Skip to content

Q and A

Q & A
SPNEA receives many inquiries from visitors to its web site,, Here are answers to a few of the most frequently asked questions.

Q: I have an object that I'd like to donate to SPNEA. Are you interested? Whom should I contact?

A: SPNEA collects items from the seventeenth century to the present and strives to represent through its collections the many different people who have lived in New England. We get calls and letters almost daily from people offering anything from a fine painting to a bar of soap. We take all calls seriously and consider each gift on criteria laid out in our collecting policy. If you have something you'd like to offer us, please call the Collections Department at (617) 227-3957, ext. 274. Or, please write us a letter and include a photograph of the item. The letter should give the potential donor's name, address, and telephone number and include any history that is known about the object and its owner, user, maker, etc. All offered gifts must go through a formal curatorial committee process and are presented to and voted on by SPNEA's Board of Trustees.

If you are interested in donating archival items such as photographs, architectural drawings, or ephemera, please contact Lorna Condon, Curator of Library and Archives, at (617) 227-3957, ext. 225.

Q: I would like to hold my [wedding reception, anniversary party, family reunion] at a historic property. Are any of SPNEA's houses available for function rental?

A: Absolutely! Through SPNEA, five of New England's loveliest historic properties are available for special events. In Massachusetts, they include the elegant mansion and landscaped grounds of the Lyman Estate in Waltham; the pastoral setting of the Codman Carriage Barn in Lincoln, with its Italian Garden and sweeping lawns; and the Rocky Hill Meeting House in Amesbury, which features a pristine eighteenth-century interior. Both the Gothic revival Bowen House in Woodstock, Connecticut, and the Governor John Langdon House in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, offer carriage houses, gardens, and lawns as beautiful settings for weddings, parties, and meetings. For information, please refer to our web site,, or call SPNEA headquarters at (617) 227-3956 for telephone numbers of the individual properties.

Q: Does SPNEA offer any programs for school groups?

A: Yes. At SPNEA, we consider school children one of our most important audiences. SPNEA offers curriculum-based school programs at seven properties in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. The programs were designed with teachers and students as part of our design teams to ensure that all programs support the national education standards and are thoroughly engaging for elementary and middle school students. All SPNEA school programs include pre- and post-visit lessons as part of the package. And, on the day of the museum visit, we offer an active museum experience with plenty of hands-on activities that are sure to make students life-long museum goers. If a teacher would like to take a class to an SPNEA site that doesn't typically offer school programs, we can create an engaging age-appropriate experience for the group. For more information about school programs, please visit our web site.

Q: I'm looking for a historic photograph of [building, town, event, object]. Does SPNEA have one and, if so, can I get a copy?

A: The collections of SPNEA's Library and Archives include 450,000 photographs and negatives; 20,000 architectural drawings; 2,500 prints; 700 drawings and watercolors; 4,500 trade cards, catalogues, and billheads; 10,000 books; 5,000 pamphlets; 800 maps and atlases; 600 linear feet of manuscripts; and 10,000 newspaper clippings. Photographs make up the majority of the collection and are arranged by medium, including daguerreotypes and ambrotypes, cartes de visite, stereographic views, albums, postcards, and standard prints. Within each medium, photographs are arranged by geography. There are also separate collections of photographs of domestic interiors and photographs organized by subject. Other notable collections include the marine photographs of N.L. Stebbins and Henry Peabody, the images of rail and station facilities of the Boston and Albany Collection, and the subway and elevated rail photographs from the Boston Transit Archives. The Library and Archives is open to all, by appointment, Wednesdays through Fridays, from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Admission is free to SPNEA members, $5 for adults, $3 for students. Please call or write in advance to enable the staff to determine how they can best help you. Photocopying is permitted for most materials, and photographic services are available; prices on request. People looking for historic photographs often find that the Library and Archives has additional information about their subject.

Q: SPNEA's journal, Old-Time New England, is a great resource. Are back issues available?

A: Old-Time New England contains a wealth of information on past and current research into New England material culture. Many back issues of the journal are still available. If you are interested, please contact the SPNEA Museum Shop at (617) 570-9105, ext. 227. In addition, articles from past issues of Old-Time New England are now being featured on

Q: I would like to photograph the interiors of one of SPNEA's house museums. How do I get permission to do so?

A: SPNEA receives many requests each year to photograph the interiors of its house museums and enjoys sharing these locations with others. Because our interiors are original, great care is taken to protect them, and each request to photograph is considered individually. Permission is granted based on the desired location, photographic equipment to be used, use of the photographs, and scheduling. If you are interested in photographing an SPNEA property, please submit your request in writing, and include as much detail as possible regarding the location, date and time, equipment to be used, and specific use of the resulting photographs. Requests should be sent to the SPNEA Marketing Department at 141 Cambridge Street, Boston, MA 02114.

Q and A