Virtual Museum Impressions: Peabody Essex Museum

October 29, 2020

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:

Rally Mohawks!

            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.

Happy Halloween!!

Links:

Peabody Essex Museum

The Salem Witch Trials 1692

Learning from 1692 by Dinah Cardin

Virtual Tours

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

Museum Impressions: Henry Sheldon Museum

November 21, 2019

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.

For more information, check out their website: https://henrysheldonmuseum.org/

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

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/

Museum Impressions, JFK Presidential Library and Museum

June 13, 2019

In previous posts, 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.

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/