One of the special collections at the Gutman library is the history of education. This room, sometimes fondly called the “cage”, houses the largest collection of textbooks in the United States, dating back to colonial times. So this was the ideal place for us to study the historiography (or, the history of the history) of the Boston Massacre, through reading how the account of Crispus Attucks changed over time.
Marylene Altieri, Special Collections Librarian, met PATH at the door and gave us a tour of the building. We couldn’t have asked for a more friendly, knowledgeable and professional guide! She explained the history of the collection, the way the collection is divided by smaller collections, and how it is catalogued. Then we were left to use the collection to investigate the Boston Massacre.
We found that Crispus Attucks did not always appear in the textbook accounts of the Massacre. Some textbooks were favorable in their treatment of the British soldiers.
Others focused on Crispus Attucks as a black leader and a hero. Most of the textbooks, it seemed, simply re-printed the story from the previous edition. When was the last time anyone did primary research on the subject?
Maybe a look at the original engraving by Paul Revere would help. We headed next to the Massachusetts State Archives to see for ourselves.
Next stop: Massachusetts State Archives >