MBF grants $10,000 to Commonwealth Museum

Issue July/August 2008

The MBF recently awarded a Fellows Fund grant of $10,000 to the Commonwealth Museum at the Massachusetts Archives. The grant will help support the development of a new exhibit entitled, "Our Common Wealth: The Massachusetts Experiment in Democracy 1620-Today."

The exhibit, scheduled to open in spring of 2009, will display rare historical documents from the vaults of the Massachusetts Archives and trace the Massachusetts experience through the colonial, revolutionary, federal, Civil War and 19th century reform periods.

A sub-theme, "Tracing our Roots," will tell the story of four representative Massachusetts families of Native American, English, Black and Irish heritage. To create a thought-provoking and interesting experience for the museum-goer, the exhibit design will include state-of-the-art technology and interactive displays in a setting that evokes the atmosphere of early Massachusetts.

The MBF grant will be used specifically for an exhibit entitled, "Know Your Rights," which is geared toward teaching young people about their constitutional rights under the law. This exhibit will feature an interactive exercise where student visitors will compete to identify whether individual rights have been violated under a number of different scenarios. The scenarios take basic rights and apply them to modern day situations, helping young visitors better understand the longevity and thoughtfulness in the documents that form the foundation of our government.

The MBF-funded exhibit will appear in a gallery that includes information on the drafting of the Massachusetts Constitution of 1780 (and its protection of rights); debates about a "bill of rights" for the proposed federal constitution; and information on the cases of Mum Bett and Quock Walker that abolished slavery in Massachusetts. After learning about these historical issues, through the "Know Your Rights" display, students will test their own rights in a contemporary setting.

The exhibit illustrates to all visitors that the fundamental rights of individuals secured more than 200 years ago by the federal Bill of Rights and the Massachusetts Constitution are very much in play today.

For more information about the Commonwealth Museum, visit www.sec.state.ma.us/mus/museum.