“The time for action has arrived…”
Museum, guided tour, interactive exhibit, historical re-enactment - you could describe the Tea Party Ships and Museum as any of these, but in reality, it’s actually all of these. Many years in the re-building, the Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum opens on June 26 on the Congress Street Bridge, just around the corner from the Children’s Museum.
We recently had the opportunity to tour this new Boston attraction and have to admit that we were were impressed by the quality, care and attention to detail that has gone in to the project.
The museum “experience” includes state-of-the-art technology, the original Robinson Tea Chest, and Abigail’s Tea Room. It opens with two tall ships, the Beaver and the Eleanor, with an additional ship, the Dartmouth, to be added in 2014. These three replicas represent the full complement of the ships that took part in the original Boston Tea Party event on December 16, 1773. The ships have been restored and replicated by master shipwright Leon Poindexter at a shipyard on the North Shore, using the traditional methods and materials used in colonial days – oak plank on timber frames and hulls made of copper with brass nails.
The “Experience”: A Story Told in Three Acts
Act I: The Past. Assuming the role of Patriot (each visitor receives a name tag/pass and is assigned the role of a real-life Patriot - more on that later), you begin your journey among other Patriots (maximum group size is 64) in one of the two “meeting houses” where your moderator, Sam Adams, walks you through the colonists‘ struggle leading up to the decision to dump the tea into the sea.
Act II: The “Present”. You then make your way down a floating, covered walkway to Griffin’s Wharf to board one of two ships, the Eleanor or the Beaver. Onboard the historic replica ships, you can explore ships’ decks, crew's quarters, and cargo holds. Kids will have a chance to throw the tea crates over the side of the ship into Boston Harbor.
Act III: The Future. The next stop is the museum, which begins with a scene on Griffin’s Wharf the morning after the Boston Tea Party event. Entering the museum, you are greeted by two women, a Patriot and a Tory, who give their perspectives on what has happened the night before. Continue into the Portrait Gallery to view the Robinson Half Chest, one of only two surviving 1773 Tea Party crates in existence. Suddenly, from behind, the story continues with a spirited debate between two “portraits” that appear to come to life - King George III and Sam Adams, the leader and planner of the Boston Tea Party. The debate represents words that came from letters of correspondence and personal diaries of the two men.
Following the debate, your group of Patriots moves into the Minuteman Theater, where you’ll find a full-scale bronze statue of The Minuteman, Captain John Parker (can your kids find the secret symbol of the Tea Party on the statue?), and watch Let it Begin Here, a short, but intense film that authentically captures the events leading up to the American Revolution in a theater that gives the effect that you are in the midst of the action.
This historical experience ends with a short journey to Abigail’s Tea Room for tea and pastries. Here, two colonial “Tea Ladies,” while gossiping about the men and issues of the day, demonstrate and educate guests on how to “properly brew a cup of tea.” The tea sommelier blends his own teas for Abigail’s, and pastries are provided by Finale restaurant. (You can also visit the Tea Room separately from the museum.)
Of course, the visit wouldn’t be complete without a stop in the gift shop. But like everything else we saw on our tour, the store is tastefully designed, well laid out and filled with quality merchandise, much of which was created exclusively for the museum.
The Story Continues. Be sure to keep your ticket/pass, which describes your character and the role he or she had in the Tea Party story. Taking advantage of technology that is so not 1773, if you scan the QR code on the name tag, you are taken to a webpage where you can read what really happened to “your” Patriot after December 16. There are over 160 stories in all, each one thoroughly researched and historically accurate.
“… So let freedom ring.”
Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum
- Location: 306 Congress Street (Congress Street Bridge), Boston
- Hours: Daily, 9am-5pm.
- Tours: Tours begin every 15 minutes; tickets are sold by date and time. Each meeting house (tour group) can accommodate up to 64 people, so the groups are never too large.
- Tickets: Adults $25; Children (12 & under) $15 (plus $2.50 service charge if ordered online).
- Ages: Elementary-school aged kids and older
- To purchase tickets and for more details: www.BostonTeaPartyShip.com