Happy New Year everyone! Since we are in our second week of the new year, I thought I would share a few plans I have so far for this website. I am going to share my thoughts on the museum field and how it is continuing to handle the coronavirus pandemic as we are going into the second year since the initial lockdown in the United States.
Also, last month I released a poll to decide the second historic site you want to read about. If you would like to respond to the poll, be sure to answer the poll before it closes on January 31st. Click on the link here: https://wp.me/p8J8yQ-1xi
I will continue my history of witchcraft series that I started in the last months of 2021. I am planning the second post to be about witchcraft history outside of Europe and the United States.
I am also continuing the book project that I started last year. To learn more, be sure to check out what I am offering as a thank you for your support by visiting my Buy Me A Coffee page here.
Since we recently celebrated Halloween, I thought I would share a short introduction to the history of witchcraft. When we talk about witchcraft, the first things that come to mind are movies and T.V. shows that depict witchcraft, Halloween decorations and costumes, the Salem Witch Trials, et. cetera. It is important to acknowledge that witchcraft history can be found around the world not just in Europe and Colonial New England. Witchcraft looks different for each culture, and therefore not one definition describes what is witchcraft. There are many definitions of witchcraft and witches used by historians in the past and now. Ronald Hutton in his book The Witch: A History of Fear from Ancient Times to the Present shared a number of definitions past historians have shared. For instance, Hutton stated that a witch is “…any person who uses magic (although those who employ it for beneficial purposes are often popularly distinguished as ‘good’ or ‘white’ witches); or as the practitioner of a particular kind of nature-based Pagan religion…”. He wrote this book as a contribution towards the understanding of the beliefs concerning witchcraft, and the resulting notorious trials of alleged witches, in early modern Europe. Hutton’s The Witch also described witchcraft history found outside of the United States and Europe. I will go into more depth about witchcraft history in future blog posts, and if there is something you would like to know more about, please let me know. In the meantime, I will introduce the history of witchcraft on Long Island.
While one of the most well-known witchcraft cases took place in Salem, Massachusetts, there have been witch trials in New York and even one that was decades before the Salem Witch Trials. In 1658, a woman named Elizabeth “Goody” Garlick in East Hampton, New York was accused of witchcraft but was spared the same fate accused people faced in Salem. After the East Hampton magistrates collected the evidence, they decided to refer the case to the higher courts in Hartford, Connecticut (Long Island was four years shy from becoming a part of the Connecticut colony at the time; it was not until 1664 when it became a part of New York colony). While witchcraft was a capital offense at the time, John Winthrop, Jr.’s court rendered a non-guilty verdict for Goody Garlick. John Winthrop, Jr., the son of the co-founder of the Massachusetts Bay colony, was made the Governor of the Hartford colony and was one of the few people that were skeptical of magic particularly common people having the capabilities to practice magic; part of his skepticism was inspired by his background as a scholar whose research pursued finding explanations for magical forces influencing the world around them. In addition to learning about witchcraft in New York, I also previously did some research on modern witchcraft history and the pagan origins of Halloween.
Some witches and pagans (or Neo-Pagans) celebrate Samhain (“saah-win”), an ancient Gaelic festival that marks the time of year when seasons change, and many believe the boundary between the world and the world of the dead is at its thinnest. Samhain is known to be Halloween’s earliest root. Early celebrations of Samhain involved a lot of ritualistic ceremonies to connect to spirits including celebrating in costumes (using animal skins) as a disguise themselves against ghosts, special feasts, built bonfires and made lanterns by hollowing out gourds. To learn more about the history of Halloween, I wrote about Halloween’s origins in the post “The History of Halloween and How Museums Celebrate” and I have included it in the links section below.
I included more links about witchcraft on Long Island if you would like to read more about this part of history. If you want to read more blog posts about witchcraft history, please let me know.
Since it has been a while, I decided to plan another virtual trip to a museum. In a previous visit to Salem, Massachusetts, I was not able to visit the Peabody Essex Museum and decided to write about my virtual experience. According to their website, the Peabody Essex Museum is a museum of international art and culture that is dedicated to connecting art to the world. Also, the staff and board strive to create experiences that transform people’s lives by broadening their perspectives, attitudes, and knowledge of themselves and the world through exhibitions, programs, publications, media, and other related activities.
During my visit to the Peabody Essex Museum, I took virtual tours of their exhibits that were available on their website. Each tour has a 360-degree experience within their spaces powered by Matterport Lightshed Photography Studio; to move around in the space, I clicked on the rings and used the mouse to zoom in/out, and to look all around. The exhibits I explored were Jacob Lawrence: the American Struggle, Asian Export, Fashion & Design, Maritime, Where the Questions Live, Art & Nature Center, and Powerful Figures.
Jacob Lawrence was a leading modern American painter and the most prominent black American artist of the time. In the exhibit Jacob Lawrence: the American Struggle, his pieces were his responses to the fraught national political climate and according to the exhibit panel he wanted to visualize a more complete American history through word and image. The exhibit is a series of 30 paintings that interpret pivotal moments in from the American Revolution and the early decades of the republic between 1770 and 1817; his goal was to revive the struggles of the founding fathers and underrepresented historical figures in his art for his day and for future generations.
A couple of the paintings include ones that interpret the Boston Tea Party and Paul Revere’s Ride. Each painting included a quote from historical figures or primary sources on the side panels next to them. For instance, his interpretation of the Boston Tea Party had a quote from a song of 1773 which stated:
Bring out your axes,
and tell King George
we’ll pay no taxes
on his foreign tea…
While exploring the exhibit, I thought that the interpretations were interesting and visually striking especially since I was used to seeing paintings like the Signing of The Declaration of Independence by John Trumbull as an example of historical interpretation in art. I believe Lawrence achieved his goal with his painting series and I enjoyed the virtual experience.
The Peabody Essex Museum not only provides virtual tours but there are also at-home programs inspired by the museum. For instance, there is a program called PEM Pals that is located on PEM’s YouTube channel. PEM Pals is a weekly program dedicated to art, stories and learning for children under the age of 5 and their caretakers; each new episode are streamed at 10:30am Eastern Standard Time on Wednesdays. There is also Drop-In Art Activities that provides video tutorials to create various projects including but not limited to: milk jug elephants, egg carton ladybugs, cotton swab tree painting, plastic bottle chandelier, map making, and bubble bottle. Another example of at-home programs is Explore Outside in which participants are encouraged to go outdoors to investigate the world with nature-based activity sheets for bird watching, neighborhood tree trek, and scavenger hunts.
One of the exhibits that are available in person with a sample of objects from the exhibit available online was The Salem Witch Trials 1692. It is on view from September 26, 2020 to April 4, 2021. The exhibit explored the hysteria that involved more than 400 people and led to the deaths of 25 innocent people (men, women, and children) between June 1692 and March 1693. There are many unfounded theories about the Salem Witch Trials about how the hysteria started, and interest in the Trials still persist to this day. If you are able to see it in person, I recommend visiting this exhibit.
I hope to visit the Peabody Essex Museum in person one day. To learn more about the Museum, check out the links below.