June 30, 2020 Follow the Red Brick Trail: Suzanne Taylor of the Freedom Trail Foundation
We caught up with Suzanne Segura Taylor of the Freedom Trail Foundation to talk about how the Freedom Trail, one of Boston’s largest historic attractions, has pivoted during the COVID-19 crisis. The Freedom Trail and Black Heritage Trail have produced a number of virtual resources so virtual visitors have opportunities for everyone to learn and experience Boston’s history remotely. Read below to hear from Suzanne and get the latest updates from the red brick trail.
What is your role at the Freedom Trail Foundation? How long have you worked there?
I am the Executive Director, and I have been working at the Foundation since November 2010. Before coming to the Freedom Trail Foundation, I worked at the City of Boston’s Parks and Recreation Department for almost 13 years. In my current role, I continue to work with many City of Boston agencies to help market, promote, and help preserve the Freedom Trail.
Do you have any proudest moments/biggest triumphs that have come for your work with your preservation organizations?
One of our greatest accomplishments is that the Freedom Trail historic sites and Foundation have been able to work together quite well in partnership with one another. We communicate frequently and work hard to make sure that our systems work. This helps the Foundation to effectively promote each of the sites and their programs as well as assisting in preserving the site. We’ve completed a lot of preservation projects trail-wide.
If I had to name one, when I first started in my position, we worked on improvements to the Granary Burying Ground. We widened the sidewalks to make it more accessible, and we worked with the Parks Department to put in ornamental post and chain fencing and completed some necessary tree work, which helped bring in sunlight and promote turf growth. We also helped to restore the historic wall, fencing, and entrance during the later project. These projects helped deter people from walking on the grass and putting the historic headstones at risk, so the improvements were meant to protect but also improve visitor experience.
Right now, we are in the process of working on a trail wide signage project with the City of Boston and the Freedom Trail historic sites. It’s a years-long project, but it’s very exciting and will help people navigate the Trail and visit the sites better.
How has your work changed during COVID-19? What has surprised you?
Like other historic sites along the Trail, we closed to the public in mid-March, and we are still closed. Our work has not really changed as related to our mission, however we are not conducting public or private walking tours or programs.
The way we meet our goals has changed. Most of our promotion is through the website, instead of fielding phone calls in the office like we normally do. We are directing people to the website through an alert system, where there is a wealth of virtual resources. We have worked with the sites to get virtual events and programs, and the programs trail wide have been fantastic. That was a pleasant surprise and amazing that so many virtual programs and resources were up and running in a short period of time from the initial shutdown. Everyone worked so quickly to get new and fresh content up for people, and there is always something new going on along the trail, even virtually.
Social Distance resources: https://www.thefreedomtrail.org/distance-learning-resources
What are the next steps for the Freedom Trail and the Foundation?
Right now, the Freedom Trail sites and Foundation are working on safely reopening with careful planning processes. I think the virtual aspect will stick around so that visitors, teachers, and educators will have socially-distance friendly resources available. At the moment, the outdoor sites on the Freedom Trail are open daily, such as The Three Historic Burying Grounds, Boston Common, the site of the Boston Latin School, the Ben Franklin statue, and the site of The Boston Massacre sites. The Old North Church gift shop is also open with a limited schedule.
We appreciate how flexible people have been about wearing masks and keeping a safe distance along the Trail recently and in the future. Historic sites are working to meet the health and safety guidelines from the Commonwealth and the City as they reopen, and the Foundation is working on a webpage that will help educate people on how to experience the Trail now and for the foreseeable future safely. We all look forward to bringing history to life for our residents and visitors again.