Forbes- Barbara Silberman and Heidi Vaughan

The New England Museum Association (NEMA) awarded the Forbes House Museum, located at 215 Adams St., its 2022 Excellence Award for the museum’s current exhibition, “Opium: The Business of Addiction.”

At its annual meeting, NEMA recognized Executive Director Heidi Vaughan and Special Projects Director Barbara Silberman for their work in planning and managing the exhibition, which was two years in development and opened last April.

Reviewers from the National Endowment for the Humanities called the exhibition “ground- breaking” for its coverage of the Forbes family’s involvement in the 19th century opium trade, the trade’s links to the current opioid epidemic, and its lasting impact on US-Sino relations.

“We’re so grateful to NEMA, as well as all our supporters who made this exhibition possible. Community response has been terrific and we’re looking forward to welcoming more visitors through March,” said Vaughan, who led efforts to secure support from museum trustees and community partners, including The Milton Coalition, the Milton Public Library, Courageous Conversations Toward Racial Justice, and Primary Source.

Silberman engaged a variety of scholars and other experts to help develop the exhibition’s content, created an extensive guide training program, and initiated complementary author talks and related programming. 

To present an objective narrative, she interviewed local Chinese Americans, scholars of Chinese history, and staffers of local Asian community organizations to ensure the exhibition reflected Chinese Perspectives.

Attendee response has been very positive. 

“This was absolutely amazing and interesting. I cannot wait to incorporate this into my classroom,” remarked one teacher in written feedback. 

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