Friday, June 23, 2017

George Washington and the Supreme Court

President Washington was instrumental in forming the foundations of the Supreme Court during his first term. He took his Constitutional role as President seriously in selecting jurists that would represent the evolving concept of American law. Curator Jude M. Pfister contributed an article about Washington's role in legal history to the Mount Vernon Digital Encyclopedia of George Washington.

Read his entry, HERE đź””

Monday, June 19, 2017

Meet the Interns!

This summer we've been fortunate to line up a talented trio of historians. From left to right: Claire Du Laney, Phoebe Duke, and Meghan Kolbusch.

Claire Du Laney is a Drew University grad and current dual masters candidate in Public History (North Carolina State) and Library Science (University of NC, Chapel Hill). Her specialization in early twentieth-century British history will assist her in cataloging our WWI materials in preparation for this years' centennial celebration. Claire has enjoyed combing through postcards and letters and exploring a bit of cultural history along the way. Her brush with microfilm reels and digital finding aids will hopefully prove useful this coming semester! Claire's project will culminate in an exhibit this summer. Stay tuned for her blog posts.

Phoebe Duke is a Hamilton College junior, studying history. She actually found this internship when she pursued an academic interest in Alexander Hamilton. Her interest in the Hamilton story led her to this site where she discovered student researchers were needed. Giving museum and archival studies a try, Phoebe is working on rehousing and cataloging the Cobb Collection. The Cobbs, a prominent Morristown family during the revolution, were in correspondence with many notable figures, such a Philip Schuyler and William Livingston. These first-hand accounts are right up Phoebe's alley. She'll be blogging her finds.

Meghan Kolbusch, a double major in Political and Governmental Affairs and History, comes to us from Centenary University.  Meghan has the enviable task of examining our Alexander Hamilton materials.  Her exhibit will focus on Hamilton's time at Morristown and the years following the war. Meghan is interested in his relationship with General Washington and plans to explore the subtext of their correspondence. Her work and exhibit will also be featured on the blog.


Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Finding Their Park

Student artists from Westside High School, Newark, New Jersey found their park at Morristown! After viewing their Dream Rocket exhibit, these talented teens wanted to explore the site that inspired their art...they had a little fun in the process!

The Morristown Dream Rocket theme is Ingenuity in the Face of Adversity, and our Westside artists were especially creative with their interpretations of what that means.

Hiking the yellow trail from the Wick House
to the soldier huts with Ranger Gilson. 
Before students even visited our site, they were given a creative prompt which taught them about the Park's history, the Revolution War events we commemorate, and the Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC) who helped lay the groundwork for historical parks around the country. With this information and the guidance of their outstanding teacher, Ms. Patricia Marinaro, students collaborated to see their artistic visions materialize.

See their work on our Flickr Album
(keyword Westside High School):

Students were allowed to pick rhubarb with the gardener's
permission. Here they are visiting the Wick House,
stalks in hand.
Journals in hand, students set out to explore the resources that inspired their work. The framing narrative for the day was "assumption versus evidence" and this tool helped us analyze everything from historic landscapes and structures to park careers, preservation, and climate change.


Some questions we tackled...

Place Over Time

•What has happened here throughout time?

•How are we part of that history?

•How does understanding the past help us become more empathetic people?

•How will you mark your legacy?

Preserving Public Lands

Student explore the replica hut at the VC.
•What is natural and cultural stewardship?

•Why is it important? How can we help?

•What is involved in preserving and protecting landscapes and historic sites?

•What careers in science, public history, education, and engineering are available at parks?

Innovation in the Face of Adversity

•What is innovation?

•In what ways are you innovative in hard times?

•How do your struggles connect you with other people throughout time?

•How might you connect your story to the stories this park has to tell?

Making Preserved Landscapes Relevant

•What are the reasons a person might enjoy public lands?

•How might preserved landscapes be meaningful to people on a personal level?

Frog encounters.
Looking closely.

For four hours, students spent time immersed in the power of place. They spent time journaling, conducting science experiments, hiking, analyzing real world job scenarios, and exploring historic structures.

Ranger Gilson (a guest science educator from Gateway Parks) leads students
in a climate change simulation.

Sit spotting exercise.

Student posing with his work (his is in the center).

A little entertainment on the trails.

Thanks Ms. Marinaro for inspiring your talented troop and for helping them #FindTheirPark!

I think we might even have a few new recruits!

sit spotting and journal time

>The Dream Rocket exhibit runs now through Sept 4, 2017,
at our Jockey Hollow location.

✿ Big thanks to Ranger Kathryn Gilson and Ranger Abby Parsons! 

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Art in the Park: Students Celebrate 'Ingenuity in the Face of Adversity' with Dream Rocket Collaboration

Free exhibit at Morristown National Historical Park, Jockey Hollow Visitor Center

June 1- September 4, 2017
during operation hours, Jockey Hollow Visitor Center

Morristown, NJ – Morristown National Historical Park debuts its first collaboration with Dream Rocket Project (DRP), a project of the International Fiber Collective, Inc (IFC), to collect thousands of artworks from kids around world and use those works to wrap a 385′ Space Launch System (SLS) rocket replica. DRP's aim is to expose kids to the importance of collaboration and the multi-disciplinary learning that inspires youth to "DREAM big, THINK big, and make a difference." Launched in 2009, this project hopes to collect over 9,000 submissions and estimates over 36,000 people will participate. 

For its part, Morristown NHP's participants focused on the theme of 'Ingenuity in the Face of Adversity," a nod to Morristown's storied history of endurance, inventiveness, and survival. In total 763 participants worked on 72 panels. The participants are from 59 classes throughout 17 schools in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Schools that participated include one in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, and schools from the New Jersey cities and towns of  Bridgewater, Hackensack, Hackettstown, Leonia, Newark, Parsippany, Passaic, Paterson, Phillipsburg, Plainfield, Riverdale, Somerset, and Teaneck. Park Superintendent Thomas Ross stated, "The work of these talented young people has transformed our Visitor Center into a bustling art gallery. It is truly inspiring." 

This exhibit will remain open until September 4, 2017. Jockey Hollow Visitor Center (580- 600 Tempe Wick Road, Morristown, New Jersey).

Monday, May 22, 2017

Exhibit Prep, Behind the Scenes

We get a lot of questions about the preparation that goes into an exhibition installation, so today we thought we would share the fabrication planning.

Our museum specialists processes artifact lists and exhibit panel mock ups. These list
determine which artifacts need to pulled and prepped for exhibit.

This effort has involved a team of talented designers, fabricators, researchers, donors, and partners, but so much of the critical work behind the scenes has been the labor of Museum Specialist, Joni Rowe. Every artifact, manuscript, image, and catalog number has been carefully pulled, reviewed, and prepared by Joni, no small feat considering gallery projects can stay active for over a decade, start to finish.

Artifacts are pulled and checked against several exhibit inventory lists, then the fabrication team begins measuring and photographing in preparation for custom mount and case building. At this stage, our researcher and text editor is also double checking catalog numbers and artifact descriptions in line with our pull lists.

Artifacts waiting  in queue. 

Measuring and recording three dimensional artifacts.

The fabrication team uses precise instruments to measure each artifact's dimensions. Photos are taken for both reference and for installation purposes.

Photographing flat files and paintings. Many of these images will be reproduced or 
used as wall panels.


Interested in the artifacts we examined during this session?

Check out our Instagram


Friday, May 19, 2017

Music 101: New Orleans Jazz Returns to Morristown

Free Performances at Morristown National Historical Park

7 pm, Friday, June 2, 2017 at Washington’s Headquarters Museum
1 pm and 2:30 pm, Sunday, June 4, 2017 outside Jockey Hollow Visitor Center

Morristown, NJ – Morristown National Historical Park (NHP) continues its celebration of the 101st year of the National Park Service's history by welcoming back the Arrowhead Jazz Band from New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park. Free programs will be presented at 7 pm, on Friday, June 2nd at the Washington’s Headquarters Museum (30 Washington Place, Morristown, New Jersey); and at 1 pm and 2:30 pm, on Sunday, June 4th outside the Jockey Hollow Visitor Center (580- 600 Tempe Wick Road, Morristown, New Jersey).

Jazz originated as a style of music native to America, and Morristown NHP is proud to provide this “Music 101” opportunity for all to connect to our common heritage. The Arrowhead Jazz Band is comprised of active, retired, and former Park Rangers as well as Park Volunteers and Interns. The band performs Traditional New Orleans Jazz and selections from the Great American Songbook. They have recorded five CDs with Park Rangers and local New Orleans musicians.


The mission of the Arrowhead Jazz Band is to:

Enhance opportunities for visitors to experience and appreciate the sights and sounds of early jazz throughout the nation; Interpret the origins, history, and progression of jazz ; and Promote and assist the education of students in various forms of jazz in order to perpetuate its continued evolution as a true American art form.



Friday, May 5, 2017

Farewell to Friend and Dedicated VIP

Stephen pictured here in late February, after receiving
Centennial Challenge Award.

When you walk around Morristown NHP, almost everything you see was somehow enhanced by volunteer Stephen Wilder; a man of boundless energy and enthusiasm.

If he wasn’t leading tours at the Ford Mansion, he was chopping fire wood for the Wick House. When not helping the Interpretative staff, he would be on the trails assisting our Law Enforcement staff. He spent countless hours on our 20 plus mile trails, cutting barberry, installing waterbars to protect our trails from erosion, removing downed trees, blazing trails. 

His enthusiasm for the preservation of the park was contagious. During the winter months, Steve volunteered with the Cultural Resource staff assisting with research of our collection, such as a manuscript on Benedict Arnold. Steve also assisted our Natural Resource staff this past autumn by clearing the walking paths for our bird study volunteers.  Steve impacted the Wick garden, working with our Maintenance staff replacing the boards around the garden beds without which there may not have been a garden season. He helped train new staff and volunteers. He assisted with corporate volunteer projects and a variety of special events, including presenting an his research at an interpretative event.The list goes on. To list all the projects Steve accomplished for the park is nearly impossible, as they are too numerous. These are but a sample of his dedication to the National Park Service.

Steve began volunteering circa 2006. Through the years he provided 3,112 hours of service. He achieved his Master Volunteer Ranger status, repeatedly earned the Inter Agency Free Volunteer Pass, was a certified NPS Chainsaw Operator, and received the 2016 Centennial Challenge Award.

Stephen passed away May 4, 2017 his presence will be sadly missed and will always be remembered by the staff and volunteers of Morristown National Historical Park.

This tribute by Morristown Volunteer Coordinator, Pamela Dobben. 

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Audubon: The Man Behind The Birds

When you hear the name Audubon most people think of the Audubon Society or they respond with “He’s that bird guy right?” But Audubon was much more than that. The story of Audubon is a story that most of us know little to nothing about, including me up until recently, but his story is a story we should all hear. John James Audubon, an American Ornithologist, Artist, and Naturalist, was born Jean Rabin in Les Cayes, which is now Haiti on April 26th, 1785. He was the illegitimate son of French plantation owner Captain Jean Audubon and his Creole servant Jeanne Rabin. His father sent him to France to live with his wife shortly after Audubon’s birth mother died; Audubon changed his name to Jean-Jaques Fougere during this time. While in France Audubon developed a love for the outdoors and a talent for painting, but his time in France would be cut short.  To avoid being conscripted into Napoleon’s Army in 1803, Audubon’s father sent him to his estate in Mill Grove, Pennsylvania where he would oversee mining operations. It was on this voyage to America that the 18 year old changed his name to John James Audubon.  Audubon met his wife to be, Lucy Bakewell, in 1804 shortly after arriving at Mill Grove.

Lucy Blackwell
Lucy Bakewell came from a wealthy English family who immigrated to America in 1801. Lucy’s family home, Fatland Ford, was located next to Mill Grove which is how the two met. Bakewell and Audubon would spend all day together, Bakewell would teach him English, he would teach her how to paint.  The two got married in 1808 and started a family shortly after. Following the failure of the mine at Mill Grove, Audubon moved to Louisville, Kentucky, opening a general store. Poor business prospects forced Audubon and his family to move to Henderson, Kentucky. During his time in Kentucky, Audubon traveled and hunted, becoming closer to nature. The couple also had three children; however two of them died very young. With this tragedy on top of a failing business, Audubon was at the bottom of the barrel, he even ended up in jail for unpaid debts. In 1820 the Audubon’s left Kentucky and moved to New Orleans where they survived off of Lucy’s Governess income. This income was supplied by teaching classes for young ladies. These classes would cover not only basic education but also music, sewing, social conduct, swimming, and horseback riding. This was an incredible achievement for Lucy, given the time, and Audubon was grateful because this gave him time to travel and focus on his writing and painting without having to worry about his family. However he was not succeeding like he planned. In 1826, after rejection in America, Audubon went to the United Kingdom to look for a publisher, for his ornithological works. He exhibited his work in both Scotland and England, where the public was amazed by his drawings of the American Frontier, along with the tales he told them. The success of these exhibits led to the publication of his best known book, Birds of America; but this wasn’t a one man job. During one of his visits back to America in 1831, Audubon accidentally ran into Reverend John Bachman while soliciting subscriptions for his new book. What’s funny about all this is that Bachman and Audubon had been communicating through letter prior to this meeting. 

The American Bison
Reverend John Bachman moved to South Carolina January 10th, 1815 at the age of 25 from Duchess County, New York with Tuberculosis. His physicians told him to seek a warmer climate, which was the only remedy for Tuberculosis at the time. Bachman chose Charleston because it was home of the largest Lutheran church in the region. Bachman wasn’t like most Reverends at the time; he had a strong background in science and nature, which is why Audubon wanted to meet with him. Shortly after, they became collaborators on Audubon’s greatest achievement, but it wasn’t all fun and fame. Bachman and Audubon had very different ideas for the book; Bachman urged Audubon to further his education while Audubon relied on what he already knew. This was just the beginning of the budding work relationship between the two friends.  Audubon often seemed indifferent to mistakes; in some instances, Audubon would try to finesse a statement when he lacked facts and Bachman did not approve of this. In a letter of April 24th, 1837, Bachman told Audubon that he “managed the article cunningly, but not ingeniously.” Bachman wanted to take his time and do extensive research for the book but the Audubon’s wanted to work quickly and finish it, to start creating income. Audubon worked hard during this period, but still ignored most of Bachman’s requests of books unavailable in Charleston, along with ignoring Bachman’s request to obtain more species and more than just one skin of every species. Audubon also took inadequate notes, leaving out locations of collected specimen or vague citing’s that were almost useless. All in all, Bachman wanted these books to be educational, when Audubon wanted them to be art and income. After all this drama though, the two released the single greatest collection of North American birds ever, and immediately started working on their next project, the mammals of North America, unfortunately, Audubon would not get to see the final product.  

Due to his failing health Audubon spent the final years of his life at home, leaving the work to his sons and Bachman. Audubon died January 27th, 1851 and was buried in Trinity cemetery in New York City, where our favorite founding “rapper” Hamilton is also buried. It’s intriguing that two illegitimate sons of the Caribbean achieved such great success in America and rest in the same cemetery. Audubon wasn’t the first to study birds, but the way he did it made him one of the forefathers of the modern conservation and environmental movements. In 1886, the first bird preservation society, The National Audubon Society was named in his honor, throughout the years several wildlife sanctuaries, parks, etc. did the same. Through the 20th century the National Audubon Society has been responsible for creating sanctuaries, getting laws passed, and just general protection of bird species, and watersheds, all in Audubon’s name. 

Be sure to visit Josh's exhibit at Washington's Headquarters Museum, featuring first editions of Birds of America and Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America.

Sources Editors, “John James Audubon”. The website. A&E Television Networks. Last Updated December 8, 2016. April 2017.

Maggie Maclean. “Lucy Bakewell Audubon” Women History Blog. April 2017

Lester D. Stephens. “Science, Race, and Religion in the American South: John Bachman and the Charleston Circle of Naturalists, 1815-1895”. University of North Carolina Press, 2003. April 2017.

Wikipedia. “Havell Family”. Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia. April 2017. Editors. “History of Audubon and Science-based Bird Conservation”. Website. April 2017.

All images were provided by Google Image. 

This blog post by Joshua Knighten, Rowan University.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Peter Toth Receives Commendation

If you have joined us for our Sunday afternoon concert series, you might have had the fortune of hearing talented concert pianist, Peter Toth, perform. Since last spring, he has offered nearly a dozen free recitals. 

This weekend, Park Superintendent Thomas Ross awarded Toth with a special commendation for his recitals last year during the NPS Centennial.

Congrats Peter and thank you for your service! 

Summer and fall recital schedule TBA.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Engaging Millennials? There’s an App For That!

Or in this case, a few dozens of multi-colored sticky notes…

My attention span concerning most things lasts about five seconds, ten if I’m lucky. A quick cursory glance at the TV as I change a picture’s filter, my cramped fingers nimbly scrolling through pictures from last night during a lecture— you get the picture. The ironic thing is, I didn’t realize how stunted my concentration really was until Dr. Sarah Minegar assigned myself and Centennial SCA Abigail Parsons with a challenge: how long could we go without tapping the home buttons on our smartphones? How long could our attention spans last before we checked back into technology? The answer is about fifteen minutes, excluding sports practice of course. It was with this tricky task that our process of prototyping began.

Headed by Dr. Sarah Minegar, myself, Abigail, and fellow intern Joshua Knighten, our brainstorming sessions began with a copious amount of colorful sticky notes and, more importantly, energy boosting candy. Our mission seemed simple enough: to seek out new ways in contesting flaky millennial engagement when at Morristown’s park (i.e. that 200+ year old cannon is way cooler than your next tweet, but how do we engage you into focusing on it?). The answer, we quickly realized, was not to discard technology from the equation, but to include and consider it as part of each student’s life. Kind of like a third arm, a functioning part of who they are. If you removed an arm, you would find it difficult to function. The same goes for what has become— especially in the lives of younger millennials— an integrated part of their day-to-day routine: technology.

The process of learning and research in conjunction with technology— specifically in this case, cell phone and computer access— is possible! But to do so, a greater understanding of a broad range of personality types was needed, and there are many! The quiet one, the jokester, the too-cool-for-school (or in this case “museum tours”) crew— a variety of personalities that, funnily enough, were the most evident in high school kids (at least in my experience). With our personality types and learning styles gathered and assembled cutely on a rainbow of Post-It notes, our true prototyping challenge began: how do we creatively engage a expansive group of personalities, all with different needs? The answer was a huge conglomeration of posters, sticky notes (including my favorite, the mustache Post-Its), and a whole lot of brainstorming. One of the most important elements developed by our awesome team were the ever helpful Focus Cards. Breaking students up into smaller teams, these cards would aid each individual in the task of concentrating on a sole motif, which they could then discuss with their group. When combined, the Focus Cards accomplished the task of engaging each student, allowing them to build off of one another’s research within their groups.

Once we had had accumulated all of our research, it was time to test it out! With our research gathered under our arms and a tricorn perched on my head, our group began our lighthearted, chirpy walk up to the music hall. We rearranged the rows of chairs into a circle, a ploy to keep attention and discussion better circulated, and began our trial runs. It was here that the Focus Cards began their development. Eventually we made it to the mansion itself, where we discussed how best to affiliate students with life in past centuries. Upstairs, we discovered that the bedroom used by George and Martha Washington had excellent lighting. So of course, a selfie break was necessary.
Our efforts were challenged during a visit from a group of French foreign exchange students— the very first group of students to participate in our approach of teaching millennials. We soon discovered that the students— an extremely attentive and eager group— flourished throughout all of our planned activities! For the finale to all our hard work, Chief of Cultural Resources Dr. Jude Pfister played two ghost recordings captured within the mansion, much to the delight (and horror) of the students. The next time our little dream team met, we broke out the Post-its and markers to collaborate on what we thought worked, and what we’d change. Overall, we decided, our efforts were a success and we planned our next iteration based on our observations.

Many a millennial’s heart can be summed up is with a simple, four letter word. Wifi. Or, more precisely, free wifi, which, coincidentally enough, Morristown’s National Park offers. But in a world of rapidly enhancing technology, there must be a method in which teachers are able to redirect students’ attention by instilling an environment of focus and awareness within museum settings. The answer? Prototyping, hard work, and a bag (or three) of candy.

This blog post by Morgan Haller, Centenary University.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Mark Twain & The General

April 23, 2017

2:00 PM

Scenes from:

Mark Twain & The General -
One act Opera

Libretto: Jewel Seehaus-Fisher,
Music: Robert W. Butts

Washington's Headquarters -
Morristown National Historical Park
30 Washington Place, Morristown, NJ

Admission FREE


Don Sheasley as Ulysses S. Grant

Timothy Maureen Cole as Julia Grant

Brian Jamieson as Mark Twain

Elizabeth Wooten as The Cook

Civil War Veterans: Anthony Shashaty - Douglas Anderson - Tom Loughman

The Baroque Orchestra of New Jersey conducted by Maestro Robert W. Butts

Towards the end of his life, President Ulysses S. Grant is dealing with financial pressures and cancer. He attempts to write his book on the Civil War, tended to by his wife, Julia. Mark Twain, himself in financial difficulties, offers to publish Grant's book which has remained one of the landmarks of American literature.  While Grant was writing and battling for his life, veteran soldiers would pay respects outside his house, their stories being the inspiration for Grant's completing his book.

The concert performance is part of the 2017 National Park Week.
It is sponsored by Morristown National Historical Park and Eastern National.   

On display will be the hand corrected proofs by Mark Twain of an article called "To My Missionary Critics" which appeared in the April 1901 edition of the North American Review.   It dealt with the Boxer Rebellion in China.

Dr. Jude Pfister, Chief of Cultural Resources at Morristown National Historical Park, will be on hand to answer questions related to the museum and its vast manuscript collection.

Jewel Seehaus-Fisher (d 2015) was one of New Jersey's leading playwrights, a pioneer in women's theater. She wrote several plays which were produced across the country.  Her musical theater collaborations included Gesualdo and A Night in the Wilde Wild West.

Don Sheasley has been one of New Jersey's leading baritones for several years.  He has sung major roles with opera companies throughout New Jersey.  Among his frequent collaborations with Maestro Butts and The Baroque Orchestra of New Jersey have been the Count in Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro, Rigoletto in Verdi's Rigoletto, Don Alfonso in Mozart's Cosi fan tutte, The Commendatore in Mozart's Don Giovanni, and Giorgio Germont in Verdi's La Traviata,

Brian Jamieson has sung musical theater, cabaret and opera.  He premiered the roles of Gesualdo in Gesualdo, Sherriff Willie in Wilde's Wild West, and Mark Twain in Mark Twain & The General.

Timothy Maureen Cole has sung with opera companies in New York and New Jersey.   With BONJ, she has sung The Countess in Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro and Damon in Handel's Acis and Galatea. She has also appeared as The Woman in Maestro Butts's setting of Edgar Allan Poe's The Tell-Tale Heart.   Ms. Cole is also co-host of the popular podcast Not Just a Movie.

Elizabeth Wooten is a student of Carol Yahr. A recent graduate from the Vocal Performance program at Montclair State University, she has performed in the staged Handel Cantata titled "Erotic Madness", Ida in Die Fledermaus, and scenes from Midsummer Nights Dream (Tytania), Il Mondo della Luna (Lisetta), and Idomeneo (Ilia). She has also performed Papagena in Die Zauberflöte with Opera Theatre Montclair and scenes from Ariadne auf Naxos (Zerbinetta) with the New York Summer Opera Scenes Program.

Anthony Shashaty, Douglas Anderson, and Tom Loughman have appeared in several opera and musical theater works with BONJ, Bell and Barter Theatre, Opera at Florham, and Eastern Opera.   They originated roles in Maestro Butts's settings of Edgar Allan Poe's The Tell-Tale Heart and The Cask ofAmontillado.   They have also appeared together or separately in productions of Puccini's Tosca, Verdi's Rigoletto and La Traviata, Donizetti's L'Elisir d'amore as well as originating the roles of the Veterans in Mark Twain & The General.

Photos Above: Don Sheasley - Brian Jamieson - Tom Loughman

Monday, April 3, 2017

From Reese’s to Results: The Prototyping Process

How do you keep a millennial generation student focused? This question almost has a tinge of humor in it for most, as many parents and teachers struggle to capture the attention of their younger audiences, constantly at opposition with their children’s cell phones. Modern technology, specifically cell phone use and internet access, has changed the game of studying and researching for the students of today. Over the course of two months, Morgan Haller and I, led by Dr. Sarah Minegar, began to brainstorm and prototype solutions, seeking to meet this new challenge. Our mission was this: how can teachers create an environment of scholarship and concentration for millennials to single-task and discover in museum studies?                                                                                                                                 

We began with Sharpies, Post-Its, and a bag of candy. Naturally, this is how the best ideas are born. The three of us laid some ground rules for our idea development: our groupthink would be a safe, open place for idea-sharing, where the thoughts of our group members would serve as catalysts to our own. Our first topic of discussion was around our initial, personal observations about how technology had affected our lives, and we expanded from those points. During the course of our brainstorming, we discussed a variety of student personality types to broaden the accessibility of the activities. We kept the needs of each student in mind as we turned ideas into actions and began to prototype. Soon, we had posters of Post-Its, and columns of possible activities to expand upon.

During our prototyping weeks, we made sure that notepads, markers, and Post-Its of many shapes and colors were available to encourage our creativity. After assembling the activities into their most basic forms, we were ready for a mock trial. We carried our supplies around the park to our work stations and set up shop. These trial runs allowed us to test the fluidity of the activities on a micro-scale to predict their success with actual students.

To break the traditional “classroom layout,” which can lull students into auto-pilot, we arranged the chairs in a circle to keep energy and attention at its prime. We began with a “gripe session” allowing the students to actively complain about how difficult the document may be to analyze. This would provide a safe, almost humorous space for kids who may have an uncontrollable funny bone, or may feel intimidated by the difficulty of the activity. After the group’s confessions of how unmanageable the manuscript was, it was time to look at the document’s layout and format in group discussion. This activity prepped the students for the primary documents they would encounter in the activities to come.

Technological, visual, and informational literacy were our focus points. We developed activities that surrounded these ideas using the park’s primary resources – exploration of a historic site, manuscripts, and galleries. Joshua Knighten, a fellow intern, helped us develop the manuscript-analysis table, depicting the many elements of paper-making and handwriting that occurred during colonial times. Across a three table layout, our group designed a layout of primary resource documents with accompanying modern texts to put the historic manuscripts in context. 

To aid the students’ exploration and discovery of their resources, our team developed Focus Cards that centered the individual’s research on a single topic. These cards encouraged students to explore with a single theme in mind, and then to share their ideas with their small groups, uniting the different Focus Card perspectives in discussion. After the small groups had discussed among themselves, we encouraged students to expand out to the larger group and share their findings publicly, with a lead instructor suggesting and answering questions.

Our hard work was put to the test this past Tuesday, when a group of French exchange students became the first class to try our millennial teaching techniques. With an exceptional attentiveness and willingness to learn, our French students excelled through our prototyped activities. Our first class was a success, and we will prototype until perfection as our future students visit Morristown during the summer of 2017!

This post by Abby Parsons

Friday, March 31, 2017

Protoyping Millennial Engagement

Abby Parsons and Morgan Haller
For the past two months, our Morristown education team has been working to address the issue of millennial engagement. We know as a smaller museum we are up against larger scale programming, high tech exhibits, incredible collections, and the culture of habituated distraction that is plaguing us all. We decided to take that challenge head on because, heck, we have some incredible collections ourselves and we have access to some pretty fantastic millennial representatives too. Our Centennial SCA Abigail Parsons and interns Morgan Haller (Centenary University) and Joshua Knighten (Rowan University) have been assisting archivist and museum educator, Sarah Minegar, in prototyping a new learner-centric education model.  

Prototyping, a term borrowed from the process of Design Thinking, is a way for teams to make brainstorming tangible so that they can collaborate and work to move ideas into actionable tasks. This week our team got the chance to put that hard work into practice with our first target audience group, 18 students from Lycee International Jules Guesde in Montpellier, France. Stay tuned for our interns' take on the prototyping process, what they learned, and how this process has impacted our approach to high school programming.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Volunteer Rockstars

Our Park simply could not accomplish what we do without the generosity and time of volunteers in parks (or VIPs). At Morristown, you'll find our volunteers engaged in all kinds of activities and programming: from trail maintenance and gardening, to historic house tours and trades demonstrations, to research and internships.

olunteer Park Passes were issued to nine volunteers who donated 250 hours over a three year period. While eight volunteers donated over 201.6 hours in 2016 to receive the NPS Centennial Challenge Award.

Today we'd like to honor two fine volunteers who have achieved some volunteering milestones. Wick House volunteer, Anne, was awarded her VIP Pass and Headquarters' guide and trail maintenance crewman, Steve, was awarded his NPS Centennial Challenge Award.

Thank you for your dedication and service.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Meet Josh Knighten

The cultural resources division would like to welcome Rowan University senior, Josh Knighten. A history major and nature enthusiast, Knighten will be preparing an exhibit featuring the work of John James Audubon. His work will focus primarily on our 1840 edition of Audubon's Birds Folio (Vol 1), Audubon's research, and the condition and composition of nineteenth-century rare books.

To satisfy his explorer and early American history curiosities, Josh will also be helping preserve our outdoor campus by extending his services with trail maintenance on parts of our twenty-seven miles of historic trail.


Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Meet Morgan Haller

We've got some new faces in cultural resources this semester. Meet Centenary University senior, Morgan Haller. Ms. Haller is a history and communications major interested in the American War for Independence and those who participated. She enjoys researching everything from spy rings to battle tactics, but her favorite person to read up on is the Marquis de Lafayette.

This spring, Morgan will be offering her expertise researching some of our underutilized art collections. She will be focusing on the paintings exhibited in the front hall of the museum (which includes an 1860 Edward Kranich), preparing artifact descriptions, and brochures. Morgan will also continue our study of Theodosia Ford. She'll be sharing her research journey on the blog, so stay tuned!


Friday, January 27, 2017

Curator Pfister on The Legacy of John Jay

Volume XXXVIII, No 4, 2016

Among his many talents, Dr. Jude Pfister is a scholar of Supreme Court history. His most recent contribution to the Supreme Court Historical Society Quarterly, "The Legacy of John Jay," can be found in the current volume.  Here Pfister discusses Jay's achievements as a co-author of The Federalist Papers, the first Chief Justice, his governorship in New York, work as the President of the Continental Congress, and negotiation of the Paris Peace Treaty (1783), among other formative accomplishments.

To read the article, click HERE.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Illuminating Hidden Gems

Some of you may be aware, but our own Dr. Sarah Minegar, Archivist/Museum Educator, has a wonderful article in the current NJ Studies Journal. Sarah looks at the seemingly contradictory juxtaposition of a National Historical Park (Morristown) , with its "history in a box" approach to the past, paired with a first-rate, but forgotten, research library (also Morristown), with its total approach to the past. 

We are also very proud to point out that another Morristown NHP staff member, Steven Elliott, a PhD candidate at Temple, has an article and a book review in the current issue. Steven's article looks at "how and why the Continental Army decided to place the bulk of its forces in northern New Jersey for two consecutive winters during the war."

Click HERE to see the current issue.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Winter Visitor Services Hours

Morristown, NJ – Beginning on January 1, 2017, the Jockey Hollow Visitor Center building will be closed. The building will reopen on Saturday, February 11, 2017. During that same period, the Washington’s Headquarters Museum and the Ford Mansion will only be open on Saturdays and Sundays.

Please note that the grounds of the entire park will remain open seven days per week along with the restroom facilities at the Jockey Hollow area, per park hours listed at

These closures will not affect currently scheduled education programs.