Community Partner Spotlight Series

Boston Turned Upside Down

Featured Partner : Revolutionary Spaces | Written by Emma Strub

When we gathered at Old South Meeting House on March 5 to commemorate the 250th Anniversary of the Boston Massacre, we were just starting to hear rumblings about COVID-19. As we listened to Governor Baker, Mayor Walsh, Commissioner Gross, and an array of other civic and community leaders, we didn’t know what awaited us in a matter of days.

Within a week, Revolutionary Spaces was one of the first cultural organizations in Boston to voluntarily close our doors to support social distancing. We shuttered our two buildings — the Old State House and Old South Meeting House — on March 12, thinking that we’d be closed for a short time and come back to a vibrant downtown, once again bustling and filled with people.

Guess that didn’t happen, eh? Two weeks turned into four weeks, which turned into at least two more months of stay-at-home advisories, vigorous hand-washing, hand-sewn face masks, and reminders to stay (at least) six feet apart from other humans. Parents are overwhelmed with home-schooling and childcare, small businesses are faced with existential choices, unemployment rates are skyrocketing. We’re all a lot more anxious than we were a month ago.

We’ve done our best to take the steps we can to promote social distancing and to keep our communities safe. Our museum experience team pivoted — nearly overnight — from operating programs in two physical spaces, to building a brand new virtual presence from the ground up. Our development team created engaging experiences for members and donors to enjoy from a distance. Our collections and facilities teams determined the best course of action to protect the national treasures we care for. And our administration team led the effort to successfully secure a loan through the Paycheck Protection Program of the CARES Act, allowing us to expect to keep staff employed at their full salaries through at least June 30. We’re deeply grateful for a stellar board of directors, supportive outside partners — like Berkshire Bank — and a nimble, creative staff.

Still, we have hard choices ahead of us if strict social distancing policies continue. We rely largely on ticket sales and gift shop revenue, so we will need to recalibrate our work in the coming months in the face of short-term uncertainty while not losing sight of our long-term dreams. Our mission — to bring people together to explore the continuing American struggle to create and sustain a free society — feels more urgent than ever.

We’re taking comfort in the precious resource of our shared history, since it’s a bond that links us more tightly to our neighbors and reminds us that Bostonians have overcome similar challenges before. The Boston Massacre deeply traumatized 18th-century Bostonians, but became one of the events that led to the American Revolution. So, like Bostonians before us, it’s imperative we lean on each other — virtually, of course — to weather this storm together. In the coming months, we’ll explore on our blog how learning from our past can help us now to work together toward a brighter future as a vibrant, resilient community.

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