In 1629, Lynn, Massachusetts—once home to the Pawtucket Indians— was founded on Boston’s North Shore and remained a sleepy, rural village throughout most of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
Although the first shoemakers in Lynn settled in 1635, it was not until the eighteenth century that shoemaking emerged in the town as a family practice within a shoemaker’s house settled on the grounds of the homestead called the ten-footer. As quality and reputation grew so did the start of the city’s industrial growth which led it into the nineteenth century making Lynn a booming shoe city, a city once called “the greatest shoe town in the country”. Shoemaking had moved from within the small shops of the independent shoemaker to the shoe manufacturing factories that were popping up all over the city. People flocked to Lynn to cobble together a better life in the shoe factories and created a diverse community in which the ideals of enlightenment flourished. By the turn of the twentieth century Lynn had become the largest shoe manufacturing city in the world, and the population had become an energetic and diverse mix of nationalities.
For 115 years the Lynn Museum & Historical Society has been the repository and custodian of Lynn’s history. With a collection that boasts nearly 10,000 objects, a large archive and a priceless photography collection, the Museum chronicles Lynn’s rise from early American settlement to industrial powerhouse. Founded in 1897 by a group of citizens dedicated to documenting their rapidly changing city and preserving the remnants of Lynn’s colonial heritage, the Lynn Historical Society evolved over a century into the Lynn Museum.
Originally located in a residential building on Green Street, the Museum is now housed in the former Heritage State Park Visitor Center, a unique loft space that reflects the city’s industrial past. Its new home is the ideal setting for the Museum to display its extensive collection of fine art, photography, furniture, textiles, ephemera, archival materials and other authentic artifacts through innovative changing exhibitions. Steeped in Lynn’s rich heritage, the Museum tells the compelling stories of manufacturing, industry, labor, abolitionism, women’s rights and more that have shaped our nation.
In 2014, the Lynn Museum merged with its neighbors on Exchange Street, LynnArts. Offering studio space for contemporary artists and other rental spaces, such as the Neal Rantoul Black Box Theatre, LynnArts is housed within a former banking building. Now undergoing a rebrand to find a common identity on the shared cultural campus, the Lynn Museum/LynnArts is looking forward to the future. With history as our guide we are engaging the region’s ever-changing community through exhibitions and programs that illuminate the past, celebrate the present and inform the future.