This honor is granted after a long and extensive process and finally confirmed by the King, who delegates to the local mayors the presentation of the decoration. This presentation was part of a celebration of Dr. Bangs and the work he has been involved in since he moved to Leiden, and the 20-year jubilee of the Leiden American Pilgrim Museum. Dr. Bangs' many years of study of the Mayflower Pilgrims has benefitted both the United States and the Netherlands.
Dr. Bangs is the Director of the Leiden American Pilgrim Museum Foundation. He was born in Oregon but has lived in Leiden over 30 years. After studying at the University of Chicago, he completed his degree work at the University of Leiden (Ph.D., 1976).
Dr. Bangs has published a variety of books and articles on Dutch art and architecture, and Dutch and American history. In 1980 as an American historian on the Leiden Archives staff, he was asked to answer visitors' questions about the Pilgrims, a topic new to him, and one that inspired further research and the publication of new documentary evidence.
He has served as Curator of the Leiden Pilgrim Documents Center of the Leiden Municipal Archives (1980-1985), Chief Curator of Plimoth Plantation (1986-1991) and Visiting Curator of Manuscripts, Pilgrim Hall Museum (1994-1996). His research on the cultural history of Leiden in the 15th and 16th Centuries has been supported by grants from The Netherlands Organization for Pure Scientific Research, Z.W.O. and from the Rijksuniversiteit Leiden (1972-1977). He was Visiting Distinguished Professor of Art History at the Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies in 1986. In 1997, Dr. Bangs founded the Leiden American Pilgrim Museum. The city archives in Leiden houses the original document of the formal request by the Pilgrims to stay in Leiden, as well as signatures of Bradford and other Pilgrims.
On May 1, 2009, the 400th Anniversary of the Arrival of the Pilgrim Fathers in Leiden in 1609, then Massachusetts Society Governor and current GSMD Member-at-Large Virginia Mucciaccio presented Dr. Bangs with an Honorary Life Membership in the Massachusetts Society of Mayflower Descendants. The presentation recognized Dr. Bangs for "sharing with Mayflower Descendants their purposes to perpetuate to a remote posterity the memory of their Pilgrim ancestors; to maintain and defend the principles of civil and religious liberty as set forth in the Mayflower Compact; to cherish, maintain and extend the ideals and institutions of American freedom; and to transmit the spirit, the purity of purpose and steadfastness of will of the Pilgrims to those who shall come after, an undiminished heritage of liberty and law."
Dr. Bangs has written and edited over ten books about the Pilgrims, including:
- The Seventeeth-Century Town Records of Scituate, Massachusetts (Three volumes: Vol. 1, 1997, Vol. 2, 1999, Vol. 3, 2001)
- Indian Deeds: Land Transactions in Plymouth Colony, 1620-1692 (2002)
- Pilgrim Edward Winslow, New England's First International Diplomat (2004)
- Strangers and Pilgrims Travellers and Sojourners: Leiden and the Foundations of Plymouth Plantation (2009) (published by GSMD; this book chronicles the Pilgrims' experience in Leiden, it can be purchased in our webshop here)
- The Town Records of Eastham during the time of Plymouth Colony, 1620-1692 (2012)
- The Town Records of Sandwich during the time of Plymouth Colony, 1620-1692 (2014)
- The Town Records of Marshfield during the time of Plymouth Colony, 1620-1692 (2015)
- Plymouth Colony's Private Libraries (2016)
- Plymouth Colony Records. Deeds, &c. Vol. II, 1651-1663 (2016)
- The Town Records of Duxbury, Bridgewater, and Dartmouth during the time of Plymouth Colony, 1620-1692 (2017)
He is currently on the Editorial Board for GSMD's Mayflower Journal.
For more information on the Leiden American Pilgrim, you can visit their website at www.leidenamericanpilgrimmuseum.org.