Michael Maler, Historic New England’s Metro-Boston Regional Site Administrator and a Temple Street resident, was on hand for a virtual discussion with Beacon Hill Village on Thursday, May 13.
The program began with Maler touching briefly on his role with Historic New England, as well as the on the history of Harrison Gray and Sally Foster Otis, which, he said, “quickly led to productive discussion about how Otis House as, a Historic New England property, can grow from its current role as a museum to one of more integrated community engagement.”
Among the top priorities now for Maler, as well as for Historic New England, he said, is to “expand and broaden the narrative to include more diverse voices and stories” – something, he said, that seemed to align with “the general consensus of the Villagers.”
When Villagers in attendance told Maler they hadn’t visited the Otis House in several years, if not longer, he asked what it would take to get them to visit the museum again.
“Chamber music, programs that feature culinary history, women’s history, servant’s history, and living history presentations were all high on the list,” said Maler “And of course, Harrison Gray Otis’ famous ‘punch.’”
Maler and the Villagers also discussed how the Otis House could “‘reinvent’ itself amidst the flurry of redevelopment projects surrounding it,” he said, “and how, as one of the few remaining historic structures in the West End, it can serve as a lens through which to view the past, but also one to look toward the future.”
To this end, Maler said, “As the neighborhood continues to transform, Otis House has a willingness, and both a responsibility and important role to play to help improve the livability of its surrounding neighborhoods – and become an evolving resource for the diverse communities that live there.”
Maler, meanwhile, invited all the Villagers in attendance to re-visit Otis House at “their leisure,” he said, “where we can continue to conversation and solicit their welcome and valuable input.”