, back-to-school and applepicking, keeping warm and snow sports.

American Style: Russell Kettells Pine Furniture
February 2, 2008 through May 18, 2008

In the 1920s and 30s, Russell Kettell, collector and author of the now classic books Pine Furniture and Early American Rooms, defined an aesthetic that helped shape the appreciation of American domestic art and craft. His book on period rooms, compiled with the help of the first generation of American museum professionals to interpret American art, was the first to define the canon for the re-creation of historic domestic interiors. His book on pine furniture similarly defined for generations the distinctive appeal of the vernacular furniture of New England. The Concord Museum drew on its own collection—Russell Kettell donated more than 1000 pieces from his own collection to the Museum—and several private collections to illustrate Kettell’s aesthetic. Included in the exhibition were boxes, tables, candlestands, looking glasses, six-board cases, cupboards, hanging shelves, ceramics and metalware that exemplify the American style associated with Russell Kettell.

Building Thoreaus Boat
August 31, 2007 through January 6, 2008

This exhibition had as its centerpiece the reconstruction of a boat like the one Henry Thoreau and his brother John rowed and sailed in a trip they took from Concord, Massachusetts to New Hampshire in 1839. It was this trip, in this boat, that resulted in Henry Thoreau’s first book, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers. The exhibition explored the brothers’ now-famous trip, the history of dories in New England, and most importantly, the process of recreating and building an historic boat. In June 2007, David Snediker of Taylor & Snediker, specialists in building and restoring small craft, reconstructed Thoreau's dory in a boat-building yard in Pawcatuck, CT. The process was documented by photographer Eric Roth, whose photographs, along with the plans, tools and raw materials used in the boatbuilding process, were displayed in the exhibition.

A Splash of Blue
February 2, 2007 through August 12, 2007

The color blue made a splash in this blue-ribbon exhibition featuring all things blue from the Concord Museum’s wide-ranging collection. Fashion and furniture, tableware and textiles, art and advertising lit up the galleries with a blue palette that was both hot and icy cool. This exhibition looked at objects from the Museum’s collection through a blue lens, exploring the pigments, fabrics, papers and paints used in seascapes and landscapes, geometric and floral bandboxes, charming coverlets, always-appealing blue and white ceramics, a Union officer’s great coat, a 1960s Emilio Pucci patterned silk dress, and much more.

Needles & Haystacks: Pastoral Imagery in
American Needlework from the Winterthur Collection 

October 3, 2006 through January 7, 2007

Featuring exquisite needlework pictures of idyllic country scenes created by schoolgirls in early America, the exhibition gave a new twist to the traditional focus on the landscape that is so much a part of New England history. The artistry and charm of the works themselves, the richness of the colors in the needlework, and the diversity of the materials and techniques appealed to all those with an appreciation for fine craftsmanship, including antique collectors, artists, designers, and needlework enthusiasts from novice to expert. Forms ranging from framed pictures and samplers to petticoat borders and chair seat covers were complemented by silver teapots, Staffordshire figurines, painted boxes and porcelain candlesticks that supported the pastoral theme. (Photograph courtesy Winterthur)

The Purse and the Person: A Century of Womens Purses
April 21, 2006 through July 4, 2006

While archaeologists may create a picture of an individual from a cache of artifacts buried deep in the earth, this exhibition brought together life stories buried right under our noses—in the purses carried by our mothers and grandmothers. Developed from a private collection of nearly 2,000 handbags, each vignette in this exhibit combined purses with the everyday objects that filled them. Glimpse into the lives of Edwardian matrons, flappers, wartime Rosie the Riveters, suburban housewives, hippies, businesswomen, and more. The women of the 20th century revealed their personalities, their fashion sense and their day-to-day concerns brought out in the mysterious depths of their purses.

A Main Street Point of View
January 25, 2006 through April 2, 2006

From multi-generation family businesses to new enterprises, from clock and cabinetmakers to butchers and milliners, hardware stores and apothecaries, through change and continuity, A Main Street Point of View celebrated the economic life of a quintessential New England town. This exhibition at the Concord Museum peeled back the streetscape's layers of history through contemporary views by nationally-renowned photographer Eric Roth, treasured historical images, and three centuries of artifacts from the Museum’s rich and varied collection. Silver spoons and milk bottles, portraits of merchants and gunsmiths, clocks and chests of drawers, shop signs and account books all share a storied connection to Concord's business thoroughfares. Eric Roth, a photographer well-known for his work with The Boston Globe MagazineYankee, and House Beautiful, has captured the dynamic essence of today’s commercial districts, using many of the same vantage points as the historical images. The compelling photographic history is drawn from the William Munroe Special Collections at the Concord Free Public Library, the Anderson Archives and private collections.

David Sibley
s Birds
June 24, 2005 through January 1, 2006

Over 50 original watercolor paintings by America’s most gifted contemporary illustrator of birds, David Allen Sibley, were on view at the Concord Museum in the first major exhibition of this author/artist’s work. More than just a field guide, The Sibley Guide to Birds has already proved to be one of the most influential natural history books of our times. The exhibition offered a rare opportunity to bring together the art and expertise of this innovative, nationally-recognized Concord resident.

Connecticut Valley Furniture by Eliphalet Chapin
and His Contemporaries, 1750
January 29, 2005 through June 5, 2005

Masterworks of Connecticut 18th-century furniture from the Connecticut Historical Society Museum and other public and private collections included 23 pieces ranging from high chests to candlestands and dressing tables to side chairs. Gallery interactives and videos featuring Leigh and Leslie Keno of PBS’ Find! and Antiques Roadshow reveal the secrets behind this highly-prized furniture of enduring elegance.

American Writers at Home
October 8, 2004 through January 2, 2005

Evocative photographic portraits of the homes of some of America’s most important literary figures and a selection of the writers’ original manuscript poems and letters, revealed the importance of place in shaping the books and poems we love most, including The Adventures of Huckleberry FinnMoby-DickEthan FromeFor Whom the Bell TollsLittle Women, and Long Days Journey into Night.

Visiting Thoreaus Walden
May 21, 2004 through September 19, 2004

The exhibition celebrated the 150th anniversary of the publication of Henry David Thoreau’s Walden; or, Life in the Woods, one of the seminal works that has shaped the American character. Artifacts and images explored the generations of visitors for whom Walden Pond has been home, workplace, playground and sacred ground.

The AZ List: Finding the Unexpected
January 23, 2004 through April 25, 2004

Over 100 items with unexpected visual and verbal richness that literally ranged from A to Z were on view from the Museum's renowned collection. From simple objects to high-style knockouts, the exhibition included furnishings, textiles, ceramics, silver, paintings, tools, jewelry and more.

Degrees of Latitude: Maps of America
from the Colonial Williamsburg Collection

July 10, 2003 through October 19, 2003

An extraordinary collection of 72 historic maps and an atlas of early America, culled from Colonial Williamsburg’s extensive collection were featured as a point of departure for understanding the history of American settlement and colonization. The maps, representing each of the 13 colonies, were selected for their rarity, historical importance and aesthetic beauty.

Emerson and His Study: An Inside Look

January 25, 2003 through April 6, 2003

Examining for the first time in a gallery setting some of the Study’s most significant furnishings, paintings, prints and books offered a privileged look at an icon of American letters—the study of Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Good Then, Good Always: Toys and Memories

October 4, 2002 through January 5, 2003

Designed for both kids-at-heart and their children and grandchildren, the exhibition included over 100 wonderful toys spanning three centuries and brought to light the fascinating stories behind these classics.

Illustrating Little Women: Louisa May Alcott and Frank Thayer Merrill

June 21, 2002 through September 15, 2002

Sixty-five original illustrations from Frank Thayer Merrill for the 1880 Roberts Brothers edition of Louisa May Alcott’s beloved classic Little Women illuminated the interaction between Alcott and Merrill in the illustrative process.

Traditions in Elegance: 100 Teapots from the Norwich Castle Museum
January 25, 2002 through May 27, 2002

The custom of tea preparation and tea drinking in English life through its most prominent object—the teapot—during the 18th and 19th centuries— was explored in this engaging exhibition.

Wild Flora

October 4, 2001 through January 6, 2002

Over 100 botanical prints of pressed plants artfully preserved using an innovative technique by field biologist Erika Sonder were exhibited with botanical specimens collected in the traditional manner in the 19th century by New England naturalists including Thoreau

Everything Old is New Again: Recent Acquisitions

June 23, 2001 through September 16, 2001

This exhibition provided a glimpse into the collecting practices of one of the oldest and most distinguished history and decorative arts museums in the country. Specially designed children’s labels and hands-on activities throughout the exhibition engaged visitors of all ages

Keeping Time: Clockmaking in Concord 17901835
September 8, 2000 through January 21, 2001

A ground-breaking exhibition featured over thirty of the finest examples of documented Concord clocks from the Museum’s collection and others in a fascinating mix of craftsmanship, social history, entrepreneurship, economics and art.