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Massachusetts Historical Society

 1154 Boylston Street
 Boston, MA 02215
[P] (617) 536-1608
[F] (617) 859-0074
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 Printable Profile (Summary / Full)
EIN 04-2108374

LAST UPDATED: 09/25/2013
Organization DBA --
Former Names --
Organization received a competitive grant from the Boston Foundation in the past five years No



Mission StatementMORE »

The Massachusetts Historical Society is an independent research library that collects, preserves, makes accessible, and communicates manuscripts and other materials in order to promote the study of the history of Massachusetts and the nation—a mission it has pursued since 1791

Mission Statement

The Massachusetts Historical Society is an independent research library that collects, preserves, makes accessible, and communicates manuscripts and other materials in order to promote the study of the history of Massachusetts and the nation—a mission it has pursued since 1791

FinancialsMORE »

Fiscal Year July 01, 2011 to June 30, 2012
Projected Income $5,200,000.00
Projected Expense $5,400,000.00

ProgramsMORE »

  • Education and Public Programs
  • Library
  • Public Programs
  • Research
  • The Adams Papers

Revenue vs. Expense ($000s)

Expense Breakdown 2011 (%)

Expense Breakdown 2010 (%)

Expense Breakdown 2009 (%)

For more details regarding the organization's financial information, select the financial tab and review available comments.


Mission Statement

The Massachusetts Historical Society is an independent research library that collects, preserves, makes accessible, and communicates manuscripts and other materials in order to promote the study of the history of Massachusetts and the nation—a mission it has pursued since 1791

Background Statement

The Massachusetts Historical Society is the nation’s first historical repository and one of its preeminent research libraries. Founded in 1791 by Rev. Jeremy Belknap, the Society’s mission was to gather, protect, and share the documents that define America’s past. The founding members were concerned that through neglect, ignorance, and civil disturbance, the materials that they relied upon for historical research were disappearing. By the end of their first meeting, they created the nation’s most important historical repository with their pledges of papers, books, and artifacts.

As other historical institutions were founded, the Society directed more attention to Boston, Massachusetts, and New England, but the continuing legacy of its early years as the nation’s only repository of American history are holdings of national and international scope and importance. The Society’s unparalleled collections include an extraordinary assembly of personal papers from three presidents—John Adams, John Quincy Adams, and Thomas Jefferson—as well as accounts of the lives of thousands of other Americans. Other highlights include the family business papers of Paul Revere; poems and letters by Phillis Wheatley, the first African American poet; the manuscript journal and history of the Massachusetts Bay Colony kept by Governor John Winthrop; the manuscript of George Washington’s “Newburgh Address;” Elbridge Gerry’s annotated draft copy of the federal constitution; and documents and photographs related to the Massachusetts 54th Volunteer Infantry Regiment, the first African American regiment raised in the North during the Civil War. With millions of pages of manuscript letters, diaries, and other documents, as well as early newspapers, broadsides, artifacts, works of art, maps, photographs, and prints, the MHS offers a wide-ranging perspective on the United States from the earliest beginnings of the nation to the present day.

Today, the Society’s collections are used by scholars, enjoyed by the public, and employed as the basis of curricula to teach students across the country. Its mission to enhance the understanding of our nation’s past remains unchanged. Through fellowships, research volumes, seminars, and conferences, as well as teacher training programs, online resources, lectures, and exhibitions, the Society demonstrates that history is not just a series of events that happened to individuals long ago, but is integral to the fabric of our daily lives.

Impact Statement

Accomplishments for FY2012

1) Advance the stewardship and availability of the Society’s unique collections

a. Experienced a record number of library researchers

b. Published The Papers of John Adams, Volume 16 and Thomas Jefferson's Granddaughter in Queen Victoria's England

2) Increase the understanding of the relevance of history among our key audiences

a. Committed to be the state sponsor for National History Day, working with volunteers and providing workshops and resources for teachers and students

3) Increase awareness of the Society’s unique role and value

a. Engaged a wider public in numerous ways, including 3 increasingly professional and accessible exhibitions as well as a popular new biography seminar

4) Build a broad institutional commitment to secure the resources essential to achieve the Society’s goals

a. Acquired vol. 4 of the Harbottle Dorr collection – one of the Society’s most momentous purchases in recent years

b. Received notable grants from the Massachusetts Cultural Facilities Fund, NEH, and NHPRC; net $100,000 from Cocktails with Clio; and raised nearly $300,000 in Strategic Initiative gifts

Goals for FY2013

1) Advance the stewardship and availability of the Society’s unique collections

a. Increase investment in technology

b. Recognize that the ongoing work of the Society is essential to its success

2) Increase the understanding of the relevance of history among our key audiences

a. Become a major influence on, and source of, services that improve the teaching of history K-12

b. Seek out underserved areas in the history marketplace

3) Increase awareness of the Society’s unique role and value

a. Broaden our base of support

b. Make pursuit of our mission exciting and appealing

4) Build a broad institutional commitment to secure the resources essential to achieve the Society’s goals

a. Increase the Annual Fund and Endowment

b. Develop a plan for balancing the operating budget by 2015

c. Continue to increase the funding available to purchase collections material

Needs Statement

1) We need to broaden and diversify our base of financial support. The Society’s endowment provides nearly 60% of its operating revenue. Its donor base is largely limited to its membership. The MHS must reach out to new groups and build a more robust fundraising program.

2) We need to increase our visibility. The MHS is considered a hidden gem. We need to reach out, particularly to those in our own backyard, and let them know how we contribute to the community—that we are a resource. We hope this will lead to larger audiences.

3) We need to make more of our collections available online. Although our most important collections are available for free at our website, and we constantly add to them, it amounts to only a fraction of our holdings. Accessibility is a core part of our mission. We must continue to pursue funding to fulfill it.

4) We need to address our space limitations. The MHS is a vibrant organization that faces serious space constraints at its Boston headquarters. A long-term facilities plan making the best use of our building is imperative.

5) We need to help our Board of Trustees evolve to address the needs above. The Society’s Board is in a time of transition and must adapt to focus on fundraising and leadership-building in addition to fiduciary responsibilities.

CEO Statement

The MHS is an independent research library that was established to collect and publish American history. Over 200 years later, its collections are of such significance that the Harvard Guide to American History has called them “the most important collection of American manuscripts outside the Library of Congress.” Generations of historians, including Pulitzer Prize-winners Annette Gordon-Reed and David McCullough, have published significant works based on MHS collections. In fact, David wrote that the “treasures at the Massachusetts Historical Society, all under one roof, are like none to be found anywhere else.”

For much of its history, the MHS was content to remain a hidden gem. This attitude changed with the adoption of the MHS Strategic Plan 2008-2013 with the goals of advancing the stewardship and availability of the Society's unique collections; increasing the understanding of the relevance of history among our key audiences; increasing awareness of the Society's unique role and value; and building a broad institutional commitment to secure the resources essential to achieve the Society's goals. The new, outward-looking MHS is dedicated to serving its 3 key audiences by creating widely appealing, intellectually strong public programming; encouraging and promoting new scholarship; and using the unique resources and expertise of the MHS to contribute to the improvement of the teaching of American history.

To fulfill these objectives, we focus on our duty to make our collections accessible in order to promote the study of history. In 2010, 26% of Americans polled by Marist did not know the answer to the question “From which country did the United States win its independence?” The Society’s founders believed that an informed citizenry was essential to our democracy’s success and dedicated the MHS to“combating the effects of ignorance.” Today, the MHS opens its doors to the community, making the collections available to our neighbors through exhibitions and public programs. The number of visitors to our website also continues to grow as we make our holdings accessible to a worldwide audience for free online and use social media to bring them to our constituents. We also work to ensure that future generations are knowledgeable about American history by officially sponsoring the state’s National History Day, creating free online curricula and resources for teachers and students, and teaching educators how to use primary sources in their classrooms. These programs are ever more important as the MHS adapts to the changing role of research libraries.

Board Chair Statement


Geographic Area Served

City of Boston- Citywide (Indiv. neighborhoods also listed)
City of Boston- Allston/ Brighton
City of Boston- Back Bay
City of Boston- Beacon Hill/ West End
City of Boston- Charlestown
City of Boston- Chinatown/ Leather District
City of Boston- North Dorchester
City of Boston- South Dorchester
City of Boston- Downtown
City of Boston- East Boston
City of Boston- Fenway/ Kenmore
City of Boston- Hyde Park
City of Boston- Jamaica Plain
City of Boston- Mattapan
City of Boston- Mission Hill
City of Boston- North End
City of Boston- Roslindale
City of Boston- Roxbury
City of Boston- South Boston
City of Boston- South End/Bay Village
City of Boston- Harbor Islands
City of Boston- West Roxbury

Organization Categories

  1. Arts,Culture & Humanities - Historical Societies & Historic Preservation
  2. Education - Libraries
  3. -

Independent research has been conducted on this organization's theory of change or on the effectiveness of this organization's program(s)



Education and Public Programs

The Education and Public Program department develops engaging activities and resources for two of the Society’s three key constituencies – educators and intellectually curious adults. Through interactive primary source-based workshops for teachers; digitized documents, contextual material, and curricula available free of charge at the MHS website; and fellowships that bring educators to the MHS to develop lessons based on primary sources, the MHS has had tremendous success providing resources for the educational experience. Starting in FY2013, the MHS will use its unique resources and expertise to contribute to the improvement of the teaching of American history by serving as the official state sponsor of National History Day in Massachusetts. The MHS also strives to provide the community with an array of broad-based, widely appealing, intellectually strong programming to enhance the understanding of our nation's past and its connection to the present.

Budget  321,700
Category  Education, General/Other Teacher & Faculty
Population Served Adults General/Unspecified
Program Short-Term Success 

MHS becomes an essential resource for teachers, students, parents, and other libraries and historical organizations in its new role as state sponsor for National History Day. Working both within the state and with colleagues from other states, this institution develops an online guide as well as a series of workshops to orient NHD schools to collections and organizations connected to the yearly themes, and to help students to think like historians in their research, analysis and presentations. The number of participating schools from Massachusetts increases by 10% in the first three years.

Program Long-Term Success 

Two key components of the website - The Coming of the American Revolution and The Case for Ending Slavery - are made available as online courses and apps. Teachers from across the country are using the digitized documents and supplementary resource materials as an integral part of their classroom teaching. Outreach is expanded to include regional workshops for educators aligning this content-rich material with the new Common Core initiative being adopted by almost every state. The growing group of teacher fellows and workshop alumni join with MHS staff to facilitate workshops in their home districts, as well as to pilot and evaluate the new curriculum units. Meanwhile, new document- based courses and apps are being developed with other rich clusters of MHS collections related to later periods of American and World History.

Program Success Monitored By 

The success of the Society’s education program is measured in two crucial ways—through statistics and evaluations. Participation in education programs is tracked each year. The more teachers that the Society reaches, the better. These educators bring their newfound lessons back to their classrooms, positively impacting the teaching of American history to an exponential amount of students—many more than the MHS could accommodate in its Boston headquarters. In addition, a number of workshops, particularly the NEH-sponsored Landmarks of American History and Culture, end with an evaluation of the program by the participants. This feedback is reviewed by MHS staff to improve upon workshops as well as to report to the granting organization. Select teacher fellowships also require a final report and evaluation of the program. The number of public programs offered each year and audience attendance statistics also are tracked each fiscal year.

Examples of Program Success 

In FY2012, approximately 1,119 individuals took part in 25 free public programs, including lectures, conversations, and author talks. This compares to 1,476 attendees at 33 programs in FY2011, and 1,239 attendees to 23 programs in FY2010.


In FY2012, 614 teachers from across the country participated in MHS educational programs. This compares to 638 in FY2011 and 361 in FY2010.


In the summer of 2010, the MHS hosted the NEH Landmarks workshop for the first time. Over 600 educators from 48 states applied to participate, a record for this program. Based on that fact and the positive evaluations from the initial group of participants, the MHS is offering the workshop again in the summer of 2012, making adjustments in direct response to the recommendations made by our pioneer group.


The ongoing participation of past teacher fellows and workshop participants is also a great indicator that programs have been engaging and successful.


The library is central to the mission of the MHS—to collect, preserve, and make available sources for the study of American history—by ensuring the long-term preservation of, and continued access to, our collection of over 12 million manuscript documents, 120,000 photographs, 3,000 artifacts, and thousands of printed items including rare books, newspapers, maps, and broadsides. The library is free and open to the public. Staff work directly with researchers who visit the library and maintain an extensive reference and reproduction service for researchers at a distance. Staff assist researchers navigating the wealth of resources on our website, including both digitized collections and the online catalog, as well as instruct them on the proper handling of materials anddeveloping research strategies. To support this work, the library conserves, organizes, catalogs, and digitizes collections for presentation on the MHS website.

Budget  1,310,280
Category  Education, General/Other Library
Population Served General/Unspecified
Program Short-Term Success 

The library hopes to increase its recognition around the United States and worldwide by increasing the number of people who use the library and those who make use of the collections available through our website. The library is currently working to attract new audiences to supplement the support and attention we already receive from the academic audience.

Program Long-Term Success 

The library will continue to collect, process, and catalog manuscript collections. The ultimate goal is to make all of our holdings accessible to a wide array of researchers worldwide. This will be achieved through continued processing and cataloging of collections, and undertaking additional digitization initiatives.

Program Success Monitored By 

The library monitors its success by tracking library use statistics, monitoring web traffic, and conducting user surveys, both online and in-house. Library use statistics include tracking the number of total research visits, the number of individual visitors, the academic status of visitors, and their geographic demographics. We also record the number of remote reference interactions, the number of reference reproductions provided to researchers, and how often particular items are called for.

Examples of Program Success 

Library use statistics demonstrate we are achieving our goal of reaching a larger and wider audience, showing increases in total library use and a slight shift in dispersion of researchers in academic affiliation and demographic areas. This is reflected in increases in the number of high school students (3% to 4%), undergraduate students (11% to 14%), and non-affiliated researchers (37% to 41%), and in a slight increase in both non-Massachusetts resident and foreign resident researchers. In the past 10 years researchers from all 50 states and over 30 foreign countries have visited our library.

The Society’s web statistics also show continued growth across the board. Between FY2011 and FY2012, pageviews increased by 15%, visits increased by 14%, and unique visitors increased by 11%. While 92% of FY2012 site visits came from the United States (of which 1/4 were in MA), the remaining 8% were from 193 countries around the world.

Public Programs

For over 200 years the MHS has been publishing in American history. These items have served two purposes, both based on founder Jeremy Belknap’s vision of the MHS mission: preservation of the historical documents in the Society’s collections and communication of historical knowledge to the citizens of the nation. 


Today, alongside standard promotional pieces such as printed calendars and a biannual newsletter, the Publications Department publishes an annual journal, the Massachusetts Historical Review; publishes soft- and hardcover books, currently about one each year, generally based on MHS collections, including the longstanding series Collections of the MHS; and prepares digital content for the Society’s website, such as the Adams Papers Digital Edition. Staff in the Research and Adams Papers departments work on books that are released through other publishers.

Budget  219,710
Category  Arts, Culture & Humanities, General/Other Publishing
Population Served Adults
Program Short-Term Success  --
Program Long-Term Success  --
Program Success Monitored By  --
Examples of Program Success  --


The Research Department is the MHS’s principal point of contact with professional scholars. In a typical year it organizes 60 programs, including an academic conference, 5 research seminars series (28 sessions), approximately 30 lunch gatherings to discuss work in progress, and a reception for Boston-area graduate students in history and related fields. The department administers 4 fellowship competitions primarily for college and university faculty and graduate students; in 2011-12 it received 226 applications and made 37 grants (some in collaboration with other historical agencies). It also edits the Society’s journal, the Massachusetts Historical Review; edits collections of essays originally presented at MHS conferences; prepares entries for the series Sibley’s Harvard Graduates, a biographical dictionary of students who attended the school, now through the class of 1774; and oversees special research projects, including a history in progress of investment management in Boston.

Budget  430,600
Category  Social Science; General/Other History
Population Served Adults College Aged (18-26 years)
Program Short-Term Success  High attendance at events, large numbers of applications for research fellowships, and influential publications are indicators of the Research Department’s short-term success.In 2011-12 total attendance at seminars grew from 534 the previous year to 767.Over the same period attendance at lunch-time programs grew from 458 to 544.There was no conference in 2011-12, but a conference in the spring of 2011 attracted more than 60 attendees.Fellowship applications in each of the past three years have exceeded 200; in 2011-12, the success rate of applicants was 16.4%.After peer review, university presses and other publishers regular accept MHS essay collections.
Program Long-Term Success 

The Research Department promotes scholarly research and writing at the highest academic level on historical subjects within the Society’s primary areas of concern. These subjects include the history of Boston, Massachusetts, New England, and U.S. history as it relates to these geographic areas. The department also promotes historically oriented studies focused on Boston, Massachusetts, and New England in American literature, art history, and the social sciences. If through the scholarship it supports it stimulates a lively and productive interest in its primary areas of concern among researchers and seriously invested members of the general public, then the department believes it has been successful.

Program Success Monitored By 

The Society’s 10-member Research Committee oversees all of the Research Department’s activities. Applications for grant support from agencies such as the National Endowment for the Humanities and submissions of essay collections to university presses receive rigorous peer review. Post-fellowship reports by all recipients of MHS research grants assess their satisfaction with their experiences at the Society. Continuing high attendance at MHS events indicates audience satisfaction with these programs.

Examples of Program Success 

In 2011-12 total attendance at seminars grew from 534 the previous year to 767. Over the same period attendance at lunch-time programs grew from 458 to 544. There was no conference in 2011-12, but a conference in the spring of 2011 attracted more than 60 attendees. Fellowship applications in each of the past three years have exceeded 200; in 2011-12, the success rate of applicants was 16.4%. After peer review, university presses and other publishers regular accept MHS essay collections.

The Adams Papers

The Adams Papers editorial project is sponsored by and located at the MHS, the repository that contains the massive Adams Family Papers manuscript collection. The Adams Papers is a comprehensive edition of the most important materials drawn from this collection and from Adams documents in other repositories, both in the U. S. and abroad. The project produces edited and annotated documents, in both print and digital formats, concentrating on John and Abigail and their family.

The project runs two publication programs, the Papers of John Adams, which chronicles John Adams’ career as a statesman and diplomat, and the Adams Family Correspondence, which includes John and Abigail Adams’ correspondence with their family and friends. In addition to these ongoing series, the Adams Papers produces unique publications, such as the Diaries of Louisa Catherine Adams, due out this winter, and free digital tools such as the Online Adams Catalog.

Budget  901,630
Category  Arts, Culture & Humanities, General/Other Publishing
Population Served General/Unspecified
Program Short-Term Success 

The modern Adams Papers documentary edition seeks to open up whole areas of scholarship by publishing a far larger proportion of the Adams corpus than any earlier edition. The text presented in the modern edition is both more complete and more reliable. And, as is the case with all the modern volumes, the documents are annotated, indexed, and available online not long after publication.

Program Long-Term Success 

The completed Adams Papers will present a more comprehensive history of public life in the United States from the 1750s through the 1880s than any other documentary edition. The papers cover the events that precipitated the American Revolution and the diplomatic negotiation of peace; John Adams’ drafting of the Massachusetts Constitution of 1780, the oldest written constitution in use in the world today; the formation of the new government in 1789; the international and internal crises at the end of the eighteenth century; the founding of a permanent navy; the Louisiana Purchase and policy of neutrality by embargo; the War of 1812; the establishment of U.S. policy in this hemisphere under the terms of the Monroe Doctrine; the expansion of the nation to continental proportions, with the growing moral and political issues surrounding slavery; the Civil War, both in its military and diplomatic phases; and the problems of reconstruction and party struggles that followed the war.

Program Success Monitored By 

The Adams Papers expects to publish over 100 volumes of material before it finishes its task. It is not possible to set a definite date of completion for such an achievement. The project, however, in recent years has focused its priorities on the publication of founding era materials through 1826, the death of John Adams. This work will be an important contribution to the organization, preservation, and study of the documentary history of America’s founding generation.

Examples of Program Success 

The most recent volume published in 2012 was the 48th in the edition since the first was issued in 1961. Completion of the Papers of John Adams and Adams Family Correspondence to 1826 will necessitate approximately 29 more volumes. Given the efficiencies developed in recent years, we believe the current rate of publication can be maintained while significantly increasing the number of documents in each volume. The result is that the projected completion date for this part of the edition has been shortened from 2041. Full funding and continuity of staff are essential to this production schedule.

CEO/Executive Director/Board Comments

In addition to the programs listed above, the MHS exhibition program, which technically falls under the auspices of the library, is also essential. While the MHS has mounted public and private exhibitions throughout its history, a concerted effort to create and promote increasingly professional, engaging, and accessible exhibitions has been underway for the past year.

More than 1,200 people viewed the winter/spring 2011 exhibition, A Gilded & Heartbreaking Life: The Photography of Clover Adams, 1883-1885. That compares with 1,100 visitors who viewed The Purchase by Blood: Massachusetts in the Civil War, 1861-1862, last fall and 1,400 people who saw History Drawn with Light over spring/summer 2011. The latter show was open for twice as long as The Purchase by Blood and the additional attendance correlates with the summer visitors. The Purchase by Blood boasted a 44% increase in attendance over the fall 2010 exhibition on Josiah Quincy, which was open for the same period.

In addition to tracking attendance more closely, the MHS also instituted exit surveys. Approximately 3% of visitors completed surveys for The Purchase by Blood. The response rate doubled for A Gilded & Heartbreaking Life. Feedback for both shows was very positive. 70% of respondents from both exhibitions were from MA. About half registered for the Society’s mailing list.


The MHS also loans pieces to other museums and partners on select shows. Recent examples include The First Seasons of the Federal Street Theatre, 1794-1798, a satellite show mounted with Boston College in conjunction with Forgotten Chapters of Boston's Literary History at the Boston Public Library and The Object of History: Colonial Treasures from the Massachusetts Historical Society at the Concord Museum.


CEO/Executive Director Mr. Dennis A. Fiori
CEO Term Start Jan 2006
CEO Email
CEO Experience Dennis Fiori has over 35 years’ experience in libraries, museums, and cultural organizations. As president of the Massachusetts Historical Society since 2006, he has successfully navigated the Society through an economic crisis, while building on its exemplary reputation. Prior to joining the MHS, he served for 11 years as Director and CEO of the Maryland Historical Society, where he was responsible for carrying out a $32M capital campaign, expanding the main campus, opening two branch museums, and adding $10M to the endowment. He also spent 12 years as Director of the Concord Museum in Concord, Mass., served as Deputy Director for Programs at the Institute of Museum and Library Services in Washington D.C., and was Deputy Director of the Maine Arts Commission. Dennis lectured on Museum Studies at the University of Delaware and George Washington University. His extensive volunteer service has included roles with the Massachusetts Historic Preservation Commission; Massachusetts Arts Commission; Peabody Essex Museum; American Association for State and Local History; CV Stan Center for the Study of the American Experience, Washington College, Chestertown, MD; WYPR, Baltimore affiliate of National Public Radio; and Heritage Preservation, the National Institute for Conservation, among many others. For his work, he has received numerous awards, including the Loyola College Andrew White Medal for his dedication to preserving the history of the Chesapeake and the Distinguished Service Award of the Institute of Museum and Library Services. Dennis received his B.A. in American Studies from Saint Michael’s College and M.A. in American Cultural History from the Collaborative Program of the University of Vermont and the Shelburne Museum, where he was awarded the Electra Havemeyer Webb Fellowship. Dennis also completed the Principles of Management for Cultural Institutions Program through Museums Collaborative, Inc., and the Columbia University Graduate School of Business.
Co-CEO --
Co-CEO Term Start --
Co-CEO Email --
Co-CEO Experience --

Former CEOs and Terms

Name Start End
Mr. William M. Fowler Jr. Jan 1998 Dec 2005
Mr. Louis Leonard Tucker Jan 1977 Dec 1997

Senior Staff

Name Title Experience/Biography
Mr. Peter Drummey Stephen T. Riley Librarian --
Ms. Jayne K. Gordon Director of Education and Public Programs --
Mr. Peter N. Hood Director of Finance and Administration --
Ms. Brenda M. Lawson Director of Collections Services --
Ms. Ondine E. Le Blanc Director of Publications --
Ms. Nicole A. Leonard Director of Development --
Mr. C. James Taylor Editor in Chief, The Adams Papers --
Dr. Conrad E. Wright Worthington C. Ford Editor and Director of Research --


Award Awarding Organization Year
-- -- --


Affiliation Year
American Association for State and Local History 2013
American Library Association --
Association of Fundraising Professionals - Member --
Greater Boston Convention and Visitors Bureau --
Member of state association of nonprofits? No
Name of state association --

External Assessments and Accreditations

External Assessment or Accreditation Year
American Association for State and Local History --
Charity Navigator --
National Register of Historic Places - Listed Property --



CEO/Executive Director/Board Comments

After its collections, the Society’s greatest asset is its staff. They are one of the main reasons that the MHS has the reputation of being one of the nation’s premiere research libraries. Many of the senior staff are recognized as experts in their fields. The high retention rate speaks to the entire staff’s dedication to and pride in their work.

That being said, the MHS has undergone a major transition in the past 5-7 years as it endeavors to improve management practices. When I was brought in as MHS President, I made it a priority to build a new administrative infrastructure and expand upon existing program areas. We have accomplished much to date, but we continue to evolve, reviewing, and creating policies and procedures as needed.

The MHS Strategic Plan 2008-2013 was approved by the Board of Trustees in March 2008. The economy suffered a severe downturn soon after. While the goals and objectives remained largely intact, some key strategies and benchmarks had to be adjusted to accommodate the new economic reality. The plan has been reviewed annually since its adoption with revised benchmarks. The MHS senior management is in in the process of considering how to approach the next strategic plan.

Foundation Comments


Staff Information

Number of Full Time Staff 39
Number of Part Time Staff 13
Number of Volunteers 27
Number of Contract Staff 0
Staff Retention Rate % 92%

Staff Demographics

Ethnicity African American/Black: 0
Asian American/Pacific Islander: 0
Caucasian: 0
Hispanic/Latino: 0
Native American/American Indian: 0
Other: 52
Other (if specified): --
Gender Female: 37
Male: 15
Not Specified 0

Plans & Policies

Organization has Fundraising Plan? Yes
Organization has Strategic Plan? Yes
Years Strategic Plan Considers 5
Management Succession Plan Under Development
Business Continuity of Operations Plan No
Organization Policies And Procedures No
Nondiscrimination Policy Yes
Whistle Blower Policy Yes
Document Destruction Policy Yes
Directors and Officers Insurance Policy Yes
State Charitable Solicitations Permit Yes
State Registration --

Risk Management Provisions


Reporting and Evaluations

Management Reports to Board? Yes
CEO Formal Evaluation and Frequency Yes Annually
Senior Management Formal Evaluation and Frequency Yes Annually
Non Management Formal Evaluation and Frequency Yes Annually


Board Chair Mr. Charles C. Ames
Board Chair Company Affiliation Retired Managing Partner, Hill & Barlow
Board Chair Term July 2012 - June 2013
Board Co-Chair --
Board Co-Chair Company Affiliation --
Board Co-Chair Term -

Board Members

Name Company Affiliations Status
Mr. Benjamin C. Adams Managing Director and Head of Healthcare Services, BMO Capital Markets Corp. Voting
Mrs. Nancy S. Anthony President, Fernwood Advisors, Inc. Voting
Mr. Frederick D. Ballou Trustee, Loring, Wolcott & Coolidge Office Voting
The Honorable Levin H. Campbell Retired Senior Judge, United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit Voting
Dr. Joyce E. Chaplin James Duncan Phillips Professor of Early American History, Harvard University Voting
Mr. William C. Clendaniel Retired President and CEO, Mount Auburn Cemetery Voting
Mr. William R. Cotter Retired President, Colby College Voting
Mr. Herbert P. Dane President and Founder, The Dane Group Voting
Mr. Dennis A. Fiori President, Massachusetts Historical Society Exofficio
Ms. Amalie M. Kass Retired Lecturer on the History of Medicine, Harvard Medical School Voting
Professor Pauline Maier William Rand Kenan, Jr., Professor of American History, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Voting
Mr. John F. Moffitt Founder and President, Andover Strategies Voting
Ms. Sheila D. Perry Director, Foundation and Corporate Support, North Bennet Street School Voting
Mr. Frederick G. Pfannenstiehl Chairman/Owner, Educor, Inc. Voting
Ms. Lia G. Poorvu Retired Professor of Romance Languages, Tufts University Voting
Representative Byron Rushing State Representative, 9th Suffolk District, Massachusetts House of Representatives Voting
Mr. G. West Saltonstall President Emeritus, Eaton Vance Investment Counsel Voting
Mr. Paul W. Sandman Retired Executive Vice President, Secretary, and General Counsel, Boston Scientific Corporation Voting
Mr. Joseph Peter Spang Retired Founding Curator, Historic Deerfield, Inc. Voting
Ms. Judith Bryant Wittenberg Professor Emerita of English, Simmons College Voting
The Honorable Hiller B. Zobel Retired Associate Justice, Superior Court of Massachusetts Voting

Constituent Board Members

Name Company Affiliations Status
-- -- --

Youth Board Members

Name Company Affiliations Status
-- -- --

Advisory Board Members

Name Company Affiliations Status
Mrs. Anne F. Brooke Community Volunteer NonVoting
Mr. Levin H. Campbell Jr. Part-time history and English teacher, Shady Hill School NonVoting
Mr. Richard W. Cheek Freelance photographer and author NonVoting
Mr. Edward S. Cooke Jr. Charles S. Montgomery Professor of American Decorative Arts, Yale University NonVoting
Mr. Francis L. Coolidge Retired Partner, Ropes & Gray LLP NonVoting
Mr. Daniel R. Coquillette Charles Warren Visiting Professor of American Legal History, Harvard Law School and J. Donald Monan University Professor of Law, Boston College NonVoting
Mrs. Deborah M. Gates Community Volunteer NonVoting
Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and Director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research, Harvard University NonVoting
Mr. Jonathan Hecht State Representative, 29th Middlesex District, Massachusetts House of Representatives NonVoting
Mr. Bayard Henry Retired NonVoting
Mrs. Elizabeth B. Johnson Community Volunteer NonVoting
Ms. Amalie M. Kass Retired Lecturer on the History of Medicine, Harvard Medical School Voting
Mrs. Catherine C. Lastavica M.D. Retired Physician and former member of the Department of Tropical Public Health at Harvard NonVoting
Mrs. Emily S. Lewis Community Volunteer NonVoting
Mr. George Lewis Partner, Saltonstall & Company, Inc. NonVoting
Dr. Janina A. Longtine Vice-Chair of Molecular Pathology and Genetics, Department of Pathology, Mount Sinai Hospital NonVoting
Mrs. Catherine R. Matthews Community Volunteer NonVoting
Mr. G. Marshall Moriarty Retired Partner, Ropes & Gray LLP NonVoting
Mr. John O'Leary Senior Research Analyst, Associate Portfolio Manager, and AVP, Acadian Asset Management, LLC. NonVoting
Mr. Thomas M. Paine Landscape Architect, Vice President, AGER Group, Inc. NonVoting
Mr. Robert Pemberton retired Software Entrepreneur and Founder, Infinium NonVoting
Mr. Nathaniel D. Philbrick Author NonVoting
Mr. George Putnam Chairman Emeritus, Putnam Investments NonVoting
Ms. Cokie B. Roberts Political Commentator, ABC News and Senior News Analyst, National Public Radio NonVoting
Professor Alan Rogers Professor of History, Boston College NonVoting
Ms. Mary R. Saltonstall Freelance journalist NonVoting
Mr. James W. Segel Partner, Smith, Segel & Ruddock NonVoting
Ms. Anne E. Sternlicht Senior Vice President and Senior Wealth Strategist, Northern Trust NonVoting
Mr. John L. Thorndike Retired Vice President and Trust Officer, Fiduciary Trust Company NonVoting
Mr. W. Nicholas Thorndike Retired Chairman and Managing Partner, Wellington Management Co. NonVoting
Mr. William Veillette Executive Director, Northeast Document Conservation Center NonVoting
Mr. Alexander Webb III Partner, Saltonstall & Company, Inc. NonVoting
Mr. John Winthrop Founder and President, John Winthrop & Co. NonVoting

Board Demographics

Ethnicity African American/Black: 1
Asian American/Pacific Islander: 0
Caucasian: 21
Hispanic/Latino: 0
Native American/American Indian: 0
Other: 0
Other (if specified): --
Gender Female: 7
Male: 15
Not Specified 0

Board Information

Board Term Lengths 4
Board Term Limits 3
Board Meeting Attendance % 88%
Written Board Selection Criteria Under Development
Written Conflict Of Interest Policy Yes
Percentage of Monetary Contributions 100%
Percentage of In-Kind Contributions 23%
Constituency Includes Client Representation Yes

Standing Committees

  • Audit
  • Board Governance
  • Building
  • Collections
  • Development / Fund Development / Fund Raising / Grant Writing / Major Gifts
  • Finance
  • Investment
  • Nominating
  • Program / Program Planning

CEO/Executive Director/Board Comments

The Society’s Board of Trustees is currently in a transitional period, both in its membership and its philosophy. As term limits are now routinely tracked and enforced, we face the retirement of a number of our veteran Trustees, on whose wise counsel we have counted for a number of years. Filling these vacancies is a challenge. While we have instituted a process for cultivating potential Trustees, we are still working to bring our leadership-building efforts up to the level we need.

We also see this transitional period, however, as an opportunity to recruit new Board members with more diverse personal and professional backgrounds that better reflect the changing face and growing needs of a 21st-Century MHS. The Board culture was once one of gentlemanly fiduciary and administrative oversight. During that time, the MHS was often an insular, inward-looking organization. Today, the MHS is reaching out to new audiences and serving as a resource in the community. While we still value the expertise of academic historians, we hope to attract more Trustees with business, marketing, investment, and other important skills as well. Over the next few years, the Board will need to evolve into a managerial and fundraising entity in order to guide the MHS though a new economic reality and help it remain competitive in the Boston cultural nonprofit environment. This leadership is also vital in order for the Society to retain its reputation as a premiere independent research library during a period of transformation in the role of libraries. While these changes will not happen overnight, we look forward to the potential growth they will bring.

Foundation Comments



Revenue vs. Expense ($000s)

Expense Breakdown 2011 (%)

Expense Breakdown 2010 (%)

Expense Breakdown 2009 (%)

Fiscal Year July 01, 2011 to June 30, 2012
Projected Income $5,200,000.00
Projected Expense $5,400,000.00
Form 990s

2011 990

2010 990

2009 990

Audit Documents

2011 Audited Financial Statements

2010 Audited Financial Statements

2009 Audited Financial Statements

IRS Letter of Exemption

IRS Letter of Determination

Prior Three Years Total Revenue and Expense Totals

Fiscal Year 2011 2010 2009
Total Revenue $14,174,030 $11,186,282 $-15,824,829
Total Expenses $5,283,038 $4,811,760 $5,380,671

Prior Three Years Revenue Sources

Fiscal Year 2011 2010 2009
Foundation and
Corporation Contributions
$428,384 $317,800 $356,620
Government Contributions $219,207 $1,980,480 $521,797
    Federal $185,307 $1,941,609 $510,795
    State $33,900 $38,871 $11,002
    Local -- -- --
    Unspecified -- -- --
Individual Contributions $994,939 $3,139,706 $590,816
Indirect Public Support -- -- --
Earned Revenue $292,383 $258,544 $319,598
Investment Income, Net of Losses $12,132,732 $5,387,272 $-17,740,318
Membership Dues $106,385 $102,480 $126,658
Special Events -- -- --
Revenue In-Kind -- -- --
Other -- -- --

Prior Three Years Expense Allocations

Fiscal Year 2011 2010 2009
Program Expense $3,762,890 $3,504,028 $3,854,594
Administration Expense $944,351 $829,224 $872,393
Fundraising Expense $575,797 $478,508 $653,684
Payments to Affiliates -- -- --
Total Revenue/Total Expenses 2.68 2.32 -2.94
Program Expense/Total Expenses 71% 73% 72%
Fundraising Expense/Contributed Revenue 35% 9% 44%

Prior Three Years Assets and Liabilities

Fiscal Year 2011 2010 2009
Total Assets $81,067,170 $72,116,969 $70,455,238
Current Assets $1,973,015 $2,693,431 $1,573,429
Long-Term Liabilities -- -- $4,199,671
Current Liabilities $983,645 $924,436 $1,437,556
Total Net Assets $80,083,525 $71,192,533 $64,818,011

Prior Three Years Top Three Funding Sources

Fiscal Year 2011 2010 2009
1st (Source and Amount) Packard Humanities Institute $330,384.00
National Endowment for the Humanities $1,423,211.00
National Endowment for the Humanities $510,795.00
2nd (Source and Amount) National Endowment for the Humanities $185,307.00
Estate of Alice R. Riley $908,000.00
Packard Humanities Institute $417,920.00
3rd (Source and Amount) The Boston Foundation $162,750.00
Estate of Shepard Pond $570,802.00
Anonymous $102,768.00

Financial Planning

Endowment Value $64,207,526.00
Spending Policy Percentage
Percentage(If selected) --
Credit Line No
Reserve Fund Yes
How many months does reserve cover? 5.00

Capital Campaign

Are you currently in a Capital Campaign? No
Capital Campaign Purpose --
Campaign Goal --
Capital Campaign Dates -
Capital Campaign Raised-to-Date Amount --
Capital Campaign Anticipated in Next 5 Years? Yes

Short Term Solvency

Fiscal Year 2011 2010 2009
Current Ratio: Current Assets/Current Liabilities 2.01 2.91 1.09

Long Term Solvency

Fiscal Year 2011 2010 2009
Long-term Liabilities/Total Assets 0% 0% 6%

CEO/Executive Director/Board Comments

The Society's recent financial history reflects challenges faced by many nonprofit institutions but largely shows a stable, responsible 221-year-old organization. To that end, Charity Navigator designated the MHS a Four Star Charity.

In FY2008 the Society began funding its annual depreciation to create a Capital Acquisitions Fund, which has been significant in the Society's ability to deal with planned capital expenses without impacting the endowment or operating budget. During the same year, the Board approved the Society's 5-year strategic plan calling for a new investment in the future. The plan necessitated a significant growth in fundraising and earned revenue and continued support from the endowment, on which the Society had become overly dependent in the last century. However, by the end of FY2009, the Society's endowment had lost approximately 26% of its value in the financial crisis, and many initiatives had to be deferred. In response, the MHS reduced its operating expenses by more than 8%, doubled its grant applications, and instituted a 3-year Strategic Initiative to support reduced operating expenses and bridge the challenging years ahead. The effort, which raised over $1 million, combined with prior budget surpluses, resulted in a reserve fund of approximately $2 million.

In FY2012, the full impact of the recession was reflected in lower endowment support of the operating budget. In addition, the Trustees reduced the endowment draw to 4.9%. The resulting operating budget deficit was bridged with Strategic Initiative funds as planned. Over the next few years, the Trustees have committed to balancing the operating budget and reducing the draw to 4.5%. In the meantime, the MHS continues to expand its base of financial support and explore creative, efficient ways to increase revenue. The financial future of the Society is defined by the goal of maintaining its high-quality programs and services and expanding on its outreach efforts while remaining less dependent on endowment support and more on gift, grant, and earned revenue.

Foundation Comments

Financial summary data in charts and graphs are per the organization's audited financials. Contributions from foundations and corporations are listed under individuals when the breakout was not available.


Other Documents

No Other Documents currently available.


The Impact tab is a section on the Giving Common added in October 2013; as such the majority of nonprofits have not yet had the chance to complete this voluntary section. The purpose of the Impact section is to ask five deceptively simple questions that require reflection and promote communication about what really matters – results. The goal is to encourage strategic thinking about how a nonprofit will achieve its goals. The following Impact questions are being completed by nonprofits slowly, thoughtfully and at the right time for their respective organizations to ensure the most accurate information possible.

1. What is your organization aiming to accomplish?


2. What are your strategies for making this happen?


3. What are your organization’s capabilities for doing this?


4. How will your organization know if you are making progress?


5. What have and haven’t you accomplished so far?