Sunday, June 26, 2011

Museum of Indian Culture

Also located in Allentown, PA is the Museum of Indian Culture. By pure happenstance, this is located off the same road as the DaVinci Museum.

The Museum of Indian Culture is only open on Fridays - Sundays from noon-4. Each visit includes a guided tour with a local expert.

The focus of the museum is the Lenape (Delaware) tribe, but the museum and docent also relate it to other tribes, such as the Iroquois and the Hopi. Outside is a small Lenape Village. Inside the museum is filled with lots of artifacts that help teach about Lenape daily life.


Ashley had heard about mortar and pestles being tied to trees to make it easier to grind corn. She was pleased to see it in action and have a chance to make it work.
The current special exhibit is on Kachinas: Spirit Dolls of the Hopi, featuring the carvings of George Melloy. That alone is worth the trip.

On a side note, there are many "experts" on every subject. They will each tell you with absolute certainty that they are correct because their research shows that what we used to believe was completely wrong. We encountered that situation at this museum.

Whenever possible it is best to use primary sources for your information. However the Lenape had an oral tradition, so it is impossible for us to read their diaries and letters. M.J. Harrington's fictional book called "The Indians of New Jersey: Dickon among the Lenape" is considered an insider's look into the early Lenape culture as seen through the eyes of a white teenage boy.

DaVinci Museum

Ashley and I ended the first week of summer vacation with a drive to Allentown, NJ. Learning from earlier mistakes, we packed a lunch and checked directions before leaving home.

Our first stop was the DaVinci Science Museum.

When we left New Jersey it looked like it was going to be a stormy day -- a perfect day to go to a museum. The DaVinci museum has been high on my list ever since I read about it on a home school message board.

We must have timed the experience just right. There were other people in the museum, but not so many that we became impatient waiting for our turn to try the hands on experiences. If I were to do it differently, though, I would bring along a friend for Ashley so the girls could do the activities together.

The museum just opened an exhibit about how things are made. Today Ashley pointed to an object and told me it was made by pouring it into a mold.

Ashley's favorite exhibit involved riding a bicycle to power different types of lightbulbs. She gained a new appreciation for being able to turn on a light without having to pedal first.

My favorite exhibit involved levers and weights. Amazing how this simple technique makes it possible to do what was once thought of as impossible. A good lesson for us to figure out how to make something easier to do before we get hurt doing it the hard way.

It was hard tearing Ashley away from the place. Perhaps we should visit more science museums, but next time go with a friend.

Historic Walnford - archaeology

This weekend Ashley and I went on an archaeological dig at Historic Walnford in Allentown, NJ.

The experience brought back memories of the semester I took archaeology at Trenton State College. For 15 weeks we learned about archaeology and applied our knowledge to a dig around the Green Farm House on campus. For weeks we dug in small pots and sifted through dirt. After all these years I cannot remember finding anything overly exciting.

This weekend we went on a "seeded" dig. Sara, the park ranger, put 100 pounds of sand, and at least 25 objects into a laundry tub. For 90 minutes Ashley and I sifted through the sand slowly and learned about archeology.

The original program called for digging through dirt outside. This modified program (modified due to the low registration and the muddy conditions outside) was just perfect as an introduction. Whenever we began to get itchy because we had not found anything in a while and wondered if we had reached the bottom, we found more stuff.

At the end of the our dig, Sara then led us inside the Waln residence to see objects similar to the ones in our tub. Items we identified one way, turned out to be something completely different. Sara was exceptional in explaining it all to Ashley.

Historic Walnford is also a mill town. The blue building at the top is a mill. On Saturdays from 1-4 there is someone explaining how a mill works. We did not stay for that program. Based on our experience with the archaeological program, we would recommend a tour of the mill.

The location is very photogenic, so bring your camera.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Red Mill Museum

Our travels took us to Clinton, NJ to the Red Mill. Don and I have often stopped in Clinton on our way to Bethlehem, PA so I did not bother to get directions. My first observation was that roads look a lot different from the passenger seat. Fortunately Ashley was a good sport about our U-Turns and detours.

According to the historic marker out front, the Red Mill circa 1810 processed wool, plaster, grist, talc, and graphite. It once generated electricity for the area. It was a limestone quarry from early 1800s to 1963. The location includes the mill (seen in the picture with Ashley) and a tiny village with a dozen buildings including a general store, one-room schoolhouse, the mill overseer's office, and a couple of tenant homes.

It is a very picturesque setting. It also seems to be very understaffed. Someone was on hand to take our money, and hand us a brochure for the self guided tour, but she did not know the answer to even the most basic question -- where is the special exhibit? I knew at that point we were truly on our own.

As with the Roebling Museum, what helped us focus our learning was an activity for children. At the Red Mill Museum there is a scavenger hunt. When we reached the end and still had two items to find (a typewriter and roll-top desk) we knew we missed something. Fortunately a different volunteer was setting up the art gallery and pointed us in the right direction.

Ashley's favorite part was the collection of sewing machines. This is about half of those on display.

Based on our experience I cannot recommend the place. I gained more from their website than I did from visiting them.

The best part of the day was having Ashley tell me (completely unprompted and while I was driving) she had a good time. I'm already looking forward to our next adventure.

Holcombe-Jimison Farmstead Museum

Yesterday's adventures taught Ashley and I about agriculture in New Jersey. Our first stop was the Holcombe-Jimison Farmstead Museum in Lambertville, NJ.

I went in with low expectations. The museum is only open from 9-noon on Wednesdays (only in warmer months) and from 1-4 on Sundays all year round, plus for school groups. At first glance, we saw a lot of items we have seen at other historic places -- how to make candles, how a loom works, etc. Plus, there were a lot of cars, but hardly any people around. Hmm...

Turned out a meeting was taking place. Hank, one of the trustees, was enlisted to give us a tour. What a difference it makes when someone guides you through a place like this! Hank has a passion for agriculture. He has traveled around the world -- a couple of times -- sharing this passion with others. He donated many of the items on exhibit. Including this chicken crate Ashley is standing on in front of Mr. FAMous, the animatronic mascot for the Flemington Auction Market.

After Hank's tour, he suggested we visit the blacksmith. The blacksmith gave Ashley a "300 year old hook [he] made yesterday." Her eyes lit up when he said if she comes back on a Sunday wearing long pants and closed toe shoes he will show her how to make one herself. Not sure what was shining brighter -- his working fire or her eyes.

It is always good to learn something along the way, even something small. For Ashley it was learning about the first steel thresher made by Deats, Little and Co. -- prior to that people believed steel farm equipment would damage the nutrients in the soil. This machine proved them wrong.

I left with two thoughts: Pampered Chef has nothing on the women of the 19th century -- they were just as into their kitchen gadgets (corers, cherry pitters and asparagus gatherers) as we are in the 21st century. My other take away was learning about how women took the labels off of feedsacks to turn them into clothing. Kit Kittredge taught a new generation that feedsacks were turned into outfits, but this went a step further.

We would recommend this place. See if Hank is around and tell him the Pillsburys sent you.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Roebling Museum

Ashley and I have officially begun our tour of historic sites. I will try to blog about the places as we journey in our adventures. I will include websites or an address or phone number so you can follow in our footsteps.

Our first stop was to the brand-new Roebling Museum.

The museum is easy to find from the RiverLine train station. It is not hard to find by car, either.

After decades of sitting empty, the building and grounds were turned over to
the Township of Florence and the Roebling Museum in June 2009. This building served as the gateway for the factory shift workers every day from its beginnings as just a gate in 1905, until the factory closed in 1947 (after many additions had been built around the original gate).

The building looks sparkling new. The visit began with a brief movie filled with much oral history as told to the producer, Clifford Zink (whom I met a couple of days later at Art All Night). He interviewed factory workers and children of factory workers. Some of whom have since passed away.

Inside there is a room dedicated to the Roebling family. The Roeblings are most famous for creating the steel ropes that built the Brooklyn Bridge in 1883. They went on to create other famous suspension bridges, such as the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.

A second room focused on working in the factory.

A third room taught us about living in the town of Roebling. This was my first visit to the town, though I have passed it when I drive down Route 130. It was built as a factory town for the workers of the factory. People lived in the town according to the jobs they held. They started off in a tiny row home. After a promotion they moved up to a semi-detached home and then a few lived in free-standing homes. Everyone knew each other no matter their ethnicity. It sounded idyllic.

The museum is small, but it is amazing what they have created in such a short time.

Ashley's favorite part was the building where the workers received their shoes. You cannot go in the building, and there is not much to see through the window, but the thought that it housed lots of shoes appealled to her.

The highlight for me was the scavenger hunt at the end. Something to keep in mind is to always ask the staff if there are activities for kids. I find it helps keep us focused, too.

I will admit that Ashley and I moved this to the top of the list because we received free passes (for voluntering at Rockingham) that were set to expire at the end of the month. Even with the movie, we still only spent about an hour at the site. Everyone was very friendly. They have done a terrific job in a short time. I wish them much luck in the future.

Battle of Monmouth

In 1778 the Continental Army battled troops battled the British-German-Loyalist Army on what is now known as the Monmouth Battlefield in Manalapan, NJ.

I'll be the first to admit that each of the battles look alike after a while. There are a bunch of men in fine looking uniforms battling a bunch of scruffy men wearing their every day clothes. Like the Battle of Trenton, this was a key battle in the Revolutionary War.

This battle's most famous fighter was a woman named Mary Ludwig Hays, better remembered as Molly Pitcher. Stacy Roth, of History on the Hoof,, gave a fabulous presentation about her life. If you ever get the chance to hear Stacy perform go. She is a natural story teller.

The highlight each day is the battle. This battlefield has a built in amphitheater, or hill, making for great viewing, some of which is in the shade.

There were also campsites -- both British and American. Sutlers were on hand to sell their wares. I was thrilled to find some strong ribbon with which I can fix my petticoat. Sometimes it truly is the small things in life.

It was a crazy weekend for us. We did not allow nearly enough time to enjoy the event. Each reenactor is passionate about their hobby. Each has done a lot of research into the time period and their character and are willing (sometimes too willing) to share their knowledge with you.

If you are interested in Revolutionary War history, this is a must see event.

One room schoolhouse

I've always romanticized one-room school houses. Perhaps it stems back to my days of reading "Little House in the Prairie" where everyone learned together and, yet also, from each other.

Until last week, though, I don't remember ever stepping inside a one-room schoolhouse. (This is where mom corrects me by reminding me of the one we saw in Lancaster, PA or Columbus, OH or on some other family vacation.)

I have heard Larry Kidder speak eloquently about the one-room schoolhouse at Howell Living History Farm. I have even driven past it on many visits to the farm. Earlier this month, though, I went inside it.

Larry Kidder is a newly retired history teacher -- the kind that if everyone had growing up we would all love history. Back in the 1970s, he and his wife, Joyce, began volunteering at Howell Living History Farm. They handle all requests from mucking stables, to manning the register, to giving history lessons with grace. They are both very passionate about teaching.

Sadly the schoolhouse has undergone many transformations over the years. For about 50 years is was a family home. Hence, the interior has been modified and modernized over the years.

Still, I found it fascinating listening to Larry Kidder talk about the school, its teachers, students, parents and townspeople who enjoyed the place. Even though I have heard him give a similar presentation in the barn, hearing it again in the schoolhouse seemed to make the ghosts of the past come alive and smile.

The schoolhouse is open very rarely for tours. If you happen to be available next time, I would highly recommend a visit.

Art All Night

This weekend Trenton hosted it's fifth annual Art All Night program. Art All Night is a 24-hour art show hosted in the Roebling Steel Works building near Broad Street.

Artists of all ages and all levels of talent are encouraged to participate. We attended the event in 2009. Last year we each submitted art work. Don and I, more as a joke than anything else, put a $5 price tag on our 4x6 photographs framed at the dollar store. They actually sold! Ashley did not want to sell her Fashion Drawing.

This year we each submitted a photograph, but we raised our price to $20 each -- with the entire procedes going to ArtWorks. Mine photograph, entitled "A Look into the Past" sold. Sadly Don and Ashley came home with their artwork.

I took this picture at Pennsbury Manor.

Ashley's picture is called "Hide and Seek with my Cat." It is three pictures of Ariel hiding in the backyard.

Don's picture is titled "Sunnyside up."

Thursday night we have been invited to a meet the artists event where the donors meet the artists who created their art. Should be fun.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Variety Show

The school year is drawing to a rapid close. What seemed like an endless amount of days and homework is down down to 7 days -- 4 half days, a field trip, a pizza reward party and a class party. Most of those days they don't even have to wear their uniforms.

Last Friday was one of the end of the year rituals -- the BBQ followed by a variety show. Through "Annie," we learned there are a lot of talented students at Ashley's school. The variety show gave us a chance to see even more students display their talents.

The variety show had 37 acts. Quite a "variety" of talents were on display. There were lots of singers, including one girl who is heading to NYC this weekend to audition for "Annie" on Broadway. There were also instrumentalists on piano, a teeny tiny violin (1/4 size, perhaps, maybe 1/2), electric guitar and drums. Also many dancers, both soloists and groups, and comedians.

Ashley fell in the category of comedian with her one minute ventriliquism act entitled "Doggone Funny." She wrote her own skit.