While Michael Maler, Historic New England’s Metro-Boston Regional Site Administrator, originally hails from the Los Angeles area, he said he felt immediately at home in Boston when he first came to the area to attend Harvard Summer School following his junior year in high school.
“I never felt like I belonged on the West Coast,” said Maler, who now lives on Temple Street. “I really felt like I had an East Coast calling and was following in historical footsteps.”
Maler earned an undergraduate degree in art history from Duke University in Durham, N.C., before returning to Cambridge to pursue a master’s degree in museum studies from Harvard University, where he currently assists with graduate-level teaching. Before coming to Historic New England two years ago, he had worked in community engagement at Historic Beverly and, prior to that, as site interpreter for the Paul Revere House.
“I was always drawn to the historic house part of the museum world, for the same reasons I was drawn to Beacon Hill,” Maler said, “because it provides an intimate, immersive experience and a very hands on-experience – it’s very palpable.”
In his current role, Maler is responsible for all of Historic New England’s Metro Boston sites, including the Otis House on Cambridge Street, as well as the Lyman Estate in Waltham, the Eustis Estate in Milton, and the Gropius House in Lincoln, among others.
“We’re constantly looking to evolve and grow, and to reach a broader and more-diverse audience,” he said. “My role is really to engage as wide and diverse an audience as I can.”
Besides helping to roll out the newly launched apps for the Otis House and several other Historic New England properties, “Programming is a huge part of it,” Maler said, “and a lot of that includes walking tours of Beacon Hill, and as of late, because of the pandemic, there’s been a lot more virtual programming.”
As a nonprofit organization, Maler counts Historic New England’s “ability to partner with members of the Beacon Hill community and reach out to other museums, volunteer organizations, and religious organizations” among its greatest assets.
“For me collaborating is really the heart of what we do – listening to the community, being part of the community,” he said, “and being an asset and resource for the community.”
The Otis House now serves as his base of operations, which has quite literally put Maler in the heart of Beacon Hill’s rich history.
“There’s a great for connection between Beacon Hill and the Otis House,” he said. “What’s great is how much of the story of Beacon Hill the Otis House is able to tell.”
Maler added, “The property is 18th-century mansion, but it’s also connected to 19th-century rowhouses so it really connects the Otis House to really everything around it – Beacon Hill and the West End –and it’s great to look out the window at the Otis House and see the history of Beacon Hill and the changes that have occurred there over the last 200 years.”
Susanna Crampton, Public Relations Officer for Historic New England, wrote, “Michael has the wonderful ability to take the stories at Otis House and connect them to the stories of the surrounding area. He views the rich history of the Otis House as a launching pad to get everyone to enjoy our area’s unique history and is always open to ideas to engage new audiences.”
Besides his work with Historic New England, Maler also currently serves as a trustee for Historic Beverly and is an active member of the New England Museum Association, The American Association for State and Local History, and the Downtown Boston House Museum Alliance.
Moreover, Maler counts himself as a proud resident of Beacon Hill, where he has lived for the last two years.
“Even in the early days when I was at Harvard program, I drawn to Beacon Hill,” he said. “The streets are narrower, and the neighborhood has a very Old World feel to it.”
And the tightknit sense of community he has discovered on Beacon Hill, Maler said, is just one more reason he’s happy to call the neighborhood home.
“One thing I’ve learned from living in Beacon Hill is how much of a neighborhood it really is, and I think that will help to form my future thinking about what Otis House can be for the community,” he said. “Even on Temple Street part of Beacon Hill there’s a community. Coming from the land of suburbia in California, it’s such a nice feeling to have that immediate community.”
Celebrating the holidays on Beacon Hill, as opposed to in Maler’s native Southern California, he said, has also been a revelation to him.
“It’s a far cry from Christmas lights on palm trees,” he said.