Revolutionary Boston

A Citywide Commemoration

2015 marks the 250th anniversary of the 1765 Stamp Act crisis, a polarizing event for the North American colonies and an important prologue to America’s quest for independence from Great Britain. During that pivotal year, Boston—long a hub of colonial commerce and trade—became the epicenter of unrest and growing opposition to English taxation without American representation. Over the next two decades, the “Cradle of Liberty” would be rocked by war, politics, pox, and patriotism as the thirteen colonies traveled the long road to the forming of a new nation.

Revolutionary Boston is a citywide commemoration of this storied period in Boston and New England history. Visitors from near and far are invited to join in the celebration and reengage with the spirit of revolutionary thinking that first launched this country through gallery exhibitions, unique programs, lectures, tours, musical events, lively reenactments, digital collections, and more.

Revolutionary Boston® is the registered trademark of the Bostonian Society and is used by permission.

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Exhibitions

  • We Are One: Mapping America’s Road from Revolution to Independence

    McKim Exhibition Hall, Central Library in Copley Square
    May 2 – November 29, 2015

    This extraordinary gallery exhibition explores the tumultuous events that led thirteen separate colonies to join together and forge a new nation. America’s story unfolds from the strife of the French and Indian War (1754-1763) through the Revolutionary War (1775-1783) and concludes with the creation of a new national government and the founding of Washington, D.C., as its capital in 1792.

    Organized by the Norman B. Leventhal Map Center, We Are One features over 100 rare maps, prints, paintings, and artifacts from the collections of Boston Public Library and twenty other public and private collections. Treasures include unique manuscript maps on loan from the British Library that have never previously been exhibited in America, the first Congressional Medal awarded to General Washington, and Paul Revere’s hand-drawn sketch of the Boston Massacre scene. The exhibition also features interactive technology including a smartphone tour and digitized historical maps with modern overlays and magnification.

    We Are One will travel to Colonial Williamsburg in 2016 and to the New-York Historical Society in 2017.

  • Guided Exhibition Tours
    Thursdays and Saturdays at 2:00 p.m.
    June 4 – October 15, 2015

    Special tours of the gallery exhibition We Are One: Mapping America’s Road from Revolution to Independence are free and open to the public. All hour-long tours are led by volunteer guides; no reservations are required for parties under eight people. Tours begin in the McKim Exhibition Hall. For questions, please contact tours@bpl.org.

  • Behind the Scenes: Curator’s Talk
    Tuesday, May 19 at 6:00 p.m. (presentation at 6:00 p.m.; tour at 7:00 p.m.)
    Commonwealth Salon and McKim Exhibition Hall, Central Library in Copley Square

    Curator Ronald Grim provides an insider’s view of the creation of the We Are One: Mapping America’s Road from Revolution to Independence exhibition with a one-hour lecture followed by a walking tour of the rare maps, prints, and artwork on display in McKim Exhibition Hall.

    This program is presented by the Norman B. Leventhal Map Center and the Boston Map Society.

  • Liberty Tree 2015

    May 2 – November 29, 2015
    Norman B. Leventhal Map Center, Central Library in Copley Square 

    The Liberty Tree was a real elm tree that once stood on the corner of today’s Essex and Washington Streets in Boston. Colonists gathered there to protest what they felt were unjust taxes imposed on them by the British Parliament in the years leading up to the American Revolution. Other towns in the American colonies also adopted their own liberty trees, and they became a symbol of protest against British rule.

    Visitors are invited to join the conversation and share personal responses to the question “What does liberty mean to you?” Hang a leaf on the Liberty Tree at the Central Library in Copley Square or join the #LibertyTreeBPL conversation on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

Upcoming Revolutionary Boston Programs

From Our Collections

  • Related books
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  • Online collections
    • The American Revolution Portal is a curated, freely available online collection of digitized maps combining the most outstanding works from the Boston Public Library’s Norman B. Leventhal Map Center, partner institutions, and private collections. The focus is cartographic materials from 1750–1800 that are a resource for teachers, scholars, collectors, and the general public interested in the historical, geographic, and cultural context of the events in North America during this period.

      Participating institutions include the British Library, Library of Congress, Richard Brown Collection, Massachusetts Historical Society, American Antiquarian Society, Harvard University, Boston Athenaeum, New York Public Library, William L. Clements Library, John Carter Brown Library, Colonial Williamsburg, and Newberry Library.

    • Collections of Distinction represent the most outstanding, expansive, and renowned of the Boston Public Library’s special collections. Several Collections of Distinction have particularly extensive and important holdings dating from the American Revolutionary War period.

    • The John Adams Library includes nearly three thousand volumes collected by Massachusetts native and the second President of the United States John Adams during his lifetime (1735–1826), as well as hundreds of additional volumes donated by friends and family members during the nineteenth century. Visit the John Adams Library website to learn about Adams and his collection, view digitized books, and discover more resources.

    • Colonial and Revolutionary Boston - Boston Public Library holds thousands of manuscripts, correspondence, documents, and printed records from the colonial and Revolutionary War periods. This collection is unparalleled in the extent of its administrative and judicial records of Massachusetts Bay Colony and early Boston. Online resources include over one thousand original American Revolutionary War manuscripts; digitization of this collection has been generously funded and inspired by David McCullough’s Yale class of 1955 and the Associates of the Boston Public Library.