On View Now

Architects of the Old Colony

Guest Curator Bronson Michaud presents “Architects of the Old Colony” using objects rarely exhibited to shine a light on some of the most influential figures in the city’s history.

From its official founding in 1639 through the centuries that followed, Taunton became the epicenter of the Old Colony, not through happenstance, but due to the efforts of the men and women who endeavored to greatness. Political leaders rose up to lead and guide the citizenry toward a common good.  Champions of public works labored to promote the welfare and support of Tauntonians.  The Old Colony birthed many brave heroes who served to protect our borders, and later, a nation.  Captains of industry, combining their respective ingenuity and the region’s abundant resources, made Taunton a major player in Southern New England industry and trade.  These people worked, in their own time, towards a collective dream: to form a great land of progress, opportunity, and security.  These men and women are the Architects of the Old Colony.

Past Exhibits

In Peril on the Sea: Life Saving in the Old Colony

March 2016-September 2016

In Peril on the Sea focuses on lifesaving in the Old Colony and features items from the shipwreck SS City of  Columbus on loan from the Martha’s Vineyard Museum.

A Most Commodious Store: N.H. Skinner & Company

May 2015-March 2016

With support from Mass Humanities, A Most Commodious Store: N.H. Skinner & Co. examines the commercial, social, and cultural changes in Taunton, Massachusetts at the turn of the 20th century. These themes and more will be explored through the lens of a downtown urban department store. Known throughout New England, N.H. Skinner & Co. was at the forefront of some of the most important local, national, and global changes that took place from the mid 19th to mid 20th centuries. Through objects, photos, and the stories of the people who worked there, explore how changes in fashion, merchandising, and technology in Taunton mirrored important national changes in the woman’s role in society, politics, and innovation. Come meet Mr. Skinner and his employees, peek at window displays, and see how much of today’s consumer culture can be found in the aisles of a century ago.

Faces of Taunton: 375 Years of History Through the Eyes of Those Who Lived It

September 2014-April 2015

The story of Taunton is the story of interesting, unique, and inspiring characters who have brought the city to life for the past 375 years. The many personalities of the city, both well-known and long-forgotten, are highlighted in our re-installed first floor gallery. Selected from the museum’s remarkable portrait collection, and enhanced with photographs from the archives, Faces of Taunton celebrates the men, women, and children, past and present, who have called the city home.

Anonymous Among Us: Images From a New England Potter’s Field

April 2014-August 2014

On East Britannia Street in Taunton, between the beautifully manicured grounds of the Mayflower Hill and St. Joseph’s cemeteries, rise the squat, rusted markers of “potter’s field.” There the dead are numbered, not named, and the stories of how they came to rest in anonymity have been forgotten. In 2011, Raynham artist Karen Callan published a volume of hauntingly beautiful photographs taken in Potter’s Field. Using light and darkness, as well as the beauty of the four seasons, Ms. Callan’s images offer stark testimony to the loneliness of a pauper’s grave. Who were these people? Where were they from, and how did life and bad luck conspire to put them in this forsaken place and in the eternal company of paupers?

From Taunton To Gettysburg and Back

September 2013-March 2014

Abraham Lincoln’s election in November 1860 brought decades of tension over the slavery issue to a climax.  Most Southerners saw the election of a Republican as a threat to their “peculiar institution,” and in December—three months before Lincoln was to take the oath of office—South Carolina and six other states passed ordinances of secession.  They formed the Confederate States of America and placed their capital in Montgomery, Alabama.

By April 1861, Confederate forces had seized all but two of the federal forts and naval bases along the Atlantic coast.  The most significant—both militarily and symbolically—was Fort Sumter, located in the harbor at Charleston, South Carolina.  That state’s governor, Francis W. Pickens, issued an ultimatum demanding the surrender of the fort; otherwise it would be taken by force.  President Lincoln, realizing that compliance with Southern demands would be tantamount to recognizing the Confederacy, flatly refused.  Lincoln further announced that he would dispatch an unarmed supply ship carrying food and medicine to Sumter.  Thus maneuvered into a position of either losing face or opening hostilities, Pickens chose the latter.  At 4 A.M. on April 12, 1861, South Carolina gun batteries opened fire on Fort Sumter, and the Civil War began.

Word of the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter reached Taunton by telegraph within hours of the opening salvo.  President Lincoln called for 75,000 volunteers to put down the rebellion, and among the first soldiers on the road South were the members of Company G, 4th Massachusetts Volunteer Militia.  They were the first, but hardly the last, Taunton men who would march off to war. Follow these men From Taunton to Gettysburg and Back as we commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg.


April 2013-August 2013

Throughout our lives, we wear hats to mark monumental moments, protect us from the weather, and send messages to the world. Adorning the heads of everyday people and heroes alike, the hats of the Old Colony tell the tales of those who once wore them. View highlights from a collection spanning four centuries and discover the utility, practicality, and all-out fashion statements of HATS.

1812: The Old Colony in the New Republic

September 2012-March 2013

Under the leadership of President James Madison, the United States is at war with Great Britain. Taunton is home to 3,907. The year will see Louisiana added as the 18th state, Napoleon’s disastrous invasion of Russia, the birth of Charles Dickens, the death of Sacagawea, and the publication of Children’s and Household Tales by the Grimm brothers. An expanding world, the devastation of war, and the refuge of home all mark the year 1812. Explore and enjoy a look back at the Old Colony as it was 200 years ago.