Gavin Kleespies

Our Favorite Things—A look at the collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society through the favorite objects of the staff

The Massachusetts Historical Society is the first historical society in America, dating back to 1791. Over the past 232 years, MHS has assembled a remarkable collection, including the papers of three US presidents (John Adams, John Quincy Adams, and the personal papers of Thomas Jefferson). With close to 14 million manuscript pages in the collection, it can be daunting to begin to explore the collections. This presentation is an introduction to the resources of MHS from the perspective of the MHS staff. The presentation will feature highlights from the online exhibition “Our Favorite Things,” which was created during the height of the pandemic, when MHS was closed to the public. “Our Favorite Things” connects a selection of compelling, captivating, and amusing items from our collection to the backgrounds, interests, and memories of the MHS staff. The online exhibition featured 55 items picked by staff paired with 45 short videos and additional comments explaining why each item was picked and what it meant to the staff member who picked it.

[Recorded August 12, 2023]

Gavin Kleespies is the Director of Programs, Exhibitions, and Community Partnerships for the Massachusetts Historical Society and has been with MHS since 2014. He has worked in public history for over twenty-five years including being the executive director of two historical societies, most recently in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He has been appointed to the Massachusetts 250th Commission, the Massachusetts Historical Commission and the Cambridge Historical Commission and serves as a board member for the Massachusetts History Alliance and the Fenway Alliance. He is a regional representative for the American Association for State and Local History (AASLH) Leadership in History Awards and serves on the AASLH 250th Task Force. He is an elected member of the Colonial Society of Massachusetts and the Massachusetts Historical Society. He did his undergraduate work at Bard College, where he majored in economics and then received a master’s degree from the University of Chicago with a concentration in American History.

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