Virtual Museum Impressions: Mount Vernon

April 9, 2020

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.

Links:

https://virtualtour.mountvernon.org/

https://www.mountvernon.org/

Upper Garden Livestream: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lqQi93Ao65Q

Philadelphia Museum Impressions: Science History Institute

October 17, 2019

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.

Resources:

https://www.sciencehistory.org

https://www.sciencehistory.org/museum

Philadelphia Museum Impressions: Museum of the American Revolution

September 26, 2019

I wrote last time about my museum impressions on Independence Hall when I was down in Philadelphia for the AASLH Annual Meeting. Another place I visited during the first day of the conference was the Museum of the American Revolution. Since I was participating in a networking event later in the day, I did not spend the time I would have wanted to spend in the Museum since as soon as I entered the exhibit I knew I could spend an entire day exploring the place and utilizing the interactive supplemental materials.

The Museum’s Entrance

Located not too far from the Independence Hall, the Museum of the American Revolution explores the American Revolution through its unmatched collection of Revolutionary-era weapons, personal items, documents, and works of art. Since it opened in April 2017, the Museum’s aim is to inspire visitors to gain a deeper appreciation for how this nation came to be and feel inspired to consider their role in the ongoing promise of the American Revolution. After getting my admission ticket, I decided to start by going upstairs to see the exhibits.

Portrait of King George III

The second floor contained the core exhibition which explores the origins of the American Revolution, the fight for independence, and the on-going legacies of the Revolution.  Throughout the exhibition, the collections and the narrative were guided by these questions which invites visitors to answer them while they explore:

How did people become Revolutionaries?

How did the Revolution survive its darkest hour?

How Revolutionary was the war?

What kind of nation did the Revolution create?

I enjoyed that the Museum guides visitors through the exhibit by introducing these questions for them to keep in mind because it could help them think about what they see, read, and interact with and the significance of the Revolutionary War. Another example of having visitors think more about what really happened during the Revolutionary War were the “Closer Look” markers I found as I went through the exhibit. One of the “Closer Look” labels asked the question When was the term “American Revolution” first used? This question made me happy as a public historian since introducing these questions puts the visitor in the perspective of a historian and challenges the usual way history is taught in the American school system (assuming there is a clear answer for each question posed).

After exploring the origins of the American Revolution section of the exhibit, I proceeded to the fight for independence section. I read about the Battle of Lexington and Concord and saw the collections from the era.

As I moved through the exhibit, I noticed several more interactive supplements that made the experience more engaging. For instance, there is a map that lights up when a button is pressed to show the soldiers movements during battles such as the Battle of Princeton (1777). Also, in the room where the life-size replica privateer ship is located, there is a piece of the replica tar-covered rope inside a box, visitors were encouraged to smell it.

I also appreciated that within the exhibit there is a section within the exhibit that discussed the narrative of the forgotten allies, the Oneida Nation, that joined the colonists in the fight during the American Revolution. Not many talks about the Native American involvement and contributions to the American Revolution, and this exhibit includes a video describing how the Oneida Nation decided to join the colonists.

Towards the end of the exhibit, there is a section dedicated to the Revolutionary Generation through photographs. According to the Museum’s text, the last known Revolutionary War veterans had their photographs taken and died shortly after the Civil War. Also, I liked that the exhibit ended with visitors meeting the future of the American Revolution which has a wall covered with mirrors since it is a subtle way of explaining to visitors what these veterans were fighting for.

I did not explain everything I have seen because there was so much that the post would be too long, and I really encourage everyone reading the blog to visit the Museum of the American Revolution when one gets the opportunity. Since my visit, I found out that there is a virtual tour available on the Museum’s website so if one is not able to get there in person yet there is another way to see the Museum. It is a museum I am willing to visit again when I can visit Philadelphia again.

To find out more about the Museum, click here for the Museum’s website: http://www.amrevmuseum.org/

If you have been to the Museum, what were the things that you observed? If you have not visited yet, what would you like to learn more about or expect to see?

Museum Impressions: Independence Hall

September 12, 2019

On the first day of the AASLH Annual Meeting, I decided to not attend workshops and walk around Philadelphia to visit various sites. I mentioned in the previous blog post that I went to Philadelphia as a teenager with my family, and because it has been sixteen years since I visited, I decided it would be a better decision to explore the city. The first place I visited on the first day was Independence Hall where I participated in a tour led by the National Park Service Rangers.

Since my tour was not going to begin for about 10 to 15 minutes, I was able to explore the grounds and visit the Great Essentials Exhibit in the West Wing of Independence Hall. According to the website, the Great Essentials Exhibit displays surviving copies of the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, and the Constitution of the United States, along with the silver inkstand that, according to tradition, was used during the signing of the Declaration and Constitution. The copies that I saw were not signed since the ones signed are located in Washington, D.C., and while I was there a Park Ranger stated there were many copies made to be distributed throughout the colonies to spread the news of the Declaration and Constitution.

After visiting the exhibit, I went in line to wait with the group for the timed tour to start. I liked that one of the Rangers had a brief introduction before going in to remind people to not bring in food and drinks, and to not be on cellphones while on the tour. To me it showed that not only Rangers made sure history is being protected but they emphasized the importance of the history as well as the importance of engaging with the surroundings instead of calling and texting during the tour. We were then brought inside the East Wing of Independence Hall to sit down for a brief introduction of the history of Independence Hall and then we went onto the tour.

The group I was in was led outside to walk into the main building. Inside there were two rooms we went into to learn more about the Pennsylvania State House which is later known as Independence Hall. While it was known as the place where the Declaration of Independence was written and approved, there is so much more to this building’s history. According to the National Park Service, the Pennsylvania State House originally housed all three branches of Pennsylvania’s colonial government. The rooms we saw were the Courtroom of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and the Assembly Room.

We went into the first room which was the Courtroom of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. After taking pictures, our Ranger guide started to tell us more about the room and more history about Independence Hall. A couple of examples we were told about was that the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania sat in this room in the 1700s. Another example was that on July 8, 1776, an act of defiance occurred here when a group of Pennsylvania militiamen stormed in and tore down British King George III’s coat of arms; then a hundred years later, visitors came to this room during the Centennial to experience the National Museum, a collection of artifacts celebrating the founding of the nation.

Once we were finished in the Courtroom, we went into the Assembly Room where the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution were signed. The Assembly Room later became a shrine to the founding of the nation with a proudly displayed Liberty Bell and original paintings of the Founding Fathers. The tour concluded in this room after about twenty minutes in each of the rooms previously mentioned.

I would have liked to see more of Independence Hall such as the Long Gallery and Governor’s Council Chamber located on the second floor. The Long Gallery served as a reception area for visitors meeting with Pennsylvania’s governor, and the Governor’s Council Chamber was where Pennsylvania’s Supreme Executive Council met in this room in the 18th century then later was used as the location fugitive slave trials in the 1850s. There seemed to be at least a few opportunities to have further discussions about challenging the historical narrative that glorified the past briefly mentioned in the tour. While I was confused when I noticed how short the tour was, because this is one of the most popular landmarks in the United States there are numerous visitors the National Park Service bring through Independence Hall they would need to get each tour group through as swiftly and smoothly as possible.

Museums are moving forward to creating more engaging and interactive experiences to be more visitor-focused, and I wonder: should Independence Hall do the same and if so, what approaches should be done? I believe that there should be interactive opportunities at least on the property as another option to do while waiting for tours to begin like a pop-up museum that are easily moved for weather conditions. I do think that if one has not visited Independence Hall one should visit at least once to learn about the significance of it’s part in the birth of the United States and learn about the building beyond this significance.

Share your experiences. If you have visited Independence Hall, what were your experiences like?

Resources:

https://www.nps.gov/inde/index.htm

https://www.nps.gov/inde/planyourvisit/independencehall.htm

https://www.nps.gov/inde/learn/historyculture/places-independencehall.htm

https://www.nps.gov/inde/learn/historyculture/places-independencehall-assemblyroom.htm

https://www.nps.gov/inde/planyourvisit/westwing.htm

https://www.nps.gov/inde/learn/historyculture/places-greatessentialswestwing.htm

Museum Impressions: New York Historical Society

July 11, 2019

This month’s Patron request was to share more of my impressions of museums I have visited. Each post I write describes what I saw at the museum and what I learned after my initial visit. I decided to share my experience visiting the New-York Historical Society in honor of their new exhibit that opened last week, Revolutionary Summer. Another reason I wrote about this museum is my husband and I visited New-York Historical during our honeymoon back in March. We wanted to see as much of the New-York Historical Society as we possibly could before we went to dinner and a show later. As a historian, I was in awe of how much was displayed in each exhibition and I admire their efforts to engage its visitors with the collections.

According to their website, the New-York Historical Society was established in 1804 as New York’s first museums. Its founders who lived through the American Revolution and the British occupation of New York believed New York’s citizens needed to take action to preserve eyewitness evidence of their own historical moments; they also believed if the evidence was left in the hands of private individuals then the collections would have the inevitable fate of obscurity. Today the New-York Historical Society offers visitors on-site and online a massive collection of art, objects, artifacts, documents, and an ongoing collecting program to facilitate a broad grasp of history’s enduring importance and its usefulness in finding explanations, causes, and insights. I noticed their efforts during the visit as I explored through the exhibits. My husband and I went to exhibits on the four floors of the New-York Historical Society.

One of the first exhibits my husband and I visited was the Gallery of Tiffany Lamps which featured one hundred illuminated Tiffany lamps from their collections. Each Tiffany lamp in the exhibit was displayed within a dark space mainly lit by the Tiffany lamps. I loved looking at each unique designs and patterns, and I also thought the exhibit was thought provoking by showing visitors the differences between a Tiffany lamp and a knock off. The display had two lamps that looked like each other and in the drawers below them there are pieces of lamps and descriptions that explain the differences between the Tiffany lamp and the knock off.

Another exhibit we visited was the Objects Tell Stories exhibit located in the Henry Luce III Center for the Study of American Culture. The exhibit featured treasures from their permanent collection which tell the story of New York and American history. Within the Center, there are themed displays in the North Gallery present a variety of topics including slavery, war, infrastructure, childhood, recreation, and 9/11. A lot of the displays had touchscreens and interactive kiosks to allow visitors to explore American history and engage with objects. I was impressed by how much they were able to fit into the space. If my husband and I were able to spend more time, I could easily spend at least a whole day in the New-York Historical Society.

When we visited the gift shop, I spoke with the staff and after I told them my background as a public historian they showed me the gift shop bags that had various questions on the outside of the bag for visitors and gift shop customers to ponder and answer. The bag also included a link to the answers that they can check. If you can visit the New-York Historical Society, I recommend going in a little earlier to fully explore the museum. As for me, I look forward to the next time I visit the Historical Society.

Resources:

https://www.nyhistory.org/

https://www.patreon.com/lindseysteward

Patron Request: Museum Impressions, JFK Presidential Library and Museum

June 13, 2019

For this month’s patron request, I am going to give my impressions about John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. In previous patron requests, I wrote about museums I have visited during my childhood and adolescence. The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum is one that I visited both during my childhood and later when I attended the New England Museum Association conference in 2014. If you would like to learn more about Patreon and make your own requests please visit my Patreon page here: https://www.patreon.com/lindseysteward .

In addition to visiting the John F. Kennedy Hyannis Museum, I also visited the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in my younger years with my grandmother and the rest of my family. Later when I attended the New England Museum Association (NEMA) conference in 2014, the Presidential Library and Museum hosted the Opening Party that took place on the evening of the first day of the NEMA conference and was hosted by the Gowrie Group. When participants arrived at the Museum, we had the opportunity to not only enjoy drinks and appetizers but we also were able to explore the exhibits dedicated to John F. Kennedy’s presidency and his legacy.

One of the exhibits that I saw during the Opening Party was the Oval Office exhibit. In the exhibit, it contains film footage from 1963 related to the civil rights movement including but not limited to the April civil rights demonstrations in Birmingham, Alabama and President Kennedy’s June 11, 1963 televised address to the nation on civil rights. On display there is a selection of personal items President Kennedy displayed in the Oval Office as well as a replica of President Kennedy’s desk, the HMS Resolute desk. The desk was originally designed and built by William Evenden at the Chatham dockyard in England which was ordered by President Franklin D. Roosevelt who wished to install a safe and block his leg braces from view. During the Kennedy administration, Jackie Kennedy discovered the desk and she returned it to the Oval Office because of President Kennedy’s love of the sea and interest in naval history.

Since visiting the JFK Presidential Library and Museum last time, I decided to take a closer look at their website to see any developments at the Museum. In addition to the Oval Office, the other permanent exhibits that are in the Museum are Young Jack catch glimpses of Kennedy as a boy, a student, a decorated war hero, and the touchstones of his early life; 1960 Presidential Election; The Inauguration of John F. Kennedy; JFK Meets the Press which focused on his press conferences and everything in the exhibit expressed the narrative that Kennedy was the first president to conduct live televised press conferences; The Peace Corps, the hallmark of his administration; White House Corridor: Gifts from Heads of State; Ceremonial Room which is dedicated to President and Mrs. Kennedy’s social and diplomatic occasions that celebrated American history, culture, and achievement; Lift Off! The U.S. Space Program; Robert Kennedy’s ‘s Attorney General Office; First Lady Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy which covers her early life and her achievements as First Lady; and State Visit to Europe which took place during the summer of 1963.

There is also an archives at the Museum to do research about Kennedy and his presidency, and individuals can make an appointment to visit the research center. The Museum also offers a variety of education programs for teachers, students, adults, and families. For instance, teachers can look through information including but not limited to school visits, curricular resources, civic education programs and materials, New Frontiers newsletter, a mailing list for educators to receive periodic updates from the Department of Education and Public Programs, and professional development opportunities. I personally appreciate that there is a mailing list for educators to receive information from the Museum because they have an opportunity to learn more about updates in education programs which encourages them to book return visits, and as a museum educator I know the significance of repeat and new visits.

As an individual who was born and raised in Massachusetts, I was especially made aware of the history of President Kennedy. In a blog post I wrote about my visit to the Kennedy Museum in Hyannis, I pointed out my family’s encouragement of learning about history especially learning about President Kennedy. I feel a connection to history and to the history of Kennedy as a result of the encouragement I had. I recommend visiting the website, and the Presidential Library and Museum if you have the opportunity to do so. There is a lot of information that I cannot include in the blog post and below I have links to both the Presidential Library and Museum and my last blog I wrote about President Kennedy.

Resources:

https://www.jfklibrary.org/

https://lookingbackmovingforwardinmuseumeducation.com/2018/11/29/patron-request-museum-impressions-john-f-kennedy-hyannis-museum/

Museum Impressions: Museum of Science, Boston

May 30, 2019

I have been to a number of museums during my childhood and in current years. This week’s post is a museum I visited during my childhood: the Museum of Science in Boston, Massachusetts. I visited the museum with my family and one of the exhibits that stood out to me was the history of roller coasters. The exhibit took place inside of an IMAX theater where visitors sat in front of a screen that not only showed a documentary of roller coasters but the chairs we sit in simulate being on a roller coaster. Another exhibit that I found interesting was Museum of Science: Then and Now exhibit. The Museum of Science: Then and Now is a permanent exhibit that shows visitors how the museum evolved over the last 180 years to meet the changing needs of society through interactive displays and artifacts. It tells the story of the Museum of Science beginning in 1830 when a group of doctors and lawyers met in Boston to establish the Boston Society of Natural History, which quickly amassed a collection of specimens from across New England and around the world. Then the exhibit continued with various changes and the museum’s plans for the future. I recently visited the website and saw what they currently have to offer for the visitors.

The Museum of Science in Boston’s mission, according to their website, is to play a leading role in transforming the nation’s relationship with science and technology. One of the current events occurring at the Museum that stood out to me was Red Sox weekend since I grew up in a Red Sox family and I thought it is an interesting partnership that I have not seen before in other museum programs. The Red Sox and the Museum partnered together to host a fun-filled roster of activities combining the spirit of baseball with the learning opportunities of STEM. During the weekend, visitors can participate in activities including a Sox-themed Design Challenge where they can build and test prototypes to solve a problem. Their aim is to produce baseball-inspired STEM material for the members of Red Sox Kid Nation and collaborate on family-friendly programs, activities, and events throughout the year at Fenway Park and at the Museum; at Fenway, they offer the mascots Wally and Tessie’s STEM workbook for kids to use. It takes place this weekend on June 1st and June 2nd, 2019 from 9:00am to 5:00pm.

It is impressive how much is offered at the Museum of Science in Boston. For instance, they have live presentations, drop-in activities, IMAX Films, Planetarium Shows, 4-D Films, Butterfly Garden, Thrill Ride 360°, Summer Courses, and Duck Tours. The Museum offers a number of live demonstrations every day, most of which are free with Exhibit Halls admission. A couple of examples of the live demonstrations include live animal presentations, live animal story time for preschoolers, science magic, and the amazing Nano Brothers juggling show. The Museum offers a variety of hands-on activities daily, and encourage visitors to stop by during program hours and stay as long or as little as they like; a few examples of the drop-in activities are Astronomy After Hours, Design Challenges, and hands-on laboratory.

The Museum of Science also screens IMAX films in its theater, the Mugar Omni Theater, which has the world’s largest film format is projected onto a five-story-tall IMAX® Dome screen. This theater wraps audiences in larger-than-life images of flora, fauna, and faraway places, and a state-of-the-art digital sound system completes the immersion effect. The current screenings show Cuba through the eyes of Cuban artists, historians, and scientists, the Great Barrier Reef, and Volcanos. In the museum, there is a planetarium called the Charles Hayden Planetarium where visitors can explore our universe and beyond with one of our many space science Planetarium shows, like Undiscovered Worlds: The Search Beyond Our Sun and Explore: The Universe.

Also, the museum offers screenings of 4-D films which combines the visually captivating high-definition capabilities of a 3-D film with in-theater special effects such as wind and snow. A couple of examples of 4-D films are Jim Henson’s Splash and Bubbles: 4-D Undersea Adventure and Small Foot 4-D Experience. Based on the hit PBS Kids show Splash and Bubbles, the film follows Dunk who has lost his lucky pebble and his best friends Splash, Bubbles, and Ripple want museum visitors to join them in the search. In Small Foot 4-D Experience, a yeti discovers a human and tries to convince the rest of the yeti community that humans, or small foot, exist.

The Museum also has a Butterfly Garden that overlooks the Charles River and offers an opportunity to get close to a variety of living butterflies from New England and across the world. Visitors can explore the metamorphosis of a caterpillar into a butterfly by learning about the four stages of a butterfly’s life and exploring the terrariums with a variety of live specimens that offer insight into the butterfly’s relationship to its animal and insect ancestors. In the Thrill Ride 360°, participants can twist and turn in the simulators with full-motion, 360-degree pitch, roll, and spin technology, and surround sound as they can either design their own roller coaster and ride it or ride in the pilot’s seat to fly over Boston’s famous landmarks. The summer courses are offered to students entering grades 1 – 8 who can choose from a variety of hands-on, week-long courses with topics ranging from bugs to robots to food chemistry.

Museum visitors can also participate in Duck Tours departing at the Museum of Science’s entrance. The tours give visitors a great overview of the city, show many unique neighborhoods, and take people into the Charles River for a view of the Boston and Cambridge skylines. I have participated in a few Duck Tours in my lifetime, and a couple of times were with my family; one with just my siblings and parents and another time was a family reunion with aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandmother to celebrate the life of our grandfather who passed away earlier that year. The most recent Duck Tour I participated in was with my now husband for one of our dating anniversary celebrations. I enjoyed not only learning about the history of Boston but spending time with my loved ones and interacting with the people of Boston.

I could go on and on about what is offered at the Museum of Science in Boston but it would be an extremely long blog post for this week. Therefore, I recommend checking out their website to learn more about what they offer throughout the year.

Resource:

https://www.mos.org/

Museum Impressions: Fraunces Tavern Museum

Added April 11, 2019

            During my honeymoon, my husband and I visited a number of places in New York City. On the first day, we visited the Fraunces Tavern Museum which is both a museum and a still functioning tavern. The museum’s mission is to preserve and interpret the history of the American Revolutionary era through public education. To fulfill the mission, the Fraunces Tavern Museum uses public programs and the staff interprets and preserves the collections as well as landmark buildings. Ever since I heard about the museum while working at the Three Village Historical Society, I thought it would be a good idea if my husband and I to take advantage of the opportunity while we were in New York City. Overall, we both enjoyed the experience and there was so much to see we easily spent a few hours at each exhibit. Since there was so much to see, I decided to share only a few highlights from the visit.

When we walked into the museum, I immediately noticed that there is a room that was recreated to look like the time period. After deciding that we were going to eat at the tavern after our visit to the museum, we went upstairs where the museum is located and were greeted on the second floor. We watched a fifteen minute introduction video about the history of Fraunces Tavern and had a self-guided tour throughout the exhibits. We decided to go up to the next floor first before we saw the other exhibits on the second floor where we checked in.

One of the items in the collection that caught my eye was a letter from Nathan Hale written to his brother Enoch Hale on August 20, 1776. For those not familiar with him, Nathan Hale was a soldier in the Connecticut militia, and after the Battle of Long Island when the colonists lost control of New York City and Long Island to the British Hale volunteered to spy for George Washington before he was caught and hung for being a spy. The experience Hale had as a spy inspired Washington to create a better spy system to better protect spies while carrying out missions to find out about the British’s actions during the Revolutionary War; it became known as the Culper Spy Ring which was based in Setauket.

After visiting the first exhibit where I saw the Nathan Hale letter, we moved on to the next exhibit in the next room. The room was mainly dedicated to the history of the Sons of the American Revolution in New York City. I also noticed there was some displays dedicated to the descendant of Benjamin Tallmadge who was responsible for giving messages to Washington from and was in charge of the Culper Spy Ring. Then I saw in a display case Benjamin Tallmadge’s memoir and he was the only witness at Washington’s Fraunces Tavern farewell address to write down an account of the event inside.

I was surprised to also see a room filled with various flags called A Flash of Color: Early American Flags and Standards that traces the steps of the American flag to what it is today, and has military standards from Early American history. There was also one of the examples of how visitors can interact with the exhibits called a Colonial Costume Photo Booth where kids can dress up in costume and pose with a flag. It is a fun and unique idea, and of course I had to play around with it too.  I did not dress in the costume but I did take a picture holding a flag.

Before we left the Museum, I observed one of the rooms that was recreated to represent the Federalist period called the Clinton Room.  It was named for New York State’s first American governor, George Clinton, who hosted a dinner party for General Washington at Fraunces Tavern to celebrate the evacuation of British troops from New York on November 25, 1783.

Once we finished the tour, and got a few souvenirs, we went to the Porterhouse at Fraunces Tavern for a tavern-like experience for lunch.

There was so much to see, and I fully recommend visiting this museum when you have the opportunity. To learn more about the Fraunces Tavern Museum, visit their website in the resource section.

Resource:

http://www.frauncestavernmuseum.org/

Patron Request: Museum Impressions, John F. Kennedy Hyannis Museum

Added to Medium, November 29, 2018

For this month’s patron request, I am going to give my impressions about John F. Kennedy Hyannis Museum. In previous patron requests, I wrote about museums I have visited during my childhood. This time I have written about a museum I visited while I was in college and my cousin was visiting from Italy, and she wanted to see places and museums in the Boston and Cape Cod area during her visit. If you would like to learn more about Patreon and make your own requests please visit my Patreon page here: https://www.patreon.com/lindseysteward .

Growing up I went to Hyannis with my sisters to visit our maternal grandparents in the town of Centerville. My sisters, my cousins, and I would spend time at our grandparents’ house playing dress up in our grandmother’s old clothing, visit the Penny Store to buy candy, and went to the beach to feed seagulls. At least one of the times we drove around Hyannis, we passed by the beach area where the Kennedys sailed their boat. It was not until I was in college that I knew of and was able to visit the John F. Kennedy Hyannis Museum. I remember walking through the exhibits and seeing the legacy that Kennedy had left behind especially in Hyannis.

It has been a while since I havevisited the museum, and I decided to explore their website to see what theyhave been up to since I was there. A number of exhibits were placed in themuseum over the years and a couple of current exhibits are Robert F. Kennedy: Ripple of Hope and Creating Camelot: The Kennedy Photography of Jacques Lowe. The Robert F. Kennedy: Ripple of Hope exhibit, that is assembled incollaboration with RFK Human Rights Foundation, highlights an impromptu speechhe gave before a large group of distraught onlookers the night Martin LutherKing, Jr. was assassinated in April 1968 just weeks after Kennedy announced hisbid for the presidency. The Creating Camelot: The Kennedy Photography of Jacques Lowe exhibit features intimate,behind-the-scenes images of John F. Kennedy, his wife, Jacqueline, and theirchildren, Caroline and John, taken by Kennedy’s personal photographer. Inaddition to the exhibits, the Museum offers a number of educational programsespecially for children. 

The Museum’s education programs teach students from preschool through high school the value of civic engagement by beginning with President Kennedy’s legacy and then organize age-appropriate experiences, infused with critical thinking skills, a key tenet of civic engagement, into the lessons. In the preschool program, preschoolers from Cape Cod Child Development Program/Head Start have learned the importance of family and community. Early elementary students participated in lessons with a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) theme. Fourth and fifth graders have learned to “use their voice” in their lessons to communicate with local, state, and national officials. Meanwhile, middle school students learn how the Constitution impacts the presidency, through both the election process and the president’s responsibilities. High school students participate in the Federal Budget Simulation, working in collaborative groups to organize and defend their funding of the fourteen discretionary accounts in the federal budget. There are other programs that are outside of the school programs offerings.

For instance, the Museum has the Art Curator Program and Camp Kennedy. TheArt Curator Program, with four participating high schools, allows students toshowcase their knowledge of President Kennedy’s legacy through art, with piecesthat they create and then showcase in an exhibition. Camp Kennedy, which isheld in the summer, is a one day camp open to students who will begin grades 2,3, and 4 designed to engage the youth of our country in exploring Kennedy’slegacy of leadership. The lessons in the camp help campers develop criticalthinking skills, civic engagement, and science, technology, engineering,mathematics and art (STEAM). John F. Kennedy Hyannis Museum offers a variety ofpublic programs that are relevant to the mission and Kennedy’s legacy.

Museum programs at the John F. Kennedy Hyannis Museum include lectures, screenings, book signings, receptions, live webcast viewings, family events and exhibit openings. A few examples of upcoming events include “JFK and the Cold War: Video Presentation of speaker Dr. Sergei Khrushchev” which is a screening and discussion of the Video Presentation of speaker Dr. Sergei Khrushchev, son of former soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, discussing JFK’s and Khrushchev’s relationship, and challenges of the cold war and their relevance to today. Another example is “Brian Murphy, Author of Adrift: Lecture and Book Signing” which is a lecture and book signing event with Washington Post Journalist and author Brian Murphy who will discuss about and sign copies of his new book Adrift: A True Story of Tragedy on the Icy Atlantic and the One Who Lived to Tell about It. The next example is “The Cahoons and the Kennedys: Discussion” which discusses the Cape Cod folk artists, Ralph and Martha Cahoon and the Kennedys’ interest in collecting their works. The Museum is also working on an expansion project to create more space in the museum for its programming.

The renovation project includes construction of a 50-seat state-of-the-art auditorium and media room with a 100 seat community room and configurable tables and chairs that will support Museum-wide programming. On their website, they ask for donations that will support the transformation of the Museum’s antiquated lower level, contemporary educational curricula, advanced media capabilities, and collection and artifact growth. By accomplishing the previously listed goals for the renovation, the Museum is working to create a modern venue where they can better serve the community and continue their work to inspire active and informed civic engagement thereby ensuring the JFK legacy, and the Museum, remain relevant and sustainable for generations to come. There has been a lot of changes since I last visited the museum, and I hope this museum continues to move forward in educating visitors about civic engagement and Kennedy’s legacy.

What are your impressions of the John F. Kennedy Hyannis Museum?

John F. Kennedy Hyannis Museum: https://jfkhyannismuseum.org/

Patron Request: Museum Impressions, Salem Witch Museum

Added to Medium, October 4, 2018

In honor of the month of Halloween and this month’s patron request, I am going to give my impressions about the Salem Witch Museum in Salem, Massachusetts. This museum is another one of the museums I have visited during my childhood but my memory of this experience is limited because I did not see a whole lot of the place at the time. I did visit the museum years later with the Historical Society club at Western New England College (now University). In addition to these memories, I will also give my impressions of the Salem Witch Museum based on what I observe on their website to see how much has changed since I visited.

When I first made the visit to the Salem Witch Museum, it was in the 1990s and I was with my parents and my sisters. We waited in the lobby of the museum until the group we were in was able to sit in the auditorium to learn about the Salem Witch Trials. As my family waited for our turn, I remember looking through the brochures and saw pictures of the statues depicting the townsfolk. I was scared since in my imagination I thought that the creepy statues were going to move around in the dark room. Once our group was able to go in after the previous group left, I did not want to go in so one of my parents went into the gift shop with me until the rest of the family joined us. It was not until I was in college when I returned to the Salem Witch Museum.

The Historical Society club I was a member and treasurer of decided to visit the town of Salem during one of our day trips we typically go on a couple times a year. When I finally went inside of the Salem Witch Museum’s auditorium, I felt silly that I was scared of the statues since it turned out that they were only statues as a recording tells the history of the Salem Witch Trials while lights were used to give spotlights for the stationary statues. After the presentation, we went into the exhibit that shared the history of Wicca and the depiction of witches over the centuries. Then we visited the gift shop before we left to see more of Salem. Our advisor who was also one of my History professors expressed his concerns that the recording used outdated information and the Witch Trials overshadowing other significant narrative in Salem’s history especially Salem’s maritime history. While he did express his concerns, we did visit a couple of places that were related to the Salem Witch Trials such as the memorial to those who were killed and the Witch House where one of the judges who tried a number of court cases during that period. We made visits to other places in Salem in addition to the Salem Witch Museum and places related to the 1692 Salem Witch Trails.

There are many places we visited in Salem as a group which are easily overlooked because of the popularity of the Salem Witch Trials. For instance, we visited the Salem Maritime National Historic Sites where a number of historic buildings, wharves, and a replica tallship tell stories about how Salem residents helped build the foundation for one of the most powerful national economies. Another example of places we visited is the House of Seven Gables is a house built for Captain John Turner and remained within the family for three generations, and was made famous by Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel The House of Seven Gables published in 1851. It has been a long time since I visited the town of Salem, and now I look at the website for the first time in years and I am impressed.

On their “History/Education” page of the website, there is a section on witch hunts that gives varying examples of witch hunts throughout history and modern history. An equation is presented at the top of the page that reads out “Fear+Trigger=Scapegoat”; in other words, it means that when fear is triggered a scapegoat is used to express one’s fear that causes harm to individuals treated as scapegoats. During the Salem Witch Trails, it was the fear of the devil that was triggered by the community which led to many innocent people to be tried and killed for being witches. A modern history example listed on the page is the fear of infection which was triggered by AIDS and unfortunately the gay community was used as a scapegoat for the AIDS epidemic. The page allows visitors to submit their own examples, and I think it is an interesting way to illustrate how the Salem Witch Trails have occurred.

The website also provides a self-guided tour page that allows visitors to see locations around Essex County and a few key sites in and around Boston that are related to the events of 1692 Salem Witch Trials. Individuals can click on the town and city names on the map or on the left side of the page to not only see pictures but to read about the sites in these locations. There are descriptions of the sites from the witchcraft trials which can still be seen today, including original houses, foundations, grave sites, and sites marked by historic markers. If one is interested in learning about witches and maritime history, I recommend visiting Salem when one has the opportunity.

Also, if you would like to learn more about Patreon and make your own requests please visit my Patreon page here: https://www.patreon.com/lindseysteward

Announcement: Next week will be my 100th blog post so stay tuned for a special blog post!

Resources:
https://salemwitchmuseum.com/
https://www.nps.gov/sama/index.htm
https://7gables.org/