Art and artifacts that tell the stories of New England

At Our Sites, At Partner Venues, and Online

Historic New England exhibitions showcase the nation’s most extensive collection of New England objects and archival materials. We present these exhibitions at several of our historic properties and at museums and galleries in all six New England states.

You can also explore online exhibitions that showcase the breadth of the Historic New England collection and tell stories of four centuries of life in New England. If you would like to rent one of our exhibitions, there is additional information below.

Current Exhibitions

Head to Toe: Hat and Shoe Fashions from Historic New England

Now through February 24, 2019, at the Eustis Estate, Milton, Mass. Learn More

  • Head to Toe: Hat and Shoe Fashions from Historic New England

    Now through February 24, 2019, at the Eustis Estate, Milton, Mass. Learn More

  • On the Wing

    Now through February 24, 2019, at the Eustis Estate, Milton, Mass. Learn more below.

  • Patios, Pools, & the Invention of the American Backyard

    Maynard L. Parker, photographer. Courtesy of The Huntington Library, San Marino, California. March 16 through May 26, 2019, at the Eustis Estate, Milton, Mass. Learn More

On View

At Historic New England sites and partner venues

Head to Toe: Hat and Shoe Fashions from Historic New England

This premiere exhibition showcases hats and shoes worn in the region from the 1750s to the 1980s. Often the most luxurious and decorative aspects of dress, hats and shoes reveal fascinating stories about social status and personal style. These rare and stylish survivals survey New England’s notions of glamorous dressing for men, women, and children. On view from June 1, 2018, to February 24, 2019, at the Eustis Estate in Milton, Massachusetts.

This exhibition is supported in part by our lead sponsors, Susan P. Sloan and Arthur D. Clarke, with additional support from Coby Foundation Ltd. and Dr. Janina A. Longtine.

Learn more about the exhibition.

Part of Mass Fashion, a consortium of eight cultural institutions that explores and celebrates the many facets of the culture of fashion in Massachusetts. Discover the wide array of fashions, and the stories behind them, on view in the Commonwealth. Visit massfashion.org. #massfashion

On the Wing

The Museum of American Bird Art at Mass Audubon is delighted to partner with Historic New England by sharing artworks from its collection. On display is a selection of paintings, prints, and sculpture spanning three centuries and a variety of styles and media. Presented alongside the exhibition Head to Toe: Hat and Shoe Fashions from Historic New England, many of the works selected depict bird species that were once used in the feather hat trade. In 1896, Mass Audubon’s Founding Mothers, Harriet Hemenway (sister-in-law to the Eustises) and Minna Hall, established the organization to stop the slaughter of birds for women’s fashion. Since its inception, Mass Audubon’s art collection has grown significantly, and now has a home at the Museum of American Bird Art in Canton, just five miles south of the Eustis Estate. On the Wing is on view from June 1, 2018, to February 24, 2019, at the Eustis Estate in Milton, Massachusetts.

Make History: Community as Classroom

An exhibition of two- and three-dimensional artwork by the students of South Berwick’s Berwick Academy and Marshwood High School in response to their learning experiences at the Sarah Orne Jewett House Museum. On view from February 3 through May 18, 2019, at Sarah Orne Jewett House Museum and Visitor Center in South Berwick, Maine.

Patios, Pools, & the Invention of the American Backyard

The suburban backyard is an American original, an invention so familiar it hardly seems invented at all. This exhibition explores the mid-century backyard from the rise of suburbs and tract houses, to the beauty of postwar garden design, and the birth of the environmental movement. Filled with vintage photographs, historic drawings, and fun period advertisements, the exhibition reveals how these spaces became an integral part of American popular culture. Presented by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service and the Smithsonian Garden’s Archive of American Gardens. On view from March 16 through May 29, 2019, at the Eustis Estate in Milton, Massachusetts.

Rent Our Exhibitions

Camera's Coast ImageThe Camera’s Coast

The Camera’s Coast presents seventy images from the Historic New England collection depicting life along the New England coast in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. These were years of great social and economic change. Many traditional occupations, from alongshore fishing to shipbuilding to deep-water voyaging, were in decline. As the number of people who could afford vacations grew and improved transportation made it easy for them to flee the city in the summertime, coastal recreation boomed. Boating and yachting blossomed.

Pioneering photographers represented in The Camera’s Coast include Nathaniel L. Stebbins, Henry G. Peabody, Baldwin Coolidge, Emma L. Coleman, and Fred Quimby. Subjects depicted include square-riggers, coasting schooners, fishing vessels and fishing ports, steamships and steamboats, tugs, small boats and large yachts, summer hotels and fishermen’s shacks, beach houses, mansion houses, rusticators, fishermen, seaweed gatherers, lifesavers, and saltmarsh haymakers.

  • 70 black-and-white high quality copy prints in black metal frames, various sizes
  • 4 banners
  • All printed section and object labels

Fee: $2,000 for a three-month period plus one-way shipping.

Please contact us to request this exhibition.

395_x_253_lost_gardensLost Gardens of New England

Lost Gardens of New England draws on the wealth of images – drawings, watercolors, and historic photographs – in Historic New England’s collection. The exhibition uses reproduction material to depict New England gardens, great and small, that no longer exist or only partially survive. Three sections explore major themes of American landscape history: the New Republic, House and Garden Beautiful, and Revival Gardens. Landscape drawings provide insight into how these gardens were conceived and visualized by their creators, either amateur or professional. Photographs capture the gardens and their features in their glory as well as the people who maintained and enjoyed them. The images selected illustrate New England’s rich garden design traditions and offer inspiration to gardeners today.

View our narrated virtual tour of Lost Gardens of New England.

  • Twenty-eight framed images
  • Nine text panels

Fee: $2,000 for a three-month period plus one-way shipping.

Please contact us to request this exhibition.

395_x_253_pres_movementThe Preservation Movement Then and Now

Discover the history of the preservation movement in New England. This engaging panel exhibition, developed by Historic New England, highlights the unsuccessful effort to save Boston’s Hancock House in 1863, which was the early catalyst for preservation in the region. Learn how the movement evolved to include saving buildings of architectural interest and those associated with historic people and events. The exhibition concludes with an overview of preservation today, which has expanded to include twentieth-century buildings, streetscapes, neighborhoods, and open spaces.

  • Thirteen panels with text and images
  • One state-appropriate panel
  • Optional preservation lecture by a Historic New England staff member

Fee: $2,000 for a three-month period plus one-way shipping.

Please contact us to request this exhibition.

395_x_253_-_white_on_whiteWhite on White: Churches of Rural New England

White on White: Churches of Rural New England presents forty images representing early churches of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries from photographer Steve Rosenthal. These remarkable small-town, white structures were erected by local builders, joiners, and occasionally by itinerant master carpenters. There were no trained architects or even schools of architecture in America at the time. Their inspiration came from traditional designs and from pattern books. In his photographs, Rosenthal traces the evolution of church styles from the early meetinghouse through the changing patterns of Greek and Gothic revivals.

Rosenthal, a well-known architectural photographer who trained as an architect, has traveled throughout the Northeast capturing what remains of these architectural gems. He began photographing New England Churches in the mid-1960s. The photographs, which appear in this exhibit, are a personal selection taken over the succeeding decades, including images of evocative survivors in the New England landscape.

This exhibit also conveys a preservation story. Several of these churches were restored by their congregations to their original appearance long before the preservation movement took hold in this country. Many others are now threatened by shrinking congregations and high maintenance costs. Some have been damaged by insensitive additions or inappropriate materials. Others have been decommissioned and converted to other uses.

  • 40 black and white archival inkjet photographs printed by the artist
  • Main text label
  • Printed I.D. labels

Fee: $3,500 for a three month-period plus one-way shipping.

Please contact us to request this exhibition.

Touring New England, 1820 – 1970

Touring New England 1820-1970 is a panel exhibition which tells the story of New England’s natural and built environments that have been tourist destinations for three centuries. This exhibition will explore why and how tourists traveled, where they stayed, what they purchased, and how they recorded their experiences. A series of sixteen panels will present a variety of material, including:

  • the range of attractions—natural, historical, and broadly cultural
  • the nature of New England “resorts”—seaside, mountain, iconic towns and cities, outdoor history museums
  • the infrastructure, built environment, and material culture of tourism—rails and roads; hotels, motels, cabins, and campgrounds; roadside restaurants, gas stations, roadside billboards and signs, and souvenir shops; maps, signposts, tourist guides, postcards, and other souvenirs
  • class- and race-related aspects of touring in New England—elite, middle, and working classes; white and African American; a variety of cultural and ethnic communities; tourist and tourist industry worker
  • attractions and other aspects of the tourist economy in six states

Three introductory panels will introduce tourism in New England generally, with panels devoted to the changes over the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Panels devoted to each state will address the specific states individually, as tourism in each state demonstrates marked differences in their attractions and visitors. Each panel will have a general statement followed by case studies to track chronological developments. One of the panels, Bringing your Vacation Home, highlights selected objects that can be easily attached and reattached for travel; and a separate “My Summer Vacation” family board game interactive component.

The colorful exhibition is comprised of 16 panels (54 x 40 in.) with text and images that can easily be wall mounted. The show also lends itself to the addition of local material, photographs or artifacts, that can help expand it.


  • 15 panels with text and images
  • 1 souvenir object panel
  • “My Summer Vacation” stand alone interactive game
  • Condition Notebook

Fee: $3,500 for a three-month period plus one-way shipping.

Please contact us to request this exhibition.

Online Exhibitions

Explore Historic New England collection highlights and life in twentieth-century New England

Many of Historic New England's online exhibitions were created as part of our Everyone's History series, which preserves and shares stories of life in New England from the twentieth century and beyond.

Everyone's HistoryCollection Highlights
African American TourismBlue Printed Pottery
North Shore Fried ClamsLost Gardens of N.E.
Plum Island AviationNewbury Furniture
Verner Reed Photographs

Our Exhibition Venues

Eustis Estate Museum, Milton, Mass.

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Governor John Langdon House, Portsmouth, N.H.

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Sarah Orne Jewett House Museum and Visitor Center, South Berwick, Maine

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