Most Americans probably recognize Emanuel Leutze’s painting of “Washington Crossing the Delaware.” 

But only Marbleheaders are likely to know that the men who are rowing the boat in that picture belong to Glover’s Regiment, which came from Marblehead. 

Now, thanks to “Mapping Marblehead: From Founding to Freedom,” an exhibit that opens Friday night and will be at Old Town Hall through June 23, people can join George Washington in his boat.

That’s because Leutze’s image has been enlarged and divided into sections, with the sky in back and oarsmen in front, so visitors can step inside and have their pictures taken.

“We have Washington and two of his regiment and a historic flag,” said Helen Riegle, who designed the exhibit. “It’s not a selfie — it’s a photo opportunity.”

The historical event that the painting depicts even repeated itself on Memorial Day, when the current re-enactors of Glover’s Regiment took their rightful places on the boat with Gen. Washington.

But stepping inside a painting is only one way that visitors to “Mapping Marblehead” will be able to immerse themselves in the past. 

As the exhibit’s title suggests, several maps are used to illustrate the town’s growth, including one that visitors will walk across.

“The first thing they will see is a very large map on the floor, which is one of the earliest illustrations of Marblehead,” said Riegle, who creates museum exhibits through HER Design. “It’s the first drawn map of the town of Marblehead in 1795.”

Maps of Marblehead are also featured on two iPads that have been installed in kiosks and allow visitors to compare the town as it was laid out in 1649, 1700 or 1795 with the town today.

There is also a map of sites where Native Americans were buried, or where they built encampments or lookout posts, each of which was identified by Don Doliber, Marblehead’s town historian.

And a fifth map shows where buildings that were built between 1636 and 2017 still stand today.

The two earliest maps on the iPads were based on deeds and other records by Sidney Perley, who published them in the early 20th century in his three-volume study, “The History of Salem Massachusetts.”  

David Krathwohl, a commission member who used to work for Apple and Dell, designed these interactive displays using a georeferencing program, which overlays maps from different eras and allows visitors to peer through one map into another.

Krathwohl also created the map from 1700 by combining 10 separate maps from Perley’s books.

“You can poke around in this map endlessly,” he said. “You can really get a feel for how developed it was along the harbor by 1700, but how little the rest of Marblehead was developed. The Neck — there was nothing there yet. It was common land.”   

The map from 1795 was discovered in state archives and was part of a survey commissioned by the federal government after the Revolution.

“This one is particularly lovely,” Krathwohl said. “I think it was done by a guy named Alfred Ingalls.”

“Mapping Marblehead” focuses on the town’s history between 1600 and 1800 and is the first of three exhibits that the commission has planned to organize.

“This is kind of an initial prototype,” said Pam Peterson, who served as executive director of the Marblehead Historical Society for 15 years and was appointed to the historic commission last year. “The longer-range plan is to eventually build a museum of Marblehead history.” 

About a year from now, a second exhibit will cover the 19th century, and a third will eventually treat the 20th and 21st centuries.

Wherever a museum might eventually be built or housed, it would combine the material from these three exhibits.

“There’s no place in Marblehead where you can learn the history in one place,” Peterson said.  

Part of what makes the town’s history so rich is that it intersects with events and developments beyond Marblehead, from Native American life to the American Revolution.

“It’s interesting to Marbleheaders and interesting to visitors, as well,” Peterson said.

Everything in the exhibit is designed to be portable, so it can be stored until the final site for a museum is chosen.

The map on the floor, for example, measures 13 feet by 10 feet and is printed on a durable material that can be rolled up and stored in a bag, Riegle said. 

“Then we have four graphic towers, and these are very tall structures that we divided into 17th century and 18th century — clusters of two — in the corners of the map, and these are stretched fabric, which means at the end we can fold it down like a pillowcase,” she said.

The exhibit uses several methods to tell the story of Marblehead, because people learn by different means.

“Not everyone learns from a book,” Riegle said. “Some people like to look at images. We design with all of that in mind.”

The visual elements in the show are supplemented by 16 text panels that discuss the development of fishing in Marblehead and recall citizens who figured in major events such as the Salem Witch Trials or the American Revolution.

There are also historical artifacts from the 1600s in display cases and include a 2-cent piece that would have been used to pay for a ferry to Salem.

“They went from the west shore and landed close to where The House of the Seven Gables is,” Peterson said. “They went back and forth to go to church — some did — because there was a Puritan church in Salem and not in Marblehead.”

But one of the exhibit’s most important teaching tools will be the town itself, which visitors will be encouraged to explore. 

“Another aspect of this is to use the whole town as a museum,” Peterson said. “There are artifacts in the exhibit, but there are texts and images that refer people to look on their own.”


If you go

What: “Mapping Marblehead: From Founding to Freedom”

When: June 1-23, with opening reception this Friday from 5 to 7 p.m. Regular exhibit hours are Thursdays from 1 to 7 p.m. and Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 1 to 4 p.m.

Where: Old Town House, 1 Market Square, Marblehead

How much: Free

More information: