Tag Archives: Pennsylvania

Upcoming Workshops Just for Historic House Museums (plus Big Discount Today)

Wheelwright House was built in 1780 at Strawbery Banke Museum inIf you’re looking to sharpen your house museum or historic site, AASLH is offering two workshops in the next couple months that are just for you.  I’m co-teaching in both of them, but discussing very different topics:

Reinventing the Historic House Museum” on March 22, 2017 at Cliveden in Philadelphia, PA.  Ken Turino and I will explore techniques, processes, and examples for reimaging historic house museums, using Cliveden as a case study and exercises that are based on your historic site.  Unfortunately, this workshop has already sold out with fifty participants, however, additional workshops are under consideration in other regions.

Historic House Museum Issues and Operations” on April 6-7, 2017 at the Strawbery Banke Museum in Portsmouth, NH. George McDaniel and I provide a broad overview of the management of house museums, which I consider one of the most complex responsibilities in the museum field (who else puts their most important object outside 24/7?).  We cover a lot of territory in two days, from boards to fundraising, from collections to interpretation, from sustainability to disaster preparedness.  It’s ideal for those who are opening a house museum or a new director of a house museum, but I’ve found that even those who are working in established house museums benefit because it allows you to step back and get the big picture. With more than three dozen historic houses from the 17th to the 20th century, the Strawbery Banke Museum is a great place to study house museums of every variety, plus Portsmouth is a charming New England town.  Registration is $270 members/$385 nonmembers, but you get $40 off registration if you book by March 2.  If you can act fast, you can save an additional $50 off of the early-bird rate (that’s $90) if you book today (midnight, Thursday, February 23) by using the code “HHMFlash.”

These two workshops are offered annually and travel around the country, often at the request from a historic site or house museum.  If you’d like to bring one of these workshops to your region, contact Amber Mitchell at AASLH at 615-320-3203 x 814.


Tackling Race, Gender, Religion, and Sex in Prison: Oh My!

The big gray brooding mass of Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia.

The big gray brooding mass of Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia.

Despite the winter weather, I’ve been traveling extensively this month around the country.  In Philadelphia I finally had a chance to visit the Eastern State Penitentiary, an enormous prison close the city’s art museums but otherwise oh so far away.  When built in the early 19th century, it was the most famous and expensive prison in the world, but after it closed in 1971, it became a forgotten ruin.  Today, a private non-profit organization preserves and manages this National Historic Landmark with an usual mission statement:

Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site, Inc. works to preserve and restore the architecture of Eastern State Penitentiary; to make the Penitentiary accessible to the public; to explain and interpret its complex history; to place current issues of corrections and justice in an historical framework; and to provide a public forum where these issues are discussed. While the interpretive program advocates no specific position on the state of the American justice system, the program is built on the belief that the problems facing Eastern State Penitentiary’s architects have not yet been solved, and that the issues these early prison reformers addressed remain of central importance to our nation.

In a way, old prisons are historic houses so I’ve been intrigued by the way these popular tourist destinations are interpreted to the public.  Eastern State is a significant contrast from Alcatraz Island, which Continue reading

Video: Art Splash at the Philadelphia Museum of Art

Jill Frechie produced this 2:00 video explaining Art Splash, a summer program for families at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.  Emily Schreiner, associate curator of education, explains some of the 300 programs offered during the ten week period, which features a different object each week.  Three hundred programs in ten weeks? I’m exhausted just thinking about it.

Video: Happy 4th from Philadelphia

In this 1:39 video, Historic Philadelphia features Benjamin Franklin and a dozen living history actors dancing to Pharrel William’s “Happy” on the streets of the City of Brotherly Love. Dozens of ongoing and special events will take place on and around Independence Mall over Independence Week and the summer and this video shows the fun and lively side of its history.  It was produced by Historic Philadelphia, Inc. (@HistoricPhilly), Independence Visitor Center (@PHLVisitorCntr), National Constitution Center (@ConstitutionCtr), Visit Philadelphia (@VisitPhilly), and Independence National Historical Park (@INDEPENDENCENHP). More information is available at www.historicphillysummer.com.   Thanks to Sandy Lloyd for sharing this video.

Period Rooms at a Modern University

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During a recent visit to Pittsburgh, I visited the Cathedral of Learning at the University of Pittsburgh.  At 535 feet, it’s the tallest university building in the nation and dominates the skyline east of downtown.  Despite its name, it’s more skyscraper than cathedral.  It’s also an historical and architectural landmark, built between 1926 and 1937 as an Art Deco “cake” with Gothic Revival “frosting.”  For those of us working at historic house museums, what’s most interesting are the Nationality Rooms, a series of 29 classrooms on the first and third floors designed and furnished to represent different nations and ethnicities.

The classrooms vary in size but each have Continue reading