Reconstructing a Lost “Field Quarter”

In this 34-second time-lapse video, James Madison’s Montpelier in Virginia constructs a log “field quarter” (a dwelling for enslaved field workers).  It’s first constructed in a building to cut and fit all the pieces in a protected place during winter, then re-assembled in the field on a beautiful spring day in 2015.  It’s now on the exact spot where the foundations for a house were uncovered through archaeology (if you look carefully to the horizon on the left, you’ll see the Visitor Center).

Montpelier is in the midst of reconstructing many of the lost buildings associated with the enslaved African community, using archaeological and documentary evidence assembled over the past decade.  Their major project is the South Yard, six buildings next to the Madison’s mansion, which will be completed in the next few years, thanks to a generous gift from David Rubenstein.

Introducing Amazon “Dash Button” for Historic Sites

Amazon-Dash-for-Historic-SitesIn an exclusive partnership with Engaging Places LLC, Amazon.com has introduced a “Dash Button” for historic sites and house museums. Dash Button is a simple one-touch button that can be placed in your kitchen, bath, and laundry where you store your favorite products.  When you’re running low, simply press the Dash Button and Amazon delivers your household favorites to you so you can skip a last-minute trip to the store.

This innovative technology can be used for a variety of services, not just products, and Amazon and Engaging Places is launching Dash Button specifically for house museums and historic sites.  In the last year, the Dash Button has been field-tested with Continue reading

Video: Smithsonian’s Museum Goes High Tech

In this 3:35 video, The Verge interviews Aaron Cope, the head of engineering, about the new high tech exhibits at the Cooper Hewitt Museum, which is in the former home of Andrew Carnegie and part of the Smithsonian Institution.  The Cooper Hewitt closed for the last three years for an extensive renovation to imagine a museum that was part of the Internet and served as a bridge to their huge 130-million-object collection.

How to Get a Behind-the-Scenes Look at Historic New England

Program in New England StudiesHistoric New England presents its annual Program in New England Studies (PINES), an intensive week-long exploration of New England from Monday, June 15 to Saturday, June 20, 2015.  PINES includes lectures by noted curators and architectural historians, workshops, behind-the-scenes tours, and special access to historic house museums and collections. The program offers a broad approach to teaching the history of New England culture through artifacts and architecture in a way that no other museum or historic site in the Northeast can match.  It’s like the Attingham Summer School as a week in New England.

Examine New England history and material culture from the seventeenth century through the Colonial Revival with some of the country’s leading experts in regional architecture and decorative arts. Curators lecture on furniture, textiles, ceramics, and art, with information on history, craftsmanship, and changing methods of production. Architectural historians explore architecture starting with the seventeenth-century Massachusetts Bay style through the Federal and Georgian eras, to Gothic Revival and the Colonial Revival.

Expert presenters include: Continue reading

Are There Cultural Connections Between North and South?

Newport Symposium Banner 2015On April 26-29, 2015, the Preservation Society of Newport County (aka the Newport Mansions) is hosting a symposium on the cultural connections between the North and South from the Colonial Period to the Gilded Age as seen through furnishings, silver, textiles, painting, architecture, and interiors.  Scholars include:

  • Daniel Kurt Ackerman, Associate Curator, Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts
  • Brandy Culp, Curator, Historic Charleston Foundation
  • Caryne Eskridge, Project Manager & Research Coordinator, The Classical Institute of the South
  • Stephen Harrison, Curator of Decorative Art & Design, Cleveland Museum of Art
  • Brock Jobe, Professor of American Decorative Arts, Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
  • Alexandra Kirtley, The Montgomery Garvan Associate Curator of American Decorative Arts, Philadelphia Museum of Art
  • Jefferson Mansell, Historian, Natchez National Historical Park
  • George McDaniel, Executive Director, Drayton Hall
  • George H. McNeely IV, Vice President, Strategic & International Affairs, World Monuments Fund
  • Richard Nylander, Curator Emeritus, Historic New England
  • Tom Savage, Director of Museum Affairs, Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
  • Susan P. Schoelwer, Robert H. Smith Senior Curator, George Washington’s Mount Vernon
  • Arlene Palmer Schwind, Curator, Victoria Mansion
  • Carolyn Weekley, Juli Grainger Curator, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation
  • Martha Willoughby, Senior Specialist, Christie’s

Registration is $600 and includes an opening reception at Rosecliff (1902) and dinner in the Great Hall at the Breakers (1895).  Scholarships are available to undergraduate and graduate students, as well as arts and humanities professionals.  To register or for more information, contact symposium@NewportMansions.org or call 401-847-1000 x 160.  Tell them that you heard about it from Engaging Places and you’ll receive a 10% discount!

SlideShare: Promoting Teen Night Out Using Social Media

In this 17 slide deck, the Lukens Company explains how they promoted Teen Night Out at the Seattle Art Museum using social media.  Since 2007, the museum has held thirteen Teen Night Outs with over 8,000 attendees.   You’ll find that it’s a well-rounded campaign that carefully defined the target audience and used several measures of success.  If you want to reach teenagers, you’ll want to check this out.

IMHO: The National Trust’s Collections Management Policy is Not Ready to Eat

Last year, the National Trust for Historic Preservation adopted a new Collections Management Policy (CMP) and widely promoted it at professional conferences and in national publications as a model to house museums and historic sites to resolve some of their stewardship challenges. At its heart is,

“a new approach—one that treats the historic structures and landscapes, and the object collections, as being the same type of resource. This approach places the historic buildings and landscapes on a par with objects and documents, strengthening the interconnected stewardship and interpretation of these historic resources.”

It’s a good idea but it’s not a new approach.

American Wing at the Met featuring the 1822 Branch Bank of the US.

American Wing at the Met featuring the facade of the 1822 Branch Bank of the United States.

Early in the twentieth century, museums of various types began collecting buildings. Henry Ford moved Edison’s laboratory and the Wright Brothers bicycle shop to his Greenfield Village, John D. Rockefeller quietly bought dozens of buildings to create Colonial Williamsburg, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art installed the facade of the Branch Bank of the United States as the featured object of its 1924 American Wing. Much later, landscapes were considered worthy of preservation and now most historic estates, such as Casa del Herrero, Miller House and Garden, and Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park, treat their gardens and landscapes with the same respect as the furniture and art works at their sites.

The National Trust’s rationale for their new approach is that, “conflicts between Continue reading

Museums Responding to Mosul and Nimrud

According to reports received by the New York Times, ISIS has “destroyed parts of two of northern Iraq’s most prized ancient cities, Nimrud and Hatra. On Sunday, residents said militants destroyed parts of Dur Sharrukin, a 2,800-year-old Assyrian site near the village of Khorsabad.”  The extent of the destruction is shown in this video (not for the faint of heart):

It’s a reminder of the important role that museums and historic sites play in preserving heritage and culture–and how easy it is for it to be destroyed and lost. It’s also a reminder that places far away from America can affect us, both politically, economically, and culturally. Some museums have found a way to make this connection through temporary exhibits, including this vacant vitrine at the Field Museum:

Exhibit case at the Field Museum noting destruction at the Mosul Museum in Iraq.

Exhibit case at the Field Museum noting destruction at the Mosul Museum in Iraq.

If your organization is also responding to the destruction of museum collections and historic sites in Iraq, please share your ideas in the comments below.