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New Bunker Hill Museum To Open Today

Boston National Historical Park

National Park News

The Battle of Bunker Hill Museum, located in a former Boston branch library building owned by the City of Boston, will open to the public in a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Thursday, June 14th. The ceremony will mark the completion of a $3.7 million National Park Service rehabilitation of the Bunker Hill Monument National Historic Site that includes improved handicapped access to the grounds, repairs to the monument, a new lighting system, and the new museum.

The Battle of Bunker Hill Museum, which will be managed by the National Park Service in partnership with the City of Boston and the Charlestown Historical Society, will house over 4,000 square feet of new exhibit space. The museum will feature a new exhibit, “The Decisive Day: The Battle of Bunker Hill – Revolution, Monument, and Commemoration,” that tells the story of the battle and its commemoration, the story of the Bunker Hill Monument, and the history of the Charlestown community. The exhibit includes a new 360-degree cyclorama mural of the battle and refurbished dioramas and artifacts. Included among the artifacts are a captured British Army drum and a sword belonging to Benjamin Prescott, who gave his life fighting at the redoubt. Large, colorful exhibit panels include over one hundred images of the battle and monument, as well as text informed by new historical research showing a significant number of African American and Native American patriot combatants at the battle.

The newly-created cyclorama painting of the battle is based on the original done in the 1880s by a team of French artists under the direction of Leonard Kowalsky. This dramatic circular perspective of the battle has not been seen by the public since about 1889 when the original cyclorama painting, on display in Boston’s South End, was dismantled.

Contemporary muralist John Coles painted the eleven-panel recreation, about one-third the size of the 240-foot original, working from a set of photographic negatives from the collection of The Bostonian Society.  Because these old images are in black and white, Coles informed his sense of the color of eighteenth-century uniforms and clothing by studying other well-known paintings of the battle, many of which, in reproduction, are on display in the exhibit.

Coles has family ties to the battle which he discovered while creating the mural. His mother is a descendant of Christian Febiger, a Danish volunteer who served with distinction during the battle and throughout the Revolutionary War. Coles has included a rendering of his ancestor in the mural painting.

A gift of $500,000 from the Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts enabled the National Park Service to establish this new multi-purpose museum to offer diverse audiences a unique experience of history through exhibits and educational programs.

With their generous gift, the Massachusetts Grand Lodge of Masons demonstrate the ongoing Masonic commitment to the commemoration of American patriots and to telling the important story of the great step taken towards the achievement of liberty in Charlestown. One of Boston's foremost patriots, Joseph Warren, Grand Master of the St. Andrew’s Grand Lodge of Freemasons, became the first great national martyr in the fight for liberty when he was killed in the Battle of Bunker Hill.  The fraternal organization of Freemasonry played an important part in the life of many other Revolutionary leaders, including George Washington, Paul Revere, and John Hancock.

The King Solomon’s Lodge of Freemasons, currently based in Somerville, Massachusetts, erected the first battle-related monument in 1794 to honor Warren. Charlestown Freemasons supported the creation of the Bunker Hill Monument, which they have helped to sustain over the years.

The first major commemoration was organized by the Bunker Hill Monument Association on June 17, 1825, the battle's fiftieth anniversary. At the celebration, attended by almost 100,000 people, the monument cornerstone was laid in a ceremony led by the Masonic Lodge of Massachusetts.
Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino will participate in the June 14 ceremony, along with  the British and French Consuls-General in Boston and the Grandmaster of the Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts.


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