Somerville Museum: Penny Chronicles And The Stories They Tell

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Join us for our next exhibition, celebrating the history of Somerville through the medium of the vintage postcard.

They cost a penny to buy and a penny to send. They were the social media of their day, snippets of news attached to images of local buildings, monuments, and events. Big pictures in a small frame, serving as testimonies to one’s pride of place. Strung together, they tell Somerville’s unique history: a visit from a president, the impact of suffragettes, veterans marching, monuments dedicated, developers building rows of new homes.

The postcard, that popular and resilient art form that announced the arrival of the 20th Century and with it, a new way of seeing will be the star of this irreverent and surprising history of Somerville. While inspired by the postcard, “Penny Chronicles” is by no means limited to it. Organized into 18 sections, each ‘episode’ presents the postcard and accompanying material in a distinctive manner, carefully linking the reality of the original postcard – 100 plus years ago – to the social discourse of today. In the first panel, for example, the story of President Taft’s historic visit to Somerville on July 4, 1910 is told alongside that of Jack Johnson’s championship fight on the same day in Reno, Nevada when, following Johnson’s victory, race riots took place throughout the country. In other sections, the struggle for open space in one of the nation’s most densely populated cities is tied to current conflicts surrounding housing and development. Long simmering debates around mass transit and urbanization are also revived with the imminent arrival of the Green Line, which while making room for some, is displacing others.

Penny Chronicles will also feature related virtual and in-person programming. Check our website for more information and join our mailing list to stay up to date.

Admission: $5/person; Museum members free. 
Admission can be purchased at the Museum.

Please note: There are no public restrooms available during our current renovation project.

COVID 19 Update: In an effort to keep our staff, volunteers, and visitors safe we will be requiring everyone to wear a mask while indoors. We will be closely following updates on local and state regulations.