creativecommons.org/Boston City Archives
It started with a cup of tea and escalated into a full scale revolution that carved out a new country...
The Boston Tea Party was an event that forever changed the course of American history. It has since been immortalized not just by the country it created, but by the Boston Tea Party Museum in Boston, Massachusetts.
The museum itself is unlike any museum that guests will ever visit. It floats in Boston Harbour and visitors can view artifacts, meet the "colonists" and even join in with the "sons of liberty" in a tea-dumping re-enactment.
A tour of the Boston Tea Party Museum is a multi-sensory experience. There visitors board ships from the 1700s to relive the historic events that took place in Boston Harbour on December 16th, 1773.
Willing guests first enter the meeting house perched in front of the floating museum. Inside, these revolutionaries tell the tale of the night of December 16th, 1773 and the events that lead up to it. When their tale is done, visitors are handed a Mohawk disguise -- similar to the ones that the revolutionaries wore on that fateful night in history -- and begin their march on Griffin's Wharf.
Outside, visitors get their first up-close-and-personal glance at the museum itself. The museum is split into two authentically restored ships -- the Eleanor and the Beaver.
A popular misconception is that the ships the sons of liberty dumped the tea from were British ships. They were actually American-built and American-owned vessels, but the tea inside was property of the East India Company, which was owned by Britain.
Although these vessels were not involved in the original dumping, they are from the time period. The Eleanor was one of several vessels owned by an affluent Boston merchant named John Rowe, while the Beaver was built by the Rotch family, a Quaker family from Nantucket.
Upon boarding the first ship at Griffin's Wharf, visitors are treated to 3D holographic and high definition technology at its best. With the assistance of the Musion Eyeliner Video Company, the museum created a spectacular array of images that feel so intensely real that you might begin to think you're on a Boston street in 1773. These images, along with the audio guide from the colonists, provide an introduction to the museum. The show helps make this one of the most involved museums in the United States.
After the visual recreation of history, it is time to see the actual artifacts from it. The prize jewel of the Boston Tea Party Museum is the Robinson Half Chest. This chest is one of only two tea chests of the 340 that were dumped into Boston Harbour during the Boston Tea Party to survive.
It has been preserved and protected for nearly two centuries and remained pristinely intact. As the story goes, following the morning of the historic tea party, a teenager by the name of John Robinson found a chest buried partially in the sand near the shore. It was unlikely that he realized its significance then, but he took it home as a souvenir.
Eventually, John Robinson must have realized what a piece of history he held in his possession as he protected it all his life. The chest was then subsequently passed down from generation to generation until it was donated to the Boston Tea Party Museum, which has it enclosed in a fireproof, waterproof and temperature-regulated enclosure.
Aside from this perfectly preserved crate, there are guns, uniforms, documents and other odds and ends on display from the era. However, due to some bad luck, there are not quite as many artifacts at the museum as there used to be. The museum has been struck by lightning twice -- once in 2001 and again in 2007 -- and also caught on fire from sparks from the bridge once.
After being given some time to browse and hear about the artifacts, the tours are interrupted by Sally Hewes and Samuel Adams, who give a feisty speech and rouse visitors to board the Beaver, which is anchored next door.
Onboard, guests are given the names of colonists and invited to dump tea into the harbour, just as the sons of liberty once did. All of this while being told of their character's bravery and what they would go onto do. No real tea is dumped. Visitors do get to toss crates into the water, but they are later rounded up my employees. While this is a small but intense affair, every year on the date of the original Boston Tea Party, the museum creates a much larger recreation that truly takes all of Boston by storm.
Down under the deck of the Beaver, visitors go to the Minuteman Theatre, where the American Revolution comes to life right before their very eyes. The film shows the passion, bravery and raw emotion of the patriots. The movie is loud and graphic, but Shawn Ford, the executive director of the Boston Tea Party Museum, still encourages parents to let their children watch it. He vehemently supports that history should not be candy coated; the American war for independence was bloody, as all wars are and Ford believes that children need to understand that.
On a lighter note, what's a tea party without a spot of tea? The final stop on the Boston Tea Party Museum tour is Abigail's Tea Room for a taste of the product that was once dumped into the briny deep.
Inside this classy room located in front of the museum holding ships, there are beautiful old wooden tables that seat six. The colonists serve brewed loose-leaf tea, from Britain, in fine China, alongside a variety of sweet tea cakes and nibbles. While visitors enjoy their tea, they learn about the growing, curing and brew process involved in making it. Visitors to the museum might spot more than a few people that were not present on the tour as this tea house is beloved by local Bostonians who come in for a spot of afternoon tea.