By Nikki Stewart, Executive Director and Catherine Matthews, Director of Education
A horrific discovery has been the catalyst for a new reckoning at Old North Church & Historic Site. Like many historic sites in the Northeast, Old North Church, located in Boston, Mass., sits at a paradoxical intersection of freedom and unfreedom. To many, the steeple is an icon of American liberty and independence. Yet, recent research has shown that the church was built in part with the proceeds of human trafficking and enslavement, which filled the coffers of early congregants.
Just as Old North set forth on the path of reckoning with this information, COVID-19 emerged, sending cultural organizations into a period of intense uncertainty and limited resources. Old North utilized the site’s 13-month closure to embark on a strategic planning project to prepare for the church’s 300th anniversary in 2023, and the 250th anniversary of the famous lantern signals that ignited the American Revolution in 2025. The organization has emerged with an inclusive vision and strategies to inspire visitors to engage in brave acts of active citizenship to deliver on the promises of liberty and justice for all. The questions that the Foundation explored through the process can serve as a framework for museums and cultural institutions considering their post-pandemic futures.