Center Mixes History with Cutting Edge Technology to tell a more inclusive story of America
BOSTON -- Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today joined Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino and other dignitaries to dedicate a high-tech visitor center at the newly-renovated Faneuil Hall, the site of important events in our nation's history ranging from the American Revolution to the movement to abolish slavery.
“With the opening of this new visitor center, we are bringing the 18th century into the 21st century, giving visitors a unique opportunity to experience our nation's history,” Salazar said. “We are adding another great reason for tourists to visit Boston and explore the sites that played a vital role both in the founding of our nation and in the abolitionist movement.”
Boston National Historical Park already attracts more than 3 million visitors a year, supporting more than 1,200 jobs in the local community, and the new visitor center is expected to help increase those numbers and improve visitors' experiences.
“Whether you're a tourist or a day tripper from outside the city, this exciting new visitor center will enrich what is already one of the nation's great historic and recreation destinations,” said Menino. “It is the ideal place to begin exploring the historic parks and trails Boston is famous for.”
The visitor center will feature new literature and signs about Boston' Trails to Freedom – both the Freedom Trail and the Black Heritage Trail. By offering visitors an entry point to both trails and tours from the same location, rather than expecting tourists to find the Black Heritage Trail on their own, the new center elevates the profile of Boston's lesser-known heritage trail which explores the history of the abolitionist movement and the African American community.
The new facility, which is a collaboration between the city of Boston and the National Park Service, includes interactive exhibits, an audio visual orientation program, handicapped-accessible public restrooms, a bookstore and several local vendors selling goods ranging from coffee to art work. The space is comprised of 7,400 square feet for visitor services and community meeting space.
In an effort to make exploring the city easier, the National Park Service developed a first-of-its-kind app that visitors can download to their mobile device at the visitor center. The app includes information about Boston National Historical Park and Boston African American National Historic Site, as well as other parks in the region, and features custom maps, and turn-by-turn directions to dozens of historic sites. Users will find fun facts, frequently asked questions, restaurant, transportation, shopping, and hotel information. The app will also be available on iTunes and Android.
“Through this visitor center and its first-in-the-nation technology, the National Park Service will deliver Boston's rich, textured and inspirational story to people from all over the world,” said Boston National Historical Park Superintendent Cassius Cass. “We're marrying technology and history to transport visitors to the Boston that played a starring role in our struggle for independence and the creation of democracy.”
"Faneuil Hall represents the beating heart of Massachusetts and the pulse of our democracy, and that's why Teddy Kennedy and I went to work years ago to make sure our state benefited from major job-creating, tourism-boosting projects like this new center,” said Senator John Kerry. “This has been an all hands on deck, collaborative effort from the White House, Congress, and Secretary Salazar to America's Mayor, Tom Menino, who has built a new chapter of the Faneuil Hall revitalization that began with Kevin White. The new center will be a magnet for tourism that will enhance the Faneuil Hall experience for hundreds of thousands of visitors each year."
Boston National Historical Park is a unique collaboration of government owned and privately owned and operated historic sites associated with the colonial struggle for independence and the birth and growth of the United States. These nationally significant attractions include Old South Meeting House, the Old State House, Faneuil Hall, the Old North Church, the Paul Revere House, the Bunker Hill Monument, the Battle of Bunker Hill Museum, Dorchester Heights, and the Charlestown Navy Yard, including USS Constitution, the USS Constitution Museum, and USS Cassin Young.
Boston African American National Historic Site is comprised of the largest area of pre-Civil War black owned structures in the U.S. It has roughly two dozen sites on the north slope of Beacon Hill. These historic buildings were homes, businesses, schools, and churches of a thriving black community that, in the face of great opposition, fought the forces of slavery and inequality.
Before the event, Salazar toured the African Meeting House with Governor Deval Patrick. Later in the day, Salazar is joining U.S. Representative Niki Tsongas for a tour of the Lowell National Historical Park. More than a half million visitors to the park contribute $35 million to the local economy, supporting 467 jobs in the community.
Park rangers will be guiding tours of Boston's Trails to Freedom year round. The visitor center will be open daily from 9:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. It is closed Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Year's Day.