Lat week, the Boston Tea Party Museum reopened, just in time for the 4th of July. It seemed an appropriate time to visit the museum, learn about Boston’s part in the American Revolution and get excited for the upcoming patriotic holiday.
The museum tour began with a mock town meeting, in which actors discussed the colonists’ grievances with England and plotted the tea party protest. I really enjoyed the atmosphere in this part of the tour, as the children of the tour became excited about revolution and we all yelled “Fie!” and “Yay!” in unison.
We then proceeded to the ships, replicas of the originals, afloat in the Harbor. We were able to board one of them and explore it. It was quite beautiful. We were all invited to throw mock tea chests into the Harbor, reenacting the historic rebellion.
After this, I perceived the tour as taking a different turn. I had finished wandering around the small ship and went to enter the museum, but was not allowed in, as I had broken from the rest of the group on the boat. We waited a few minutes and were then led into the museum by our tour guide. We then traveled from room to room in the museum, watching a series of short videos about the Tea Party and its part in the revolution. The only artifact presented was a tea chest from the Tea Party.
To me, this seemed to be a rather passive way of experiencing a museum. When I visit a museum, I like to wander on my own accord and discuss the museum displays with those I’m visiting with. However, since the Tea Party Museum was more of a tour, we were not given the opportunity to ponder and discuss. Instead, we simply received all the patriotic mumbo-jumbo that was thrown at us.
I couldn’t help but notice the parallel: we are becoming increasingly passive citizens. We celebrate the American Revolution and our independence each year. However, we focus our attention on barbecues, beer and fireworks, rather than what the revolution achieved: an opportunity for all American citizens to participate in government.
We celebrate the ideals of equality and democracy, but they have yet to be fully realized in our country. Many Americans are disinterested in our government and policies. Some feel discouraged, as if their voice doesn’t matter, due to the influences of special interests on our government. However, as citizens, we can have the power in this country. We just have to want it.
I was disappointed by the Tea Party museum, as it presented the idea of revolution as antiquated. The museum celebrated the empowerment of American citizens in 1776, but ignored the fact that there is always potential for revolution in America.
I write this post, hoping to remind you that democracy takes work. It requires constant participation, solutions and scrutiny from average Americans.
I urge you to keep informed on the actions of our government, contact your representatives, vote and organize to bring about the change our country needs. On July 4th, we should celebrate the beginning of a revolutionary tradition, rather than a lone victory by American citizens.
-Marilyn Willmoth, Future Boston Intern