Historical New England will present a virtual program on deciphering the epitaphs of old New England gravestones on Wednesday, Oct. 5, as well as in-person fashion show on Saturday, Oct. 8, on the Otis House terrace.
The first event will be held virtually on Wednesday, Oct. 5, at 5:30 p.m., and feature John G.S. Hanson, author of “Reading the Gravestones of Old New England,” exploring the poetic messages found in the epitaphs etched in New England gravestones and how they reflected the religious context of the times via their “conflicted and evolving attitudes toward life, death, and eternity,” according to Historic New England’s description of the program.
In anticipation of the upcoming program, Michael Maler, Historic New England’s regional site manager for Metro Boston, wrote in an email: “I feel that people usually visit cemeteries to honor the dead, pay their respects to famous figures, or sometimes to enjoy the serene surroundings of greenspace and calm. But I think most people don’t bother to read the often-poetic epitaphs, which express the emotions, culture, religious beliefs and perspectives of life and death of those that have come before us. For me, one of the many things that makes John’s work so remarkable is that it gives a voice to those who can no longer speak. And not just the famous, but everyday people who lived everyday lives. I think the words of the past inform the present. We stand a great deal to learn from this type of mindful attention to the voices of the past — and gravestone epitaphs are a wonderful primary resource for this.”
Tickets for this event are free, but donations are encouraged. Visit https://my.historicnewengland.org/13846/gravestones to register, or call 617-994-6678 for more information.
Next up is “Fashion on the Terrace: Zainab Sumu” on Saturday, Oct. 8, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on the terrace of the Otis House at 141 Cambridge St.
For this event, fashion designer Zainab Sumu will showcase “her multidisciplinary body of artwork that elicits a powerful response that has the power to unify us all in a more joyful life,” which “is rooted in the belief that art is a beautiful bridge that transcends cultures, race, and class,” according to Historic New England’s program description.
Of Sumu, Maler wrote: “Her amazing talent brings both a sense of design and discovery to this landmark property, whose history lends itself to these very same sensibilities. I think the home’s architect, Charles Bulfinch, as well as its first occupants, Harrison Gray and Sally Foster Otis, would appreciate the continuance of their artistic visions of making a statement, turning heads, and immersing oneself in beauty by creating a strong sense of identity. Zainab’s creations embody all of these principles.”
This program is free and open to the public, and will feature Sumu’s creations available for sale. Call 617-994-5959 for more information.