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A modern building with stone exteriors and a lot of stone steps leading up to it. Getty Images

12 unsung Boston-area museums worth a visit

These repositories—all of them free or relatively inexpensive to visit—include the Boston Fire Museum and the Boston’s oldest house

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The Boston region is home to some of the world's most notable museums. But it also hosts some lesser-known institutions of collective preservation.

These include one of the oldest military museums on the continent and one of the nation's most prominent repositories of African-American history. This updated map pinpoints these and others, many of them free.

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Metropolitan Waterworks Museum

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This one’s for all the engineers out there or just the folks who like to know how a city really runs.

Located on the site of the original Chestnut Hill Reservoir and pumping station, the Waterworks Museum recounts the story of one of the nation’s earliest metropolitan water systems—and, in the process, tells much about the history of the development of the region.

The museums main attraction is the trio of coal-powered, steam-driven water pumps dating from the 1800s.

It’s all free, though donations are appreciated.

A multi-story building that kind of looks like a wedding cake. Metropolitan Waterworks Museum

Warren Anatomical Museum

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The collection of the museum dates from the late 1840s, when the institution's namesake, a former Harvard medical professor, donated it.

The museum includes approximately 15,000 artifacts and cases, including the skull of Phineas Gage, through which an iron rod shot ... though it didn't kill Gage: He lived another dozen years.

Free to all.

Cutout models of human eyes on display in a glass case. Boston Globe via Getty Images

M.I.T. Museum

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Got STEM? This Massachusetts Institute of Technology science museum includes displays on robotics, so it might be particularly popular with the kids.

Gibson House

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The nonprofit museum provides a deep dive into what life was like for affluent Back Bay residents in the 19th century and early 20th century.

Four floors of the capacious townhouse are open to the public year-round.

Tickets are $9, though there are discounts for seniors, students, and kids.

A shot of a 19th-century drawing room with a fireplace and plush furniture. Boston Globe via Getty Images

Nichols House Museum

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Right near the State House and the 54th Massachusetts memorial is this museum housed in an 1804 Federal townhouse that Charles Bulfinch designed.

The museum, named for the townhouse's last owner, who died in 1960 and bequeathed it, depicts life in Beacon Hill in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Admission is $10 per adult. Kids under 13 get in free.

A closeup of a brick building with one window showing. Shutterstock

Museum of African American History

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The museum charts the story of African-Americans in New England from colonial times through the 19th century.

The institution's infrastructure itself includes some pretty historic architecture: The African Meeting House dates from 1806, and remains the oldest standing black church edifice in the United States. Tons of abolitionist history passed through it as a result.

Free to all, but donations appreciated.

A two-story brick building with a triangular roof. Wikipedia

West End Museum

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The West End Museum is just that: a museum dedicated to Boston's West End.

More specifically, it chronicles the forced transition of the enclave due to so-called urban renewal efforts in the 1950s and 1960s—essentially, it's a big cautionary tale to potentially overzealous city planners.

Plus, it's just got some cool stuff about Boston back in the day, including the roles of various immigrant groups in the mighty city's rise.

Free to all, though donations requested for larger groups.

A building front with windows and a door with an arched top. Wikipedia

The Battle Of Bunker Hill Museum

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The museum is just across the street from the Bunker Hill memorial and monument.

Not surprisingly, it chronicles that ferocious 1775 battle between colonial and British forces. There's also plenty of local history, too, with an emphasis on pre-20th century.

It's all free because the National Park Service runs it all.

James Blake House

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The two-story structure dates from 1661, and is the oldest house in Boston.

It’s also one of the few examples in the entire United States of post-Medieval, West England country framing. In other words, pretty much an architectural museum in itself.

The house is open for tours the third Sunday of every month through the Dorchester Historical Society, which owns it.

A boxy, rectangular house with a triangular roof. Boston Globe via Getty Images

Ancient and Honorable Artillery Co.

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The organization behind this museum has roots stretching back to the 1630s, so it's little surprise that its collection of military memorabilia covers quite a few eras.

And it's not all military, either, with books, plates, tankards, and other objects part of the displays.

The space is directly across from the elevator to the fourth floor of Faneuil Hall and is free to the public on weekdays from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. Holidays might affect the hours though.

A building exterior with an arched doorway. Shutterstock

Boston Fire Museum

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Not surprisingly, the museum dedicated to the Boston Fire Department resides in an old firehouse, this one dating from 1891.

There are all manner of firefighting equipment and vehicles on display as well as historical photos.

Visitors might invariably find a friendly dalmatian to pet and the museum is free (though donations via a boot out front are appreciated).

It might be particularly worth a visit if you’ve got kids in tow.

The exterior of a three-story firehouse with two big garage doors. Wikipedia

Massachusetts Archives and Commonwealth Museum

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The 31-year-old museum on the campus of UMass-Boston includes John Adams’ vice presidential papers and an original 1776 copy of the Declaration of Independence are among the Commonwealth Museum’s 20 million documents.

There are also artifacts such as Paul Revere’s copper-plate depiction of the Boston Massacre.

It’s all free to see.

A modern building with stone exteriors and a lot of stone steps leading up to it. Getty Images

Metropolitan Waterworks Museum

A multi-story building that kind of looks like a wedding cake. Metropolitan Waterworks Museum

This one’s for all the engineers out there or just the folks who like to know how a city really runs.

Located on the site of the original Chestnut Hill Reservoir and pumping station, the Waterworks Museum recounts the story of one of the nation’s earliest metropolitan water systems—and, in the process, tells much about the history of the development of the region.

The museums main attraction is the trio of coal-powered, steam-driven water pumps dating from the 1800s.

It’s all free, though donations are appreciated.

A multi-story building that kind of looks like a wedding cake. Metropolitan Waterworks Museum

Warren Anatomical Museum

Cutout models of human eyes on display in a glass case. Boston Globe via Getty Images

The collection of the museum dates from the late 1840s, when the institution's namesake, a former Harvard medical professor, donated it.

The museum includes approximately 15,000 artifacts and cases, including the skull of Phineas Gage, through which an iron rod shot ... though it didn't kill Gage: He lived another dozen years.

Free to all.

Cutout models of human eyes on display in a glass case. Boston Globe via Getty Images

M.I.T. Museum

Got STEM? This Massachusetts Institute of Technology science museum includes displays on robotics, so it might be particularly popular with the kids.

Gibson House

A shot of a 19th-century drawing room with a fireplace and plush furniture. Boston Globe via Getty Images

The nonprofit museum provides a deep dive into what life was like for affluent Back Bay residents in the 19th century and early 20th century.

Four floors of the capacious townhouse are open to the public year-round.

Tickets are $9, though there are discounts for seniors, students, and kids.

A shot of a 19th-century drawing room with a fireplace and plush furniture. Boston Globe via Getty Images

Nichols House Museum

A closeup of a brick building with one window showing. Shutterstock

Right near the State House and the 54th Massachusetts memorial is this museum housed in an 1804 Federal townhouse that Charles Bulfinch designed.

The museum, named for the townhouse's last owner, who died in 1960 and bequeathed it, depicts life in Beacon Hill in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Admission is $10 per adult. Kids under 13 get in free.

A closeup of a brick building with one window showing. Shutterstock

Museum of African American History

A two-story brick building with a triangular roof. Wikipedia

The museum charts the story of African-Americans in New England from colonial times through the 19th century.

The institution's infrastructure itself includes some pretty historic architecture: The African Meeting House dates from 1806, and remains the oldest standing black church edifice in the United States. Tons of abolitionist history passed through it as a result.

Free to all, but donations appreciated.

A two-story brick building with a triangular roof. Wikipedia

West End Museum

A building front with windows and a door with an arched top. Wikipedia

The West End Museum is just that: a museum dedicated to Boston's West End.

More specifically, it chronicles the forced transition of the enclave due to so-called urban renewal efforts in the 1950s and 1960s—essentially, it's a big cautionary tale to potentially overzealous city planners.

Plus, it's just got some cool stuff about Boston back in the day, including the roles of various immigrant groups in the mighty city's rise.

Free to all, though donations requested for larger groups.

A building front with windows and a door with an arched top. Wikipedia

The Battle Of Bunker Hill Museum

The museum is just across the street from the Bunker Hill memorial and monument.

Not surprisingly, it chronicles that ferocious 1775 battle between colonial and British forces. There's also plenty of local history, too, with an emphasis on pre-20th century.

It's all free because the National Park Service runs it all.

James Blake House

A boxy, rectangular house with a triangular roof. Boston Globe via Getty Images

The two-story structure dates from 1661, and is the oldest house in Boston.

It’s also one of the few examples in the entire United States of post-Medieval, West England country framing. In other words, pretty much an architectural museum in itself.

The house is open for tours the third Sunday of every month through the Dorchester Historical Society, which owns it.

A boxy, rectangular house with a triangular roof. Boston Globe via Getty Images

Ancient and Honorable Artillery Co.

A building exterior with an arched doorway. Shutterstock

The organization behind this museum has roots stretching back to the 1630s, so it's little surprise that its collection of military memorabilia covers quite a few eras.

And it's not all military, either, with books, plates, tankards, and other objects part of the displays.

The space is directly across from the elevator to the fourth floor of Faneuil Hall and is free to the public on weekdays from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. Holidays might affect the hours though.

A building exterior with an arched doorway. Shutterstock

Boston Fire Museum

The exterior of a three-story firehouse with two big garage doors. Wikipedia

Not surprisingly, the museum dedicated to the Boston Fire Department resides in an old firehouse, this one dating from 1891.

There are all manner of firefighting equipment and vehicles on display as well as historical photos.

Visitors might invariably find a friendly dalmatian to pet and the museum is free (though donations via a boot out front are appreciated).

It might be particularly worth a visit if you’ve got kids in tow.

The exterior of a three-story firehouse with two big garage doors. Wikipedia

Massachusetts Archives and Commonwealth Museum

A modern building with stone exteriors and a lot of stone steps leading up to it. Getty Images

The 31-year-old museum on the campus of UMass-Boston includes John Adams’ vice presidential papers and an original 1776 copy of the Declaration of Independence are among the Commonwealth Museum’s 20 million documents.

There are also artifacts such as Paul Revere’s copper-plate depiction of the Boston Massacre.

It’s all free to see.

A modern building with stone exteriors and a lot of stone steps leading up to it. Getty Images