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Hidden (and Not So Hidden) Gems of Worcester

Thursday, February 23, 2012


The Industrial Gallery at Worcester Historical Museum

Known as “the heart of the Commonwealth,” Worcester is the second largest city in New England. Founded in 1772, the city is home to many institutions that resonate with art lovers and history buffs alike. This week’s hidden (and not so hidden) gems are the Worcester Art Museum, Worcester Historical Museum, and Salisbury Mansion.

Worcester Art Museum

The crown jewel of Worcester museums is a world class small art museum. Founded in 1898 by Worcester philanthropist Stephen Salisbury III, “for the benefit of all the people,” Worcester Art Museum houses more than 35,000 works of art spanning more than 50 centuries. Famous for the quality of its extensive collection, the Museum offers art lovers the opportunity to experience European and North American painting prints, photographs, and drawing; Asian art; Greek and Roman sculpture and mosaics; and Contemporary Art. There is even a rare example of medieval architecture. The Romanesque 12th century chapter house was shipped from Europe and reassembled on site. Traveling exhibitions from private collections and other museums around the world supplement the permanent collections and entice visitors to return again and again.

Worcester Art Museum is also a social hub. Museum docents offer group tours, and a wide variety of classes and lectures are available to all ages. The elegant atmosphere of the European Galleries is the perfect setting for intimate chamber music concerts, while the mosaic and sculpture filled courtyard provides a dramatic backdrop to an exquisite café with seasonal al fresco dining. The Museum Shop offers unique merchandise for all ages and tastes inspired by art in museums worldwide. For scholars and the general public, there is an art history and rare books library managed in collaboration with the College of the Holy Cross.

Worcester Historical Museum

The Library inside The Worcester Historical Museum

Founded in 1875, Worcester Historical Museum (WHM) is the only institution dedicated to collecting, preserving, and interpreting Worcester's history. Worcester has played an important role in the history of the country, contributing to everything from the legends of the wild West to the innovations of NASA.

Did you know:

—that Isaiah Thomas, in Worcester in July 1776, gave the state’s first public reading of the Declaration of Independence?

—that the first national convention of women advocating women's suffrage was held in Worcester on October 23 and 24, 1850?

—that the first perfect game in major league baseball history was pitched by J. Lee Richmond of the Worcesters on June 12, 1880?

—that Worcester resident Charles Thurber patented the first modern-day typewriter in 1843?

—that Dr. Robert H. Goddard of Clark University patented the first liquid fuel rocket in 1914?

—that Worcester is not only the birthplace of barbed wire and the monkey wrench, but also of the smiley face and the space suit?

Worcester Historical Museum’s extensive research library is home to over 7,000 titles and an archive housing thousands of historical documents. WHM also has an extensive collection of artifacts from all periods of Worcester’s varied and fascinating history. Weaponry from the colonial era through World War II is displayed, as are paintings, sculptures, and a significant costume and textile collection. At Worcester Historical Museum, Worcester's history and the contributions of ethnic groups and individuals are interpreted through both permanent installations and changing exhibitions. Tours and educational programming are also offered.

Salisbury Mansion

Salisbury Mansion

WHM owns and operates Salisbury Mansion, once home to one of Worcester’s wealthiest families and the founder of the Worcester Art Museum. Built in 1772, it has been restored to its 1830s appearance and is one of the most documented historic houses in New England. It opened in 1984 as Worcester’s first historic home museum and is one of the few remaining 18th century buildings in Worcester. Salisbury Mansion was furnished and restored based on surviving architectural evidence, family papers, and manuscript collections.

For more information:

Susan D. Wagner is a Worcester resident and president of Susan Wagner PR, a boutique public relations firm invested in meeting client's goals with integrity and creativity. She is also Managing Partner for The Boston Ad Agency and Director of Corporate Communications for Boston Web Designers. 


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