Archive for the ‘Education’ Category


Like Teri says, “Delaware Rocks”

April 20, 2010

Today’s mail came with a sweet hand-written note from Teri in Room 29 in Califormia.  A couple of months ago, Teri wrote to us asking for information on the state of Delaware.  Vicky, the Executive Assistant, answers student letters like Teri’s.  She laughed so hard at this one because Teri explained to her that she chose Delaware because it has great seafood and “juicy history.”  We didn’t know what it meant, but it was funny!  Vicky did her thing and put a package in the mail to Teri.  Today, she got a “thank you,” the first one she can ever remember receiving from a student request. 

It turns out that young Teri has a bright future for a variety of reasons from our vantage point.  She wrote to let us know that she and her friends had made us a picture.  This letter makes us smile as much or more than the “juicy history” remark.  We’re glad to know that someone in California thinks our state rocks!

Rock on! Ellen


Two Minutes between Paper Towels

April 6, 2010

 Perhaps you were wondering: what was the Curator of Education at the Read House and Gardens doing at 11:45 today? I would hate to leave you in suspense!

 Well, at 11:40am I was drying herbs, rosemary to be exact, in the microwave (two minutes on high, between paper towels, hit “start”- and keep an eye on them, wouldn’t want them to catch fire!). We use the herbs for grinding with mortar and pestle with school children for Frontier Delaware, at the Delaware History Museum. As the microwave beeped for the 3rd time it dawned on me, 11:45 was nearly upon me, so I hurriedly explored much more intriguing work going on around me here at the Read House!

Back Parlor Jib Window Reinstallation

 At 11:45, Chris, a carpenter (from JS Cornell) working on our Save America’s Treasures exterior restoration project, was busy reinstalling our second jib window in our Back Parlor. How joyous we are to see one of those jib windows back in place, luring us to the garden in this gorgeous weather! A jib window acts as both a window letting in a flood of light and as a door: the middle window slides up, and the bottom window (on a hinge) swings in, providing great space for people to walk out into the garden. Today we do not use the jib windows in this manner, but they are breathtaking to gaze upon nonetheless!

 As I walked from the Back Parlor toward our historic Kitchen, picking up the aroma of something besides rosemary, I caught a glimpse of a mason troweling mortar and laying the brickwork for our terrace.

Bricklaying on the Terrace

 It will be a welcome change to have another access way to the house, as we will be bombarded with thousands of school children this spring, who will undoubtedly march along our brick walkways from our back garden gate and stop at the terrace to discuss their “museum manners”.


Fresh Ginger Cakes


In the kitchen I was greeted by several spring camp children, chaperone, and guide on their way to visit the Nursery, they were each discussing the delicious “ginger cakes” they had just nibbled. Judy Austin one of our Read House cooks (interpreting Sylvia Rice today) was retrieving a fresh-baked tray of ginger cakes from the Dutch oven over our hearth. I could hear the dryer running, ah drying napkins that the laundress and children had just washed; they could have been drying on the bushes today in the historic way…

I poked and prodded the last burning log to encourage it to drop to coals and by this time 11:45 had passed. Back to the rosemary, paper towels, and two minutes.

 I wonder… what were you doing at 11:45???


A New Kind of Club….

January 29, 2010

Students Examining Old Image of Their School, originally uploaded by Delaware Historical Society.

I am very excited about a new partnership between the us here at the Delaware Historical Society and middle school students and P.S. DuPont. Together, we have formed a history club. The club was the idea of Kelly Whitaker – an absolutely extraordinary 6th grade teacher! Because P.S. DuPont just switched from an elementary school to a middle school – she thought having a history club would be a great way to build a sense of community, history education…and FUN!

Visiting the Jail Cells
Image by Delaware Historical Society via Flickr
What is it?
Image by Delaware Historical Society via Flickr
Locked Up
Image by Delaware Historical Society via Flickr

We will all be meeting together – students, teachers, parents, and historical society staff members – once a month and learning about a variety of topics. Our first gathering was two weeks ago and we provided a general overview of the historical society. I gave a tour of the museum, students explored some of our artifacts more indepth, and we also shared with them old photographs including daguerreotypes, tintypes, negatives ,etc. (The image above shows students examining old images of their school when it was first constructed!)

We had a great group! For me, it was exciting to hear the students talk about when they visited the museum in 3rd grade or 4th grade for a field trip. I was impressed (and thrilled) by how much they remembered. Most rewarding, was watching the students feel comfortable in the museum and begin to take ownership of it. The museum is – after all – a place for them, their histories, and their stories!

I’m looking forward to our February meeting where we’ll be learning about the Underground Railroad.

Until 11:45 Next, Andrea

Here is a Smile Box Album from our history club!

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The Best Part of My Day….

December 10, 2009

Student Report Card #2, originally uploaded by Delaware Historical Society.

When students come to visit us at the Delaware History Museum, we’re always interested in what they think! At the end of the day we give each teacher in attendance an evaluation for them to fill out and history museum report cards for students to rate us on how we did. Sometimes the returned student report cards are just priceless – such as these from 4th graders at Maple Lane Elementary School. Just in case you can’t decipher everything that they students drew/or are talking about…I’ll help you out along the way!

This particular report card is amazing in it’s accuracy. In our permanent exhibition (Distinctively Delaware) we have a cut out of a longhouse with skins on the floor and stretched out to dry. I think this student did a fabulous job depicting our longhouse and even used her imagination to fill in some Lenni Lenape hanging out inside.

We have some additional student report cards posted on our Flickr photostream:  I’m so happy by how accurate some of the images are!  My favorite drawing depicts a student and a museum guide.  It’s very detailed (this child had talent) although I have to admit I don’t know who this tall, skinny, brunette with shoulder length hair is supposed to depict.  Maybe I’ll ask my guide staff to fight it out amongst the 3 of them!!!!  I wish I could say it was me!!!!

As for the question “what was the best part of your day?”  How are these answers for some cute points:

  • “Eating lunch with my uncle”
  • “The best part of my day would be everything!”

Until 11:45 Next, Andrea (Delaware Historical Society)

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Fall Fest A Success!

November 20, 2009

Another shot of Andrea and Cagney, originally uploaded by Delaware Historical Society.

A few weeks ago I wrote about getting ready for Fall Fest at the Delaware Historical Society….and then I didn’t write anything about how the event went. Well….shame on me!

We're going fishing!

It was a GREAT event. We got lucky because it didn’t rain, it was sunny, and it wasn’t too warm. (In fact, it rained the five Saturdays before Fall Fest and the Saturday after Fall Fest too! Like I said…lucky!)

Overall we had about 500 people visit the Delaware History Museum, the activities that we organized, and the community groups who came out for the event.



Ellen and Dorothy

This year we had two different areas with kid’s activities where they could aim a nerf bow and arrow into a target, play a duck bean bag toss, pick a rubber ducky (or crab) in our duck pond, color a picture, try their hand at fishing, and make a duck call out of a straw. (The straw duck call and the nerf bow and arrow were by far the most popular kid’s activities.) We also had a storytime…and don’t forget about Lucy the Whale. Lucy survived the day and was a hit – about 200 people visited her and learned about our very special Fin Whale. (I must say – she looked so tiny when she was outside on Market St.)


A really hard day...

We had some great music by the Whirled Peas. And several community organizations came out including – the Red Cross, the Delaware Museum of Natural History, The Brandywine Zoo, The Delaware Nature Society, East Coast Search and Rescue, and the New-Del-Pen Newfoundland Club. (The picture above is me and Cagney – the Newfoundland who attended the event.)

Overall, it was nice to see the entire staff coming together to pull everything off! I truly appreciated all of their efforts!

Check out all of the Fall Fest pictures on Flickr or on our Delaware Historical Society Facebook page. Have you own pictures? We would love to upload them and add them to the albums!!!!

Until 11:45 Next, Andrea

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An Intern’s Work is Never Done….

November 16, 2009

Meaghan prepares wash house for November and December school programs., originally uploaded by Delaware Historical Society.

I can’t believe that this semester is half way over already! With all the excitement here at the Read House, time has been flying by so quickly. There have been so many things for me to get involved with between research, cleaning, moving collections back and forth, and just talking with everyone here about the changes underway at the house.

I know more about windows than I thought I would ever need to know, and I could tell you which type of duster to use for finished wood and which type for unfinished wood. While this all seems like arbitrary information, it comes in handy actually working with the objects in the house. It’s great to be able to take everything that I’ve been learning in my classes and see how they can relate to actual real world experiences.

There is so much more that goes into planning and maintaining a historic house than I would have imagined. While I’ve worked as a tour guide before, I am seeing all the behind the scenes aspects of interpreting the stories that are a part of the tours. That’s really what I’ve been exposed to more than anything. I’m learning how museums go about interpreting the past and connecting it to the present. This includes interaction with the community and responding to the needs and interests of visitors.

Every day there is a new project to get involved in, or an event going on to sit in on. Last month I had the opportunity to sit in on a staff meeting and learn about (and be completely overwhelmed by) the new cataloging system which is going to make the collections of the Delaware Historic Society more accessible to the public. I also joined up with a class of college students from Wesley University that came to visit. They were concentrating on professions in the field of history—which is pretty relevant, as I’m graduating with a history degree from the University of Delaware in the spring, and should start thinking about what I’m going to do next year.

I guess to sum it up, my experience so far has taught me a few things. On the surface I am learning how to care for historic pieces: how to clean them, how to handle them, etc. More importantly, however, everything that visitors see when they visit a museum or historic house is there for a reason. Historians interpret the past and in museums, they tell this story through objects. While scholars may write an article about family relationships at the turn of the nineteenth century, museums can give a sense of family through the placement of books and globes around a table, as in the Read House. There are countless stories that could be told, and so museums interact with the public to tell the ones that are most relevant to the community.

I am glad to be a part of this interaction and I am looking forward to the second half of my stay here.

Meaghan O’Connor
Material Culture Studies Intern

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A Whale of Tale!

November 5, 2009
Lucy the Whale, originally uploaded by Delaware Historical Society.

Wow – we’re busy this week. Two blog posts in one day! (Sometimes that seems that we have so much to write about while other weeks….well….)

The start of building Lucy the Giant Whale
Image by Delaware Historical Society via Flickr

This week I’ve super busy getting ready for Fall Fest. It’s a free city family event that takes place along Market Street – the 400 through the 800 blocks. There will be a lot going on and we’re excited about participating.

It's all tape and plastic!
Image by Delaware Historical Society via Flickr

Our theme this year is water and water safety. It all relates back to the exhibit at the Delaware History Musuem, Whales, Weirs, and Waterfowl. I’ve spend my week making bean bag tosses, duck ponds, and fishing games. However, I think (if I do say so myself) that the best part of Fall Fest is going to be Lucy the Giant Whale!

I found out about Lucy through a Twitter friend who tweeted out the website of where to order instructions. (She’s part of the curriculum materials developed by Whale Net at Wheelock College. and the Mingan Island Cetacean Study) I thought she was awesome and asked if we could make her for Fall Fest. (After all – the first part of our exhibit title is Whales).

Lucy's insides
Image by Delaware Historical Society via Flickr

I ordered the instructions (MICS was so good about sending them to me ASAP). I bought the materials over the weekend and we began constructing Lucy on Tuesday. Now – I have to say – in my line of work at the Delaware Historical Society, I don’t often have the opportunity to learn about whales or use the metric system. I’m ashamed to say this BUT…the first two hours of my whale building adventure consisted of trying to re-learn the metric system. (I did know it once upon a time…maybe in 7th grade science.) It also took some head scratching to decipher (and remember) Dorsal Side, Ventral Side, peduncle, flukes, anterior side (head), and posterior side (okay…I knew what that was)!

With a lot of help (five people helping me out) and a lot of jokes along the way – like lots of Jonah and the Whale/Jonas brothers quips (trust me they all related after being at whale building for 5 hours strait), jokes about being able to “add giant” whale to our resumes, and one guide asking if my master’s in history prepare me for this – we managed to build our giant whale. We only had two slight mishaps along the way (like building the head incorrectly the first time and having Lucy “pop” when we first tried to inflate her.) Now that she’s done. I have to say this…SHE’S AWESOME! She’s huge to look at from the outside (I really never knew that whales were that big), but the best part is when you go inside. Yes – you can really go inside!!!

Lucy the Whale
Image by Delaware Historical Society via Flickr

I wouldn’t have been able to do it without help so I’m very grateful for everyone who put to good use their out of practice crawling muscles, risked slipping on giant sheets of plastic, unrolled piece after piece of tape, and stayed late with me to finish her up. These pictures simply don’t do her justice so I hope you’ll come out on Saturday (it’s supposed to be a beautiful day) for the Fall Fest. It’s from 11:00-4:00. Lucy the whale will be in the 500 block of Market St. at the Delaware Historical Society.

Now – onto making duck calls out of plastic straws!

Until 11:45 Next,

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