Thursday, November 15, 2018

Curator, Dr. Jude Pfister, Releases His Sixth Title

Please join us in congratulating our chief of cultural resources Dr. Jude Pfister on the publication of his new book--The Creation of American Law -- which studies the first decade of the United States Supreme Court. Published by McFarland Press, the book fills the need for a stand alone narrative of the pre-John Marshall court. Among the many sources utilized was our own Lloyd W. Smith Archival and Rare Book collection. 

Well done, Jude!  

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Meet the Interns

The Division of Cultural Resources is teeming with academics this summer. We've been lucky enough to recruit high caliber scholars to help with our programming. Be sure to check out their tours, brochures, and toolkits as they unroll. 

Join Morristown NHP this summer for a series of special gallery presentations prepared and presented by our summer interns. Beginning the week of July 23rd and running till August 20th, the interns will present the results of their summer research on select afternoons informally in the galleries at the museum. Some of the presentations will offer multi-media demonstrations and handouts. The interns will be available Monday, Tuesday, and Friday  between 10:30 and 1:30.

Emily Surman, of New Providence, (graduate student at Kings College London) will present two talks: one will look at the political role of women in the early republic. The topic is inspired by a print of Lady Washington’s Levee which hangs in the Style Gallery. Ms. Surman will also be available to discuss the hagiographic iconography surrounding remembrances of George Washington after his death in 1799. This talk is inspired by the Apotheosis of Washington which hangs in the Rare Book Gallery.

Sarah-Jane Matthews, of Chatham, (junior at George Washington University) will be available to answer questions on the influence of Classical Greek and Roman ideas in the Founding Era. The inspiration for this talk is the Society of the Cincinnati Bowl in the Military Gallery.

Phoebe Duke-Mosier, of Mountain Lakes, (junior at Hamilton College), will be available to answer questions on the efficacy of the political sermon during the pre-Revolutionary and Revolutionary periods. This talk is inspired by an exhibit in the Rare Book Room.

Brigit Wolf, of New Providence, (junior at Mount Holyoke College), will curate a small exhibit on the original New Jersey State Constitution of 1776 and the suffrage it granted to women and African Americans. On exhibit will be a volume owned and annotated by William Paterson from the park’s archives. Ms. Wolf will be available to answer questions about the exhibit and changes which occurred in the document regarding suffrage for women and African Americans. The exhibit will be housed in the auditorium at the museum. This exhibit will be a companion to a colonial-era currency exhibit in the same location.

All talks are free and there is no set time to attend. The presentations will occur in the gallery indicated at the museum building at 30 Washington Place, Morristown, NJ. For more information, please contact the park curator at 973-539-2016 x 204.

Jariah Rainey, of Newark, (2018 Westside High School graduate), is helping develop our Backpack Explorer program.  With the help of museum educator, Sarah Minegar, Ms. Rainey is creating a nature-based learning tool for families to use to enhance their trail experience. This kit will include a variety of trail stewardship and citizen science activities, like birding 101, a nature scavenger hunt, and a 'tree museum.'  We hope to have this available for use come early fall.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Meet the Author: Phillip Greenwalt

Our interim Chief of Interpretation is a noted Civil War scholar.  Please join us at his upcoming book talk at Frelinghuysen Arboretum. Details to follow.


Bloody Autumn: The Shenandoah Valley Campaign of 1864

Phillip Greenwalt
Sweep the Shenandoah Valley “clean and clear,” Union General-in-Chief Ulysses S. Grant ordered in the late summer of 1864.His man for the job: Maj. Gen. “Little Phil” Sheridan, the bandy-legged Irishman who’d proven himself just the kind of scrapper Grant loved. Grant turned Sheridan loose across Virginia’s most vital landscape, the breadbasket of the Confederacy.

In the spring of 1862, a string of Confederate victories in the Valley had foiled Union plans in the state and kept Confederate armies fed and supplied. In 1863, the Army of Northern Virginia used the Valley as its avenue of invasion, culminating in the battle of Gettysburg. The Valley continued to offer Confederates an alluring backdoor to Washington D.C. But when Sheridan returned to the Valley in 1864, the stakes jumped dramatically. Historians Daniel Davis and Phillip Greenwalt, longtime students of the Civil War, have spent countless hours researching the Valley battles of ’64 and walking the ground where those battles unfolded. Bloody Autumn: The Shenandoah Valley Campaign of 1864 shifts attention away from the Army of the Potomac and the Army of Northern Virginia to the campaign that ultimately determined the balance of power across the Eastern Theater.

Greenwalt is the co-Author of A Single Blow: The Battles of Lexington and Concord and the Beginning of the American Revolution April 19, 1775.  He is the co-founder of Emerging Revolution War and historical editor of the Emerging Revolutionary War book series. A prolific American history author, he graduated from George Mason University with an MA in American History; he also holds a BA in History from Wheeling Jesuit University. He currently is a Supervisory Park Ranger in Interpretation & Visitor Services for the National Park Service having served at several National Park Service sites including George Washington National Monument, Thomas Stone National Historic Site, and Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park.

His books will be for sale and will be signed by the author.

June 28 – Morris County
North Jersey Civil War Round Table - Morris County -- 7:14 p.m. at the Haggerty Education Center at the Frelinghuysen Arboretum, 353 E. Hanover Avenue, Morris Twp. (opp. the Morris County Library). Admission - $5. Members & Students – free. NPS Rangers – free

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Art in the Park

We are excited to announce Morristown is participating in the 2018 IFC art collaboration! 🎨 This year, our show runs from June 1-Sept 4, 2018 and our theme is ‘Innovation in the Face of Adversity.’ Our artists hail from Renaissance One School of Humanities, Leona Middle School, Pottstown Community Arts, Panther Academy, Smith Valley School, Schuyler Elementary School, Hackettstown High School, Riverdale School, Westside High School, Ronald Reagan Academy School #30, and the Beth Hartmann Family. ⍟This exhibit is on display at the Visitor’s Center, at our Jockey Hollow unit. Be sure to check it out on your way to the trail! 🔗 Link to virtual exhibit 

[Image Description: This post features five images from our newly opened student art exhibit at Jockey Hollow Visitor Center. Each square artwork is assembled in a vertical arrangement with two other pieces, forming three panel vertical tapestries. They are hung in succession on a brown, carpeted wall. To the left of each work is their description and artist information. The first image features the exhibit’s informational poster and nine artworks (three panels) on a curved wall. Image two is of our Morristown Beard intern, Jill, assembling a description card next to a panel. The third, fourth, and fifth images show the exhibit from different angles].

Monday, April 23, 2018

Making Connections

Free Reception and Illustrated Talk by Xiomáro on Saturday,
May 19, 2018, 2-4 pm

It’s always a pleasure and honor for me to photograph the National Parks, especially historic houses like the Ford Mansion. In 2017, I was commissioned by Morristown National Historical Park to create images of the home for use in an accessibility book. The large format book will enable physically challenged visitors to “experience” the mansion – George Washington’s headquarters during the winter of 1779-1780 – through narrated photographs, which interpret the house as done on a visitor tour.

Floyd Kitchen hearth.
The project was of particular interest to me because it was a direct connection with another collection of photographs I created in 2013: the William Floyd Estate in Mastic, Long Island.  General Floyd served in the first Continental Congress in 1774 and is a signer of the Declaration of Independence. By the late 1770s, the British occupied Long Island and Floyd had to escape to Connecticut. He returned to a ransacked house, which he restored to receive visitors such as Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and other notable guests. Unlike the Ford Mansion, Floyd’s sprawling 25 room house was continuously occupied by his descendants up until 1976 when it was donated to the National Park Service as part of Fire Island National Seashore.

The Floyd collection was created to draw more attention to the estate and the little-known Founding Father represented by it.  That is one of the aspects of my work that I find most fulfilling:  making photographs that serve as goodwill ambassadors to raise awareness of smaller northeastern sites, which are often overshadowed by larger western parks such as the Grand Canyon.  With the support of Fire Island, the Floyd photographs have been exhibited and garnered much media attention.

Ford Mansion kitchen hearth.
I share that intent with the Ford Mansion. The photographs of Washington’s headquarters are on display at the museum now until December 28, 2018. The exhibition was curated by Jude M. Pfister, the park’s Chief of Cultural Resources. It is pleasing to know that the images raise awareness of “the Ford Mansion’s essence as a home," as noted by Jude, because "the domestic aspects are easily lost in the presence of Washington.”
These overarching themes in my work, as well as my aesthetic and techniques, will be addressed during my free illustrated talk during a reception at the museum on Saturday, May 19, 2018 from 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm. To place the Ford Mansion photographs in context, I will use PowerPoint to show select images I have created for other parks over the past six years. 

Traveling Medicine Chest, Floyd Estate.

As I think you will see from the presentation I will make, there are interesting connections to be made between these parks. We are fortunate that the pages of history can come alive by visiting the Ford Mansion, the William Floyd Estate, and other related sites that form a tapestry of our nation’s founding. 

Traveling Liquor Box,
Morristown NHP Collection.

I hope to see you there with your friends.  To promote a greater understanding of the home that served as Washington’s headquarters, I will be giving away a copy of Jude’s award-winning book, The Jacob Ford Jr. Mansion:  The Storied History of a New Jersey Home (The History Press, 2009).  I will also be giving away a 5”x7” photographic print from the exhibit.

In the meantime, for more information about my work and to see my other collections and videos, visit where you can also download a free photo eBook on the Ford Mansion.

This blog entry by Xiomáro.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Recovering Martha: Inspiration and Restoration

Last month, a portrait of Martha Dandridge Parke Custis (Washington) returned to Morristown NHP after receiving extensive conservation treatment. The original composition that our Martha Custis portrait is based on was painted by John Wollaston in 1757. During his stay at Daniel Parke Custis’ White House in June, he painted three portraits – one of Martha, one of Daniel, her husband, and one of their two children together. During his two-year visit to Virginia, he produced over 100 portraits, which amounts to an average of four or five portraits a month. But how did he get it all done? 

John Wollaston’s portrait of Catherine Harris Smith Pemberton

John Wollaston’s portrait of Margaret Tudor Nicholls

Wollaston’s portraits were in high demand, as he painted in the latest London portraiture styles. Accordingly, he devised a system meant to mass-produce his portraits; he painted substantial portions of his portraits before he even saw the sitter. Poses, garments, body shapes, hands, and more were prepared as he traveled so that by the time he saw the sitter, he was merely adding details and completing the portrait. His signature style of smiling faces and oval eyes make his work recognizable, despite the fact that he rarely signed or dated portraits. This style and system concurrently makes it difficult to distinguish the identities of his sitters. Some of his portraits are almost identical – take for example the portraits of Catherine Harris Smith Pemberton and Margaret Tudor Nicholls. Thusly, our portrait has also been said to be a portrait of Mrs. Colonel Fielding Lewis, who is George Washington’s sister.

Original Wollaston portrait of Martha Dandridge Custis 

Betty Washington Lewis, attributed to Wollaston 

MORR 3236, Martha Dandridge Custis, after conservation

In 1843, an engraving of the original Wollaston portrait was produced by J. Cheney and J.G. Kellogg for The Life of George Washington by Jared Sparks. We know that the portrait in our collection is likely a copy made from this engraving because the background foliage is very similar to the foliage in the 1843 engraving. It is evident that the painter of our portrait probably never saw the original Wollaston, in which the bow on the front of Martha’s dress is the same blue as the dress. In our portrait, the bow is white. Another difference between the two is that the Wollaston is painted on a traditional 50 x 40 British canvas, and our portrait is painted on a 44 x 35 canvas.

Martha Custis, pre-conservation.
Note the tear, sagging canvas, and discoloration.

The portrait was gifted to Morristown National Historical Park by the Washington Association of New Jersey on March 2nd, 1933 (more than 85 years ago!). The original catalog record notes that it was cleaned and varnished and in “good condition,” in 1934. Six months ago, the condition of the painting was poor. The appraisal report describes the varnish as “dirty” and “discolored.” It also mentions a “9 x 7 inch ‘T’ shaped tear in the upper right quadrant,” a “two inch tear in the lower center in the dress,” and a “3/4 inch tear by the proper right elbow.” 

As described in the 
conservation report, the
“crudely attached”
strip lining.

The conservation report said the canvas 
was “extremely brittle,” and had “a crudely
attached strip lining with a wax resin adhesive
(which has totally failed).” 

Martha Custis, during cleaning with acetone

Conservation efforts have wildly improved the appearance and condition of the painting. Acetone and a solution of soap and water were used to remove the discolored varnish and surface dirt. The old strip lining was removed, the canvas was carefully flattened, and the three tears were mended using an adhesive powder. The painting was then relined onto a linen canvas, and then re-stretched onto its original stretcher. New varnish was applied, as was a small amount of inpainting to replace any paint loss. Two more layers of varnish completed the conservation work. Upon its arrival back to Morristown NHP, we replaced it into our collection storage facility with the rest of our paintings. 

Martha Custis, post-conservation. Note the repaired tear, improved coloration, and stabilized canvas.

This blog post by Amanda Schroeder,  Fairleigh Dickinson University.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Washington and His Family Return

Washington and His Family, pre-conservation.

In 2012 Washington and His Family (1850), painted by Thomas Sully, underwent a conservation report here at Morristown National Historical Park in order to prepare the portrait to go on loan. A brief history of the painting and the process of determining its condition can be found here. 

The work that was done in 2012 did not end up leading to any stabilizing conservation at that time, and thus the painting was left in the collections. But as we know time marches ever on, and the painting has since required more attention. The fact that the painting and frame are in need of restoration should come as a surprise to none as it is close to 220 years old. Such an aged painting with such a historic subject certainly deserves conservation in order for future generations to view and learn from it. Thus, in late 2017 the painting was sent away for restorative work.

Here the painting is shown under UV examination. 
The blue areas indicate layers of original varnish.

But before we get into the details of this restoration let us first discuss a key term. In this context, conservation refers to the restoration of a work of art in such a way that the essence of the painting is not lost, nor has its original style been altered. Conservation work is all about diagnosing deterioration issues and remedying them in a way that will cause the least amount of future stress. This task requires a professional with extensive knowledge of art history as well as a chemistry background in order to best analyze and make decisions based on a painting’s past, present, and future. Now that we understand the goal of art conservation let’s get into the details of the conservation report and what was done to restore Washington and his Family. 

After the use of various techniques designed to determine condition and past restorative actions, the painting was removed from its frame and lightly cleaned with a natural enzyme meant to eliminate built up dirt and grime. It was then rinsed with distilled water and sprayed with acryloid B-72, which is a flexible, non-yellowing varnish commonly used in restorative work. The back was dust vacuumed and the green duct tape applied in the late 1960s was removed. Next, a technique called inpainting was utilized to touch up areas where paint had flaked away over time. This technique aims to be true to the original artist’s painting style and to seamlessly integrate with the artwork.  Another layer of adhesive varnish was applied and the painting was rinsed again. 

Close up of the frame before conservation.

As for the frame, which, of the two components was in worse condition, the same adhesive spray used on the painting was used here to fix parts of the frame that were lifting and broken. MNHP had sent the painting away with a small bag of bits that had fallen off, and through the course of the condition report it was determined that many came from past restorative work. Therefore, only broken pieces that were original to the frame itself were reapplied. Inpainting was done to the gold finish of the frame and all hanging hardware was replaced.  As the old label was falling off it was removed and placed in a Maylar envelope and reattached to the back. Once the cleaned painting was reframed it was returned to us here at MNHP. Finally it was securely placed in our artwork collection storage.   

The newly conserved painting.

Conservation is vital to the continued display of a painting as well as its continued use as a historic artifact from which we can glean knowledge from the past. It is how we preserve the only images that we have for future generations to enjoy. 

This blog entry by Pamela Russo, Fairleigh Dickinson University.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Meet the Interns

This spring we are grateful to have three scholars from Fairleigh Dickinson University join us! We have wasted no time getting them acclimated to museum life. In addition to their individual projects, Pamela, Nicholas, and Amanda are helping with social media and blogging, our Skype program, and they even worked as docents for our Discover History Center grand opening!

FDU senior, Pamela Russo is a history major and Latin American and British Studies minor. Pamela's interests lie in the intersection of natural and cultural history. This semester she will focus on John James Audubon's Birds of America and how the prints were made, his inspiration, and the history of scientific illustration. Pamela is a budding behind-the-scenes maven and hopes to use her time at Morristown to flex her Skype and distance learning muscles. #futureyoutubestar

Nicholas Quintero is a sophomore dual history (B.A.) and education (M.A.T.) major with primary interest in U.S. history. Nick is interested in the diverse Morristown NHP holdings and is exploring the many ways museums serve as interactive classrooms. For his research project, he will examine the connection between the Iroquois system of governance (pre-contact) and the formation of the U.S. Constitution. He is particularly interested in the degree to which Native Americans influenced the colonial leaders in fashioning an independent American system of governance. Stay tuned, this guy is going to make some stellar lesson plans!

Junior, Amanda Schroeder studies political science and British history. She selected Morristown for her practicum because she knew she'd get lots of exposure to the inner-workings of a museum and library, and her enthusiasm for "doing history" makes her a natural in the classroom. Amanda (and Pamela) have already had an opportunity to share their teaching savvy with kids! This semester she is examining the influence of 18th-Century women on the politics of their husbands/father/brothers/sons. #whorulestheworld?


Monday, January 29, 2018

Honing Our Place-Based Education Skills

Participants prepare field trip activities during a rapid prototyping session.

Several years ago the Morristown education team began to dabble in teacher-led place based learning (PBL) projects. Recognizing a need for more teacher autonomy and an empowered learning space for students, we joined the Park for Every Classroom (PEC) initiative. PEC connects Park sites and partners with other programs in the northeast region to share best practices and model PBL and PBSL (place based service learning). The biggest impact for Morristown has been a transition from programming consisting of entirely staff-led offerings to the addition of teacher-staff co-led endeavors and most recently teacher-led field trip and workshops. Since we began, we have employed five master teachers through our Teacher-Ranger-Teacher (TRT) program who have helped us design our immersion activities, create exemplar lessons, and bring new teachers into the teacher-led PBL fold. 

Teacher demonstrates a lesson short.
Our current professional development model utilizes Design Thinking practices. Design Thinking methodology borrows collaborative brainstorming and planning tools from the design and engineering world. In short, Design Thinking is a methodology and mental framing strategy that encourages divergent (thinking big) and convergent (narrowing in) planning and moves ideas into actionable tasks. For our teacher partners it's also a way to to plan lessons in a rapid and collaborative environment. Teachers become familiar with Park resources and leave their workshop confident to utilize those resources independently and creatively.  

Interns 'ideate' or collaboratively brainstorm.

Readers may remember we reflected on design thinking last spring with our field trip programs:

Engaging Millennials? There's an App For That!

From Reese's to Results: The Prototyping Process

Morris Museum Collections Manager, Maria Ribaudo,
explores a gallery space.

This round's new recruits included area collections managers and Park sites, elementary and middle school teachers (in the past our Jockey Hollow site has been the primary location for this age group), and studio arts, language arts, and STEAM instructors. One exciting side effect of Design Thinking is how 
it enlivens our interdisciplinary

Edison National Historic Site Education Specialist, 
Carmen Panteleo, prototypes app use in the gallery.


Education assistant, Abby Parsons, demos a lesson concept.

Our ideation (collaborative brainstorming) session sticky wall.

Morristown teacher partners are certainly turning ideas  → 

Example rapid lesson prototype.

into plans of action →