I found out a little while ago that a new museum is coming to New York City next year called the Museum of Broadway. Broadway World made an announcement stating the Museum of Broadway will open in the summer of 2022. It surprised me that there has not been a museum focused on the history of Broadway before now. During the past few years I have lived in New York, I attended some Broadway shows in these historic theaters and had wondered about the history of the theater as well as the history of Broadway in general. I am glad to hear that there will be a new museum dedicated to Broadway’s history. I have loved both history and musicals for as long as I can remember, and I would be interested to see what they do with the history of Broadway.
According to Broadway World, the interactive and immersive experience the Museum of Broadway, founded by entrepreneur and four-time Tony Award nominated producer Julie Boardman and Diane Nicoletti (founder of the award-winning experiential agency Rubik Marketing), offers guests a unique look at the rich history of Broadway, a sneak peek behind-the-scenes, and a change to personally engage with the “Game-Changing” shows that redefined Broadway forever. They also provided a brief description of what the experience would be like when it is open to the public. In their article, they stated that
At the heart of the experience, guests will travel through a visual history of Broadway from its birth to the present day highlighting theater’s pioneers, landmark moments of social change, and many of the most beloved plays and musicals of all time. Key points along the timeline will focus on the pivotal shows that transformed the landscape of Broadway, through immersive installations designed by leading contemporary visual artists and acclaimed Broadway designers. Fans will also go backstage to get a taste of “The Making of a Broadway Show,” with a special exhibit honoring the community of brilliantly talented professionals – both onstage and off – who bring Broadway plays and musicals to life every night.
It sounds like it would be a fun experience as well as an educational one. As a museum educational professional, I do wonder what their educational side of their museum operations would be like. When I visited their website, there was no mention of what they plan for school programs. I could see the programs focused on history and music including looking at the historical context of musicals.
I look forward to finding out more as it gets closer to opening day. What do you think of this new museum?
As the summer is winding down, I decided to take another virtual trip and I chose to visit Fort Ticonderoga located in Ticonderoga, New York. Fort Ticonderoga exists today to preserve, educate and provoke active discussion about the past and its importance to present and future generations; and they work on fostering an on-going dialogue surrounding citizens, soldiers, and nations through America’s military heritage. It preserves 2,000 acres of historic landscape on Lake Champlain, and Carillon Battlefield, and has the largest series of untouched Revolutionary War era earthworks surviving in America.
The first thing I did was I joined the History Camp America tour of Fort Ticonderoga led by Stuart Lilie, the Vice President of Public History at Fort Ticonderoga. Since I was a participant in the virtual History Camp America conference, I had access to this tour and was able to revisit the tour if I chose to do so. Lilie started the tour by providing an introduction to the history of Fort Ticonderoga. According to Lilie, the word Ticonderoga comes from the Mohawk word that means a place between the waters. Fort Ticonderoga sits between Lake George and Lake Champlain; specifically, he was standing where Lake George drains north into the LaChute River and the waterfalls drop two hundred and twenty feet into Lake Champlain.
Fort Ticonderoga was originally known as Fort Carillon when the French used the fort as a defense against British invasion during the Seven Years War (it was also called the French and Indian War). It was renamed Fort Ticonderoga after the British blew it up and General Lampert renamed the ruins Fort Ticonderoga then began the reconstruction. During the American Revolution, Ethan Allen, and his band of Green Mountain Boys, accompanied by Benedict Arnold, who held a commission from Massachusetts, attacked the British stationed there and took over the Fort on May 10, 1775. The British later recaptured Fort Ticonderoga and later abandoned it after the end of the Revolutionary War in 1781. Fort Ticonderoga became a site for tours beginning in 1909.
Lilie continued the virtual tour by showing viewers around Fort Ticonderoga to demonstrate what they do with visitors each day they are open. For instance, he had a discussion with reenactors about tailoring soldiers’ uniforms. He also had discussions with reenactors about shoemaking and gardening. Participants were also able to see some of the artifacts from the vast collection at Fort Ticonderoga. It was really cool to see inside the Thompson Pell Research Center where they hold their collections and view artifacts that they catalogued and stored most of their artifacts and documents to give us an idea of warfare at Fort Ticonderoga. Some artifacts include but are not limited to rare books which document the art of war and military science published in Europe and North America, textiles (i.e., camp flag of Loyalist-colonists on the side of the British-group), fine art, shovels, axes, ceramics from England, France, and China, wine bottle fragments, shoe buckles, over 2,000 decorative buttons, and pipe fragments. We also were able to see the Carion battlefield which the Fort Ticonderoga staff today preserve the long history of where the battles took place. Once I finished this virtual tour, I visited their Center of Digital History on their website.
At the Center of Digital History, I was able to see virtual exhibitions, their online collections database, and explored their YouTube channel which offers options for at home activities and an in-depth look into the collections and discussions. The virtual exhibitions include a sample of artifacts that are included in the in-person exhibitions and background information about the exhibits. Some of the virtual exhibitions include but are not limited to A Patriotic Service: Sarah Pell’s Enduring Legacy which focuses on Sarah Gibbs Thompson Pell who devoted her life to advancing the rights of women through historic preservation and political action; Object Lessons: Perspectives on Material Culture; Iron and Stone: Building Fort Carillon which focuses on the construction of Fort Carillon; and Ticonderoga, A Legacy. While I appreciated learning a little bit of Fort Ticonderoga history in each of the exhibitions, I would have liked to explore more of the exhibit in a virtual space.
In addition to the virtual experience, Fort Ticonderoga offers programs, historic interpretation, boat cruises, tours, demonstrations, and exhibits throughout the year; they are open to the public May through October. I would like to at some point visit Fort Ticonderoga to see more of what they have to offer in person.
Have you been to Fort Ticonderoga before? If you have, please let me know what your experience was like.
Over the past year, I made a number of virtual visits to museums and because I enjoyed seeing how museums outside of the United States set up their virtual spaces, I wanted to make more trips to them. I chose to visit the Salvador Dali Museums in Spain not only because I found out one of my followers works there but I also appreciate visiting art museums and wanted to learn more about Salvador Dali. Dali, who was born on May 11, 1904, in Figueres, is a Surrealist artist whose repertoire included painting, graphic arts, film, sculpture, design and photography. He created the Dali Foundation which is responsible for managing the Theatre-Museum in Figueres, the Gala-Dalí Castle in Púbol, and the Salvador Dalí House in Portlligat. I decided to visit the Theatre-Museum first and in this post, I will share some highlights from my virtual experience. I know that I would not be able to see everything all at once so I will be revisiting this museum a number of times after my initial trip.
I virtually visited the Dali Theatre Museum (Teatre-Museu Dali/Teatro-Museo Dali) located in Figueres, Spain towards the end of May. According to their website, the Dali Theatre Museum was inaugurated in 1974. In the beginning of the 1960s, the mayor of Figueres at the time, Ramon Guardiola, asked Dali to donate a work for the Museu de l l’Empordà; in response, Dali not only donated a work, but he donated an entire museum. Dali wished to have this project located at the former Municipal Theatre of Figures that was destroyed in a fire at the end of the Spanish Civil War. Today, the museum has approximately 1,500 pieces on display which allow visitors to see Dali’s artistic journey through the broad spectrum of his works from his first artistic experiences, surrealism, nuclear mysticism, his passion for science, to the works of the last part of his life. I shared some highlights from my virtual visit to the Dali Theatre-Museum.
One of the interesting things I learned in my visit is the museum not only holds Salvador Dali’s works but also another artist’s works, his friend Antoni Pitxot (1934-2015). Salvador Dali himself appointed Pitxot to be the director of the Dali Theatre-Museum which he held until his death. Dali set aside space for Pitxot’s works on the second floor of the museum as a permanent exhibition. In addition to the Pitxot exhibit, it also holds one piece that was not created by Salvador Dali. When I entered the museum, there was a collage fan that according to the caption was designed by French model and actress Amanda Lear under Dali’s guidance. I liked that the museum encourages visitors to design their own collages. The caption read: Why not try making your own collage at home. It doesn’t have to be on a fan!
As I continued to walk through the museum, I noticed a car in the middle of the courtyard, so I decided to take a closer look of the space and the car. It was a Cadillac, known as the Rainy Taxi, that was placed inside of the museum by a crane before the building was completed. The museum included a challenge I enjoyed participating in within the virtual space for visitors to go inside the car. According to the captions, in order to get inside the car to discover what is in it one would have to click onto the spot next to the door and see if it opens then once it does try to go inside; once the challenge is completed, one is encouraged to share pictures, tag the museum, and use the hashtag #CadillacDaliChallenge on Instagram. I did the challenge and my Instagram post with more pictures from the challenge can be found in the list below.
Then I continued to the Cupola to see more of the impressive architecture and the large painting that is the first piece that drew my eye within the space. Salvador Dali painted this oil painting called “Labyrinth” which was created for the ballet of the same name based on the Greek myth of Theseus and Ariadne. The ballet was first performed in 1941 at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York. I was not only impressed with the size of the painting, but I was also impressed with the imagery Dali captured. Within the painting, there is a giant person that has a tree on its chest with an entryway underneath it seems to lead to the labyrinth which is not seen completely but tall trees and cliffs are seen; surrounding all of it is a body of water. The imagery made me wonder what could be beyond the entrance, and what is there that I could not see. I thought the painting really represented the surrealism he was known for, and when I think of settings for ballet, I do not immediately think of surrealist art which is why I was surprised it was a part of a ballet. Dali also designed the sets and costumes for the ballet in addition to creating this painting.
What I also learned and caught me by surprise was not only Dali created this museum, but he is also buried inside of his museum. I noticed a white slab in the middle of the floor, and it was until I revisited the Cupola that I learned underneath it lies Salvador Dali’s tomb. In his last wishes, he wanted to be buried inside of his museum and his wishes were met after he died on January 23, 1989. As far as I can remember, I do not believe I have visited a museum before in which an artist or even a museum founder is buried within the museum. It seems to me that Dali’s last wishes show his dedication to his museum, his art, and the community he was born into by becoming a physical part of a place visitors can view his works. I decided to find more information about the tomb. While I was looking, I came across a post from a few years ago when his remains were exhumed as part of a request by Pilar Abel Martínez to take a DNA sample as part of the legal proceedings to prove she is Dali’s daughter; I included a link to this post in the list below.
The next room I went into is called the Mae West Room, which is a three-dimensional representation of American actress Mae West’s face converted into a living room space. I did not realize when I first went into the room that it was a face until the further I was in the room the more I recognized the living room furniture as parts of the face; then I saw the whole face when I was looking down from a small set of stairs in the room. According to the museum, this representation was based on a work he made in 1934 which was a gouache on newspaper collage called “Mae West’s Faced Used as an Apartment”; the gouache on newspaper collage is on display at the Art Institute of Chicago.
One of the last places I visited within the museum was within Loggia where I saw the dark room with a display of Babaouo, a film project Dali worked on in the early 1930s. He wrote a screenplay for the film in 1932 and he built in the museum a wooden box with seven panes of glass he painted in the interior, placed one behind the other and was lit from the back. I thought it was interesting that the characters in Babaouo were also in another film project called Destino which was a collaboration between Salvador Dali and Walt Disney. They began the short film project in 1946 after Dali signed a contract with Disney on January 14th; Dali installed himself in the Disney Studios in Burbank, California, where he set about drafting the screenplay and creating a series of drawings and oil paintings. While it was a 6-to-8-minute short film, only 15 seconds was completed at the time. Destino was completed in 2003 on the basis of Dali’s original sketches.
I hope to visit this museum in person one day and learn more about Salvador Dali and his works. If you have visited this museum before, virtually and/or in-person, please share your experiences in the comments. I will be visiting this museum again and I will also be planning my visits to the other museums the Dali Foundation manages. To see more pictures from the visit, check out the website’s Instagram: lbmfmuseumeducation.
Most recently I decided to take another virtual trip outside of the United States to visit the Charles Dickens Museum in London, England. Charles Dickens, who was the author of books such as Oliver Twist, A Tale of Two Cities, Great Expectations, and the novella A Christmas Carol, moved into this house at 48 Doughty Street with his wife Catherine a few months before Queen Victoria began her reign in 1837. They raised the first three of their ten children within this house, and hosted many of the period’s leading figures with dinners and parties. Dickens wrote Oliver Twist, Pickwick Papers and Nicholas Nickleby inside this house, and where he first achieved international fame as one of the world’s greatest storytellers.
The Dickens’ home became a museum in which hosts events and exhibitions, a garden café and shop, an international center for research on Charles Dickens, and a MA program on Charles Dickens research through the University of Buckingham. Inside the house itself, there are five floors with objects that were owned by the Dickens family. Off of the entryway there is a gift shop where it leads to the café, the Water Closet (bathroom), and the special exhibition room.
As I went through the virtual tour, I was surprised by the layout of the house since it was different from other historic house museums I previously visited both virtually and in person. For instance, the servants quarters where they cook the meals were below the first floor where the dining room was, and the servants’ sleeping quarters were on the top floor. The Charles Dickens Museum considered the main floor with the dining room and parlor to be the second floor while where the servants cooked and stored food and wine is the first floor, at least according to the virtual experience.
Also, at the time of writing this post I noticed that in almost each room there were only two links to explain the room and one object (sometimes there is a link to learn more about the object). One object in the Entrance Hall is the large, 8-day chiming clock that is still in good working order once was displayed in the hallway of Charles Dickens’ home Gad Hill Place in the 1860s. The link led to the collections page for the clock that includes a picture of the clock with information such as its object number, when it is created, and an object note that shared a letter Dickens wrote to the clockmaker who made the clock, Sir John Bennett of Cheapside, London, regarding problems with the clock following a cleaning. I would have loved to learn more about other objects in the Entrance Hall such as the objects in the glass case and the letters in the frames displayed on the walls.
In the study, the highlighted object in the room is the desk and chair that was originally used in his study at Gad’s Hill Place. According to the information provided by the Dickens Museum’s collections, the desk and chair were acquired by Charles Dickens in 1859, and they remained in the Dickens family after he died in 1870. Both of them were on loan to various heritage institutions, including the Charles Dickens Museum, from 1967 to 1987. They were eventually purchased by the Charles Dickens Museum in 2015 with support from the National Monuments Trust and the Dickens Fellowship after years of being on loan at various places over the years. Dickens would have written portions of his novels, such as Great Expectations, Our Mutual Friend, Hard Times, A Tale of Two Cities, and the unfinished Mystery of Edwin Drood, on this desk.
Not only in the interactive tour I was able to explore the house but I was also able to visit inside the gift shop and café, the small garden outside of the café, the exhibition room, and a couple of additional floors that included a meeting room where it seemed like one could do research in.
I really appreciate that this interactive tour is available online, and I hope to visit there in person someday. I especially would like to see it in person so I could learn more about other items that the interactive tour did not share their history and their relevance to Charles Dickens’ life and/or works. To check out the Charles Dickens Museum, I posted links, including the interactive tour, below.
When I was in college, I made my first visit to Old Sturbridge Village located in Sturbridge, Massachusetts. Old Sturbridge Village, which invites each visitor to find meaning, pleasure, relevance, and inspiration through the exploration of history, is the largest outdoor history museum in the Northeast that depicts a rural New England town of the 1830s. There are more than 40 original buildings, including homes, meetinghouses, a district school, country store, bank, working farm, three water-powered mills, and trade shops, which are situated on more than 200 scenic acres. The buildings were moved to the area between the late 1940s and early 1970s. Inside the Village, there are authentically costumed historians and farm animals to talk with and interact with on a regular visit or during various programs they offer.
As a member and treasurer of the historical society club, other members and I visited a number of times including during the Christmas by Candlelight program. I remember traveling to the Village while it was dark out to walk through, visit the buildings decorated in holiday decorations, and seeing the display of gingerbread houses for a gingerbread house contest. I also visited Old Sturbridge Village a few times after I graduated.
It has been a while since I last visited Old Sturbridge Village, and I decided to make another visit since I thought I would see how much has changed. This time it will be a virtual visit. Recently, Old Sturbridge Village designed and released the link to a virtual experience called 3D Tours as part of Virtual Village from Old Sturbridge Village. The Virtual Village from Old Sturbridge Village offers content created by the interpreters and farmers for Old Sturbridge Village’s Facebook and Instagram accounts. Interpreters share fun facts, activities, recipes, and more, while the farmers shared updates with photos and videos of the animals. The Village also released more content within their 3D tours.
According to the website, 3D Tours are supported in part by a grant from the Webster Cultural Council, a local agency that is supported by the Mass Cultural Council, a state agency. At the time I made this visit, the following buildings were available in the virtual tour: the Asa Knight Store, the District School, the Pottery Shop, the Freeman Farm, the Sawmill, the Printing Office, and the Fenno House. To learn more about these buildings, they include brief histories of the buildings that include when and where they were built, when they moved to Old Sturbridge Village, and what they were used for. Also, the tours allow virtual visitors to get up close to artifacts that are usually behind barriers such as the catalog in the Asa Knight Store and the pottery on the shelves of the Pottery Shop. There are pins throughout the tours to look closer or learn new information, and new videos with some of the Village’s knowledgeable costumed historians to bring the spaces to life.
While I was experiencing the virtual tours, there were many observations I made at each place. The first building I visited was the Asa Knight Store where I was able to go behind the counters to see numerous items that the store sold on shelves, in drawers, and underneath the counter; there were a few pins that described the items in the store including information on textiles. When I visited Old Sturbridge Village in the past, I spent most of my time in the front of the store since there is so much to see and so little time to see it all in at each visit I made, and on this virtual trip I was able to spend more time in the store and learn more about the store. For example, I saw a china and ceramics crate that had plates inside it in a room where hats were being made and in the next room there are a number of items including Prussian Blue pigments they sold, and the pigments were used to make paint. The next place I went into was the District School.
I do not remember going inside the District School during the last time I visited Old Sturbridge Village, so I decided to check it out. The focus of the building was to share information and ask visitors about the classroom in the 1830s versus today. My visit reminded me of my experience teaching students about the one-room schoolhouses at Noah Webster House and the Long Island Museum. Inside the classroom, the staff provided information about the Blue Back Speller used by students to learn how to read and it was written by Noah Webster. I used a reproduction of the Blue Back Speller as a museum educator while teaching about schoolhouses to share with students who visited Noah Webster House. I then moved on to the Pottery Shop & Kiln. Inside the Pottery Shop, there is a video on making pottery the staff shared and I noticed a clay cellar among the numerous pottery and glazes.
Then I went to explore the Freeman Farm and the Sawmill. Inside the house of the Freeman Farm, there is a video that describes what farm life was like in the 1830s located in the kitchen; also, there was information about dinner, food preservation, farm animals, dairying and the buttery, garden, and the root cellar. While I was exploring, I tried to explore a little more of the grounds but was limited to only the house and around the house. I would have loved to see more of the other buildings on the farm including the barn. When I was at the Sawmill, I saw the video on the saw and how it works and was able to see it up close behind the barriers. They also included a Woodland Walk booklet pdf which had information about New England trees and there was also information in another pin about the New England Landscape.
The final two places I visited were the Printing Office and the Fenno House. In the Printing Office, I was able to go behind the barrier to see the printing press up close where there are pins revealing information on how the machine was operated and how they were trained to operate it. Also, a video is shared to explain what it is like to work in the printing office. Inside the Fenno House, half of the house is set up as a historic house and the other half has exhibits. On the first floor, there was the kitchen and an exhibit with the spinning wheel and loom describing how each of them were used to create fabrics for the home. On the second floor, there was a bed chamber on one side of the house and on the other side was an exhibit display of clothing and a few pieces of furniture.
Overall, I really enjoyed the experience of re-visiting Old Sturbridge Village in a virtual capacity. I appreciate their efforts in encouraging visitors to ask themselves what is similar and different to their daily lives today versus the time periods each site introduces. I wonder if they are going to include more buildings in the virtual tour, and if they do, I will certainly return to experience these virtual tours. Also, I like that not only the staff introduced virtual tours but also developed resources to be utilized along with the tours.
The resources they provided are lesson plans, hands-on activities, and other links including their online collections. Old Sturbridge Village provided these resources to help other educators teach their students history, and it is one of many examples I have seen of museums sharing educational resources while we are all figuring out how to carry on while we are still going through the pandemic. The lesson plans I have seen are designed for students in grade levels 3rd through 5th grade, and in addition to the lesson plans and pdfs they included a link to their Google classroom with fillable documents that educators can download and assign to their students. Plus, there are hands-on activities one can download to be used alongside the virtual tours including “Make Your Own Cardboard Loom” with the Fenno House tour, and the “Home Scavenger Hunt” with the Asa Knight Store tour.
I recommend experiencing the virtual tours for yourselves if you want to spend time learning more about Old Sturbridge Village.
In a previous weekend, I went on a virtual trip to France with my husband and friends to celebrate a friend’s birthday. One of the places we visited was the palace of Versailles. I decided to write about my virtual experience since I have not written about museums outside of the United States before. I would love to visit museums outside of the United States someday when it is safer to travel instead of travelling during a pandemic.
There is so much to see in Versailles that my group decided to experience at least a part of the palace. During the trip, I participated in an activity called “Spot the 7 Differences” in which individuals look at four paintings that each one has a duplicate painting posted next to the original painting, and we looked at both paintings to see what the seven differences between the two paintings are.
We also visited the virtual exhibition section, and decided to visit the exhibit “A Place at the Royal Table” which was produced with the participation of thirteen royal residences from the Network of European Royal Residences. The curators of this exhibit were Élisabeth Caude and Géraldine Bidault. Inside the exhibit, it features 17th and 18th century still life paintings as well as photographs of dining rooms and artifacts to describe royal dining. I liked that in most of the exhibit it zoomed in to a specific part of a photo or painting to describe specific details within the whole painting or photo. For instance, there is a photograph of small glasses and a carafe (or decanter) that were placed on royal tables and these specific ones were designed simply which means they could be packed in a luxury compartment during a journey; there is also an up-close look at symbols painted on the glass, and according to the exhibit label:
They are decorated with heraldic symbols: coats of arms surrounded with badges of office indicating the status of Marshal at the Court of the Republic of Poland. This coloured, polished and gilded glassware, displayed at the Palace of Wilanów, comes from Huta Kryształowa, a big glassworks which produced chandeliers and crystal tableware in the 18th century.
There are more than 25 items within the exhibition and four sections within the exhibition. The four sections in the exhibition are Food, Dinner is served, The table is set, and Tableware.
The next place we visited inside Versailles was The King’s Chamber. According to Versailles’ website, the King’s Chamber is the most important and symbolic room in the Royal Apartment and was used at several times of the day including the king’s “getting up” and “going to bed” ceremonies, when he dined in private, and when he received certain courtiers or ambassadors. Louis XIV died in this Chamber on September 1, 1715 after reigning over France for 72 years. I was impressed with the amount of grandeur within the Chamber, and the bold colors were eye catching and almost overwhelming which is the point of the Chamber.
After the initial visit, I decided to go back to see what else Versailles has to offer in the in-person visit and in the virtual realm. Versailles’ website provides an interactive map of the site that is not only helpful for individuals visiting and learning more about the palace in-person at one’s own pace, but it also provides virtual visitors an idea of what the layout of the site is. The interactive map has five sections to explore: Overview, The Palace, Gardens, Park, and the Trianon Palaces and Marie Antoinette’s Estate. Each section provides information on where to purchase tickets, accessibility, bathrooms, where the entrances are located, and the history of the palaces and estates.
I recommend checking out Versailles for yourselves to see what they have to offer. Someday I hope to visit there in person so I can write about that experience.
Have you been to Versailles either in person or virtually? What are your impressions?
Since it has been a while, I decided to plan another virtual trip to a museum. In a previous visit to Salem, Massachusetts, I was not able to visit the Peabody Essex Museum and decided to write about my virtual experience. According to their website, the Peabody Essex Museum is a museum of international art and culture that is dedicated to connecting art to the world. Also, the staff and board strive to create experiences that transform people’s lives by broadening their perspectives, attitudes, and knowledge of themselves and the world through exhibitions, programs, publications, media, and other related activities.
During my visit to the Peabody Essex Museum, I took virtual tours of their exhibits that were available on their website. Each tour has a 360-degree experience within their spaces powered by Matterport Lightshed Photography Studio; to move around in the space, I clicked on the rings and used the mouse to zoom in/out, and to look all around. The exhibits I explored were Jacob Lawrence: the American Struggle, Asian Export, Fashion & Design, Maritime, Where the Questions Live, Art & Nature Center, and Powerful Figures.
Jacob Lawrence was a leading modern American painter and the most prominent black American artist of the time. In the exhibit Jacob Lawrence: the American Struggle, his pieces were his responses to the fraught national political climate and according to the exhibit panel he wanted to visualize a more complete American history through word and image. The exhibit is a series of 30 paintings that interpret pivotal moments in from the American Revolution and the early decades of the republic between 1770 and 1817; his goal was to revive the struggles of the founding fathers and underrepresented historical figures in his art for his day and for future generations.
A couple of the paintings include ones that interpret the Boston Tea Party and Paul Revere’s Ride. Each painting included a quote from historical figures or primary sources on the side panels next to them. For instance, his interpretation of the Boston Tea Party had a quote from a song of 1773 which stated:
Bring out your axes,
and tell King George
we’ll pay no taxes
on his foreign tea…
While exploring the exhibit, I thought that the interpretations were interesting and visually striking especially since I was used to seeing paintings like the Signing of The Declaration of Independence by John Trumbull as an example of historical interpretation in art. I believe Lawrence achieved his goal with his painting series and I enjoyed the virtual experience.
The Peabody Essex Museum not only provides virtual tours but there are also at-home programs inspired by the museum. For instance, there is a program called PEM Pals that is located on PEM’s YouTube channel. PEM Pals is a weekly program dedicated to art, stories and learning for children under the age of 5 and their caretakers; each new episode are streamed at 10:30am Eastern Standard Time on Wednesdays. There is also Drop-In Art Activities that provides video tutorials to create various projects including but not limited to: milk jug elephants, egg carton ladybugs, cotton swab tree painting, plastic bottle chandelier, map making, and bubble bottle. Another example of at-home programs is Explore Outside in which participants are encouraged to go outdoors to investigate the world with nature-based activity sheets for bird watching, neighborhood tree trek, and scavenger hunts.
One of the exhibits that are available in person with a sample of objects from the exhibit available online was The Salem Witch Trials 1692. It is on view from September 26, 2020 to April 4, 2021. The exhibit explored the hysteria that involved more than 400 people and led to the deaths of 25 innocent people (men, women, and children) between June 1692 and March 1693. There are many unfounded theories about the Salem Witch Trials about how the hysteria started, and interest in the Trials still persist to this day. If you are able to see it in person, I recommend visiting this exhibit.
I hope to visit the Peabody Essex Museum in person one day. To learn more about the Museum, check out the links below.
While I was sharing previous blog posts about my impressions of museums I visited, I thought about the museums I have not visited in the past and decided to make a virtual trip to one of them. I remember as a child I visited Monticello, the home of the third president of the United States Thomas Jefferson. My family and I were not able to visit Mount Vernon, the home of George Washington the first president of the United States, while we were in Virginia. Therefore, I decided to virtually visit Mount Vernon and its grounds for today’s blog post. My whole visit was overwhelmingly impressive, and the Mount Vernon Ladies Association’s efforts have proven its significance in our nation’s history will never be overlooked.
I visited every part of George Washington’s house and property including but not limited to his farms, gardens, hired and enslaved living quarters, and a gristmill. Even though I aimed to see everything in one visit, there is a ton of information to soak in so as if I was visiting Mount Vernon in person I would need to plan to make more than one visit to potentially see everything and learn all I could about the mansion. Within the tour, there are videos from both Mount Vernon staff and characters of George Washington, Martha Washington, and the enslaved servants discussing what it was like to live and work on the Mount Vernon property. At each point of the virtual tour, there are cursors that once clicked on it will share more information about an item in the collections and about the historic preservation process.
The Mansion has approximately fourteen rooms that were set up and preserved as if the Washingtons were still living in their home. On the first floor, it contains the more formal parts of the Mansion, including the dining rooms, parlors, central hall, and Washington’s study. Inside the Mansion, there is an entryway called the Central Passage which is the place where visitors who came by carriage through the west front drive (the front of the house) were greeted. The Mansion also has a two-story piazza located on the east front (facing the Potomac River); it was treated as an outdoor room, serving afternoon tea to visitors and family members seated in simple Windsor chairs. Not only there is a view of the Potomac River, there is also a view of the wooded area that was originally an 18-acre deer park. On the second floor, there are six bedrooms and one of them is the Washingtons’ bedroom. On the third floor, includes a number of rooms that were used for storage and living space, and provides access to the cupola. The cupola was added to the Mansion to help cool the house, as it draws hot air out through open windows; by providing a strong vertical axis, the cupola also helps disguise the asymmetry of the west facade, facing the bowling green (the grounds in front of the Mansion). Washington’s home is not the only building on the property.
Washington’s estate also includes more than a dozen outbuildings where more than fifty enslaved men and women learned trades to make tools and textiles, care for livestock, process food, and construct and repair many of Mount Vernon’s buildings, including the Mansion itself. Some of the buildings include the blacksmith shop, smokehouse, stable, spinning house, and many more. There were also four gardens: the upper garden, lower garden, botanical garden, and a flower garden and nursery. Each garden served different purposes including providing food for the Mansion and experimenting with new plants. Washington also had a farm called the Pioneer Farm where enslaved workers put Washington’s innovative farming and fishing practices, hoe fields, cook over a fire, sheer sheep, and harvest crops into practice. Also, on the estate there was a distillery and a gristmill; today, the property has fully functioning reconstructions of the distillery and gristmill where George Washington’s whiskey, flour, and cornmeal were made.
The estate is also the location of the tombs and memorial where the Washingtons and enslaved individuals were buried and are remembered. There are two tombs: the old tomb where the Washington family were originally buried and the new tomb that was constructed under George Washington’s request; then the whole family located in the tomb were relocated to the new one. Also, there is a slave cemetery where the Mount Vernon staff is conducting an ongoing archaeological survey of the Slave Cemetery on the estate. According to their website, they stated about the slave cemetery:
From an archaeological standpoint, the best way to commemorate the lives of those free and enslaved individuals who lived and died at Mount Vernon is to thoroughly document the locations of individual burials on the landscape.
Mount Vernon also has a memorial dedicated to the enslaved individuals which is located about 50 yards southwest of George and Martha Washington’s tomb, on a bluff above the Potomac River.
The previous information I learned about Mount Vernon is only some of what I have learned in virtual tour. I recommend learning more about George Washington and Mount Vernon through not only the virtual tour but also through the education resources available on the official website. What I learned from this tour is the staff at Mount Vernon are continuously dedicating their efforts to preserve its history as well as investigate the untold stories the estate holds.
During the New England Museum Association conference earlier this month, I was able to visit a museum in Vermont before attending sessions. I knew that I was going to arrive the day before the conference officially began so I looked up what was in the area. When I found out I was going to Middlebury with a friend, I discovered the Henry Sheldon Museum and decided to visit it while my friend participated in pre-conference sessions. In my recent recap of the NEMA conference, I stated that
The Henry Sheldon Museum of Vermont History is the oldest community-based museum in the country opening their doors to visitors and researchers in 1884. Their mission is to serve the public by preserving the historic memory of the Addison County and surrounding communities, heightening the awareness and enjoyment of their rich cultural legacy, and stimulating the study of connections between Vermont’s past and broader historical themes. There are three main areas of the museum:
The Judd-Harris House, built in 1829, showcases a wealth of objects depicting small town life in nineteenth century Vermont
The Stewart-Swift Research Center houses one of the state’s premier archival collections, documenting the history of Middlebury, Addison County, and Vermont
The Walter Cerf Gallery hosts changing exhibits throughout the year.
Before I entered the museum, I walked through the museum’s garden and then went inside for the museum. I first explored the Judd-Harris House with objects displayed to show what small-town life was like in nineteenth century Vermont. The first floor was set up as both a home and an exhibit space. When I was exploring the first floor of the museum, one of the things that stood out to me that I have never seen in a historic house museum before was an 124 year old stuffed cat sitting behind glass that was donated to the museum after the woman from Cornwall, Vermont who owned the cat had it stuffed by one of the students from Middlebury College.
At first, I was startled because I was not expecting to see a stuffed cat lying there in a case. The more I stared at it, the more impressed I was with how the cat was able to be preserved since about 1895. While I would not want to do this with my own pet, I understand why someone at that time wanted to keep their favorite pet around after its death. It also felt like a morbid time capsule that preserved what an animal that lived over a hundred years ago looked like.
I also noticed that there were at least three exhibits located within the museum. The exhibits I explored the most were Conjuring the Dead: Spirit Art In The Age Of Radical Reform, The Animals Are Innocent, Ceramics And Paintings By Dana Simson, and Whimsical Wonders: Fairy Houses From Nature By Sally J Smith. In Conjuring the Dead, it presents spirit photographs and original spirit artwork from the Henry Sheldon Museum’s collections acquired by Solomon Wright Jewett (1808-94). According to the exhibit description from the Sheldon Museum, Jewett claimed he had supernatural powers that made him able to cure multiple ailments and bring people back from dead. Also, he was a strong believer in Spiritualism, which was a movement that preoccupied many people in the U.S. before and especially after the Civil War.
The Conjuring the Dead exhibit displayed Jewett’s collection of “spirit photographs” in which he appeared to be visited by notable figures, including President George Washington and Prince Albert of Great Britain. He also associated with and befriended a spirit artist, Wella P. Anderson and his wife, Lizzie “Pet” Anderson (a medium), who worked in New York City and Oakland, California. Jewett acquired from them eighteen pencil portraits that depict well-known historical and mythical figures spanning many geographical locations and historical times that apparently “visited” the artist under the influence of Jewett’s presence. Anderson’s drawings are now mostly known from photographs, and the original drawings in the Sheldon’s archives are rare.
In addition to the photographs and drawings, it also had ephemera, pamphlets, and objects that provide a rich context to the rise of Modern Spiritualism. It stemmed from a number of radical religious and social movements, including Mormonism, Millerism, utopianism, abolitionism and women’s suffrage, many of which originated and took a strong hold in Upstate New York and Vermont beginning in the 1820s. This exhibit occupied two floors, and I found on the second-floor drawings of spirits including one of Jesus of Nazareth. I also noticed a table with a Ouija board set up in the middle of the room which was most likely set up for exhibit related events.
After I explored the Spiritualism exhibit, I noticed on the door trim there was a subtle sign to show the next exhibit. In the Animals are Innocent, there are pieces that are part of a mixed media/ceramic exhibit of colorful, boat sculptures and paintings featuring animals, by Maryland artist, ceramist, author, and illustrator Dana Simson. Dana’s goal through her art is to how animals are losing both habitat and food sources, suffering the man-made effects of pollution and wilderness encroachment, and are imperiled by fossil-fuel enhanced climate change. Simson’s message she conveyed within her pieces was very clear to me, and I recommend checking out her pieces to see an artistic representation of the pain animals are going through because of climate change on our planet.
I was also impressed with other exhibits and interactive activities within the historic house setting. For instance, there is a children’s area where kids can both play and learn what 19th century life was like especially in Vermont. Also, there is an exhibit within one of the bedrooms called Whimsical Wonders: Fairy Houses from Nature. Sally J Smith created fairy houses inspired by ones she made when she was a little girl; and like Simson, Smith considers herself an environmental artist. Her hopes with the fairy houses are to bring visitors back to nature, to invoke “a deeper respect and love for the Earth,” stressing the need for us to “reconnect with the Earth” in order to survive. One of the things I find fascinating about her fairy houses is the materials used to make them were found and gathered from the woods near her studio in Westport, New York. Located on shelves inside a closet behind glass, another thing I find fascinating about the fairy houses is the detail that goes into each house. There were no two houses that looked the same, and each one had its own unique character.
The last part of the self-guided tour was Henry Sheldon’s bedroom where a lot more treasures were found there including a set of keys laid on the bedside table and the Sheldon family crest. While I did not include everything I saw inside the museum, I strongly recommend seeing it for one selves and learn more about the history of Vermont.
Another museum I visited during the AASLH Annual Meeting in Philadelphia was the Science History Institute. On the last day of the Annual Meeting, I decided that this will be one of the museums I wanted to see before I left. According to the website, the Science History Institute collects and shares stories of innovators and of discoveries that shape our lives. The Institute also preserves and interprets the history of chemistry, chemical engineering, and the life sciences. Inside the Institute, there are four programmatic areas that address specific parts of the non-profit organization’s overall mission: an archive and library for historians and researchers, a fellowship program for visiting scholars around the world, a community of researchers who examine historical and contemporary issues, and an acclaimed museum that is free and open to the public. The Institute also has a state-of-the-art conference center located within the building.
Because I did not have much time before I was leaving the city, I visited the museum and the exhibits. The Institute’s museum exhibits include an array of artifacts, scientific instruments, and art utilized to create exhibitions, public programs, and other materials showcasing the research and diverse collections. Making Modernity, a permanent exhibit, shows visitors how chemistry has touched our lives and visitors can trace the scientific progress in the laboratory, the factory, and their homes; the exhibit’s mission is to help visitors learn how chemistry created and continues to shape the modern world. Throughout the exhibit, there are scientific instruments and apparatus, rare books, fine art, and the personal papers of prominent scientists. Making Modernity also have varying topics that range from alchemy, synthetics, and the chemical-instrument revolution to chemistry education, electro-chemistry, chemistry sets, and the science of color.
During my visit, I noticed that each part of the museum showcased scientific artifacts that described the evolution of everyday materials we may take for granted nowadays. For instance, one of the many sections I was impressed with was called The Chemical Body: A New View of Health which showed technical innovations in the 19th century that led to discoveries of vitamins and techniques for analyzing the body’s chemical and cellular makeup.
Another example of a section that stood out to me was The Bright World of Color which shares the changes in creating dyes from natural resources to using industrial research, synthetic dyes, and new testing methods to improve dye production. It reminded me of my research while I was in college about the history of cochineal used as red dyes. I enjoyed how much detail the exhibit labels went into each section of the museum exhibit especially in the Bright World of Color.
I was also impressed with another part of the exhibit which features an interactive multimedia learning experience which showcases the collections of art, scientific instruments, rare books, and other artifacts. The installation has a two-story high video column and a pair of high-resolution, interactive tables known as Object Explorer; visitors can explore the history and science behind various everyday objects by placing them on an interactive table to investigate the object’s history and the stories of the materials they are made of. For instance, I took a Pyrex measuring cup and placed in on the interactive table which revealed information about the history of glass and how the quality of glass was improved to eventually be used as the measuring cup.
Also, there was another exhibit I viewed while I was inside the Science History Institute called What Was the Real Age of Alchemy? Inside the exhibits there were various paintings and artifacts that revealed alchemy was change, creativity, and curiosity which shaped the modern understanding of modern science.
If you are visiting Philadelphia, I recommend spending a lot of time at the Science History Institute for there is so much to see and learn.