Prized Relics: Historic Souvenirs from the Collection

Prized Relics: Historic Souvenirs from the Collection
Closed September 5, 2015

In 1923, nine-year-old Dorothy Richardson and her younger brother, Albert, received a card describing a special gift coming to them from their cousin, Caroline Pitkin.  Pitkin, an artist living in New York City, packed a small cardboard box containing natural treasures—bark, small stones and a seal’s tooth—and carefully selected souvenirs from her travels to Europe, California and other places.  With the present she gave the siblings instructions to “start your museum” and the promise of more artifacts to come.

“Prized Relics: Historic Souvenirs from the Collection,” explores the souvenirs and relics that fascinated many Americans in the 1800s and into the 1900s. The show features more than 80 of these intriguing artifacts from the Museum and Library collection, as well as examples from the collection of the Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts. The exhibition explores different kinds of relics and souvenirs connected to domestic life, tourism, Masonic institutions and historic events dating from the 1700s through the 1900s.  “Prized Relics” opens June 14, 2014 and is ongoing.

One of the fascinating artifacts on view is an urn made by Paul Revere to hold a lock of George Washington’s hair, on loan from the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts. Washington’s death in 1799 prompted mourning across the country. Members of the Grand Lodge wrote to Washington’s widow, Martha, to express their sympathy and to request a lock of the former president’s hair. The Grand Lodge commissioned silversmith and Past Grand Master Paul Revere to design and manufacture an urn made out of gold to hold the hair—a physical link to the much-admired leader. Massachuse