Thursday, July 23, 2015

Nature-Based Learning and Immersive History

The first sessions of workshops at the Morristown and Vanderveer sites were a success. Chris and his teaching colleagues had a lot of ground to cover, both literally (they did some hiking) and in terms of potential teaching materials. 

This week, Chris shares with us his vision for this TRT collaboration.

As an educator, principal and supervisor for over 18 years, I have always been fascinated not with the content of history, but with the varied and nuanced connections between history and other disciplines. I am drawn to the big picture study of historical events and how geography, economy, local and international politics, culture and  man's relationship and learning from nature all intertwine to form what we know as “history.”  As such, my goals of creating a Teacher Immersion experience at Morristown National Historic Park and the Jacobus Vanderveer House are directed at immersing teachers in the resources themselves while helping them make "big picture" connections between the park resource, their grade level and content area. My goal is to empower every teacher, K-12, realize they can use the cultural, historical and recreational resources of our parks and historic sites to create lessons or guide field trips utilizing these amazing resources. Additionally, as a nature based coach in training, I love the learning that arises when students and/or teachers are in the outdoors. In my workshop, I stress the habit of "sit-spotting" to help teachers reconnect with the history of our past. Sit Spotting is the act of sitting and observing in nature for at least 20 minutes per day every day.  I like to introduce teachers to this practice because so much of what our elders and ancestors of the past were able to do was possible by simply observing nature.  The concept and location of a "winter encampment" were made possible by observation.  The usage of wood for flooring and building, keeping windows on the south facing side, growing herbs for seasoning and medicinal purposes, the weaving of textiles from plants and the utilization of winter ice for summer storage and more were all made possible by the simple act of observation.  If teachers can walk away with the power the simple practice of quiet and mindful natural observation has had on history, then I will be really happy!

Thanks for sharing this insightful perspective, Chris!

Monday, July 20, 2015

TRT Project in Full Swing

Morristown NHP would like to welcome our 2015 Teacher-Ranger-Teacher (TRT), Chris Bickel.

The TRT program is a Park Service professional development project, coordinated through the University of Colorado, Denver. Each year, eligible parks may apply to participate in this national initiative. We are very excited to be working with Livingston's own, Chris Bickel.

Focusing on K-12 education, Bickel works as Livingston Public Schools Social Studies Supervisor. We have had the pleasure of collaborating with Chris in years past and are eager to learn a lot from this partnership.

The 2015 TRT project is outward looking. We hope to reach Park Centennial and community collaboration goals by partnering with the Jacobus Vanderveer House and Museum. For Bickel's part, he will to lead several teacher prototyping workshops and develop toolkit materials for both sites. Chris is also completing an extensive online course at UCD and samples of his work will be made available via the NPS TRT portal. He is working hard to help Livingston teachers #findTHEIRpark!

Thanks, Chris!

Stay tuned for more TRT updates this summer.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

An Update on the Wick House and Ford Mansion

The Wick House has been around since the mid-18th century, and as a result, has a accumulated a lot: a lot of objects, artifacts, and well, dust. To say that we've been busy would be an understatement. For the first weeks, we really focused on getting everything within the house packed and sent out: textiles, kitchen supplies, furniture, even the front knocker. It all had to go so that the restoration crew could come in and begin their repairs. Everything has been brought to the Cross Estate, and the work on the house has begun, but our work is far from over. For the past two and half weeks, we've been unpacking and cleaning the objects.

To do this, we dry brush the objects or vacuum any remaining remnants of age, and then we clean them with a mixture of microban and distilled water to protect them from mold.

Once that's been finished, we take to photographing the objects and making sure that they are cataloged. Here's an example:

Although the chimney restoration project has been keeping us all busy, I've had some time to begin working on the virtual tour of the Ford Mansion. At this point, it's been all about collecting information: taking picture of the pieces that were there during Washington's stay, doing some research into those pieces, and figuring out a way to put them all together. It's been a busy summer so far, and there's a lot of work left to be done, but I look forward to it.

This blog entry is by Allison Alecci, Boston College.

Flat Rangers Davis and Franco Visit Morristown and Help With the Wick House Cleaning

So far, it's been a very busy summer thanks to the chimney rehabilitation project over at the Wick House. The curatorial staff has been working hard to unpack and clean the objects. Thankfully, we've had the help of some Flat Rangers, Franco and Davis, to get the job done. 

Flat Rangers Franco and Davis helped dry brush the objects. Later they helped us clean them with a mixture of microban and distilled water in order to protect them from mold. It was great having some extra sets of hands!
Flat Ranger Franco helped to make sure that the cleaning of the objects ran smoothly. What a great supervisor!
Flat Ranger Davis was a huge help when it came to unpacking. There was a lot of stuff, but thanks to him we got it done quickly!

We couldn't have done it without you!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Tune In

Listen in on Monday, June 15th, from
 when Morristown NHPs Chief of Cultural Resources Jude Pfister will be the guest on the radio program These Days, hosted by author, singer-songwriter, and radio personality Gordon Ward. Dr. Pfister will join Gordon to discuss the Morristown NHP, the Ford Mansion, and the museum and archival collections.

WDVR, 89.7 FM in Sergeantsville, NJ; 96.9 Mhz in Trenton, NJ; simulcast on WPNJ 90.5 Easton, PA.

The station has a 3,500 square mile signal radius, and is worldwide at

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Welcome Summer Interns

The division of cultural resources would like to welcome our summer interns, Allison Alecci and Tyler Spiridakis.

Allison is a rising junior at Boston College, majoring in history and English.  Her primary areas of interest are early American and early modern European history. Her fascination with the Revolutionary War brought her to Morristown. In addition to assisting with the Wick House cleaning and inventory project, Allison is creating a virtual tour of the Ford Mansion.

Tyler, a rising senior at Drew University, is also studying history, with special interest in U.S. history. He was intrigued by the expansive library and archival collections at Morristown, and will be creating an exhibit based on Massachusetts colonial governor, Thomas Hutchinson. And like Allison, Tyler will help us tackle the Wick House project.


Monday, June 8, 2015

Thanks Flat Rangers, Pack 76

Last week, we began work preparing the Wick House for its scheduled chimney rehabilitation project. Construction is set to start on June 15, so the curatorial staff has been busy removing and relocating furniture so the crew can move in. We were lucky to have some Flat Rangers from Boy Scouts Pack 76 help us with the dirty work.

The Wick House was pretty dusty, so the Pack 76 crew
prepped with masks and gloves.

It was so nice having some extra pairs of hands as we loaded
furniture into the pickup. To be safe, the crew was sure to practice the
"team lift" method of loading objects into the truck.
Every museum object had to be removed from the space...
even this traditional Georgian lion door knocker.
The crew helped wrapped artifacts.
Some objects, like andirons, are very heavy and awkward to wrap,
but we got creative.
We were stunned at how compact this replica camp bed was
after we folded it into transport position. Genius!
The team help Museum Specialist, Joni Rowe, tie together the
posters of the rope beds. Everyone was interested to find out the
meaning of "sleep tight."
Packing up the Wick House pantry took the longest.
It was chock-full redware and other replica and demonstration pieces.
The crew was careful to not over-pack any of the kitchen boxes,
because they quickly become heavy.
You made our job so much easier!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

knock knock

On which famous Morristown NHP structure does this intimidating face reside?

Hint: Legend has it, a horse once took up residence here.


Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Chief of Cultural Resources Dr. Jude Pfister has recently published Morris County's Acorn Hall with The History Press. This book, as Dr. Pfister explains, "is a biography of a home, in this case, Acorn Hall, and the five generations who lived there." The book takes into account the wider Morristown and Morris County story which is intimately connected with Acorn Hall through the Morris County Historical Society. The book also traces the role Morristown NHP played in the transition of Acorn Hall into the historical site we all can visit and enjoy today.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Thanks, Cub Scouts Pack 513-Den 3

On Monday evening, despite threatening skies, five cub scouts and their den leader and scoutmaster spent an hour and a half picking up litter in the woods, along the road and fire roads/trails at Fort Nonsense. The crew scoured the 35 acres for cans, bottles, and household trash. Several bags of litter were removed (see white bags in photo- another completely full bag of litter was left at the bottom of the hill).  

Great work boys!  Thanks for helping make Fort Nonsense a clean and safe place for visitors and wildlife alike. 

Jockey Hollow Reenactment May 16th and 17th

Discover what life was like for a Continental Soldier in Jockey Hollow during the Spring of 1780.

Please be our guest as the Continental Army encampment comes to life! Join us the weekend of May 16th and 17th as soldiers, their wives and their children return to Jockey Hollow for our Encampment Weekend. It's an event full of activities for the whole family.

Activities Include:

* Cooking Demonstrations

* Children's Drill and Games

* Soldier Camp Life

* Musket and Cannon Demonstrations

* Military Drill

* Best part is that all activities are free!

For more information and a schedule of events call 973-543-4030 or visit

10:00AM - 5:00PM
May 16 and 17, 2015

Jockey Hollow
580 Tempe Wick Road (approx.)
Morristown, New Jersey 07960

Monday, May 11, 2015

Wick House Will Close for the Summer

Wick House Chimney & Fireplace Rehabilitation to Begin: Historic Building Will Close for the Summer

Morristown, NJ – Morristown National Historical Park’s circa 1750 Wick House will close for the summer on May 20th, 2015, in order to conduct much-needed rehabilitation work on its chimney and fireplace. All of Jockey Hollow and the grounds around the Wick House, including the Wick Garden, will remain open to the public during the rehabilitation. Safety zones will be set up in the area immediate surrounding the house to ensure visitors’ safety.

The New England and Long Island inspired style house belonged to Henry Wick, the biggest landowner in Morristown, whose property included approximately 1400 acres. At least four brigades of the Continental Army, and possibly parts of two other brigades, camped on Wick’s land during the winter of 1779-1780. The troops cut down at least 600 acres of Wick’s trees to build their huts and to use as firewood. Wick also allowed Major General Arthur St. Clair to rent rooms in his home during the encampment.

The home remained a private residence until 1933, when Morristown National Historical Park was created and the house was donated to the new park. From 1934-1935, the National Park Service restored the house as a New Deal, Public Works Administration project.

Morristown National Historical Park preserves, protects, and commemorates the landscapes, structures, features, and museum collections of the Continental Army winter encampments, the headquarters of General George Washington, and related Revolutionary War sites at Morristown, New Jersey for the benefit and inspiration of the public. Morristown NHP also represents a continuum of our nation’s efforts to protect our common heritage: as the very first “national historical park”, the park was also established to commemorate, preserve, and memorialize American history and heritage

Monday, April 27, 2015

SCHS Quarterly: John Marshall and Thomas Jefferson

Curator Jude Pfister's talk at the John Marshall house in January 2015 has been published in the Quarterly of the Supreme Court Historical Society. The talk was adapted from Dr. Pfister's 2014 book America Writes Its History.

click to enlarge images

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Small Talk: Miniature Books & Tiny Libraries

Join archivist Sarah Minegar as she explores the art of miniature bookmaking, this Wednesday, April 8, at the Morris Museum. This talk will feature one of Morristown National Historical Parks’ tiniest treasures, an 1896 printing of A Letter from Galileo to Madame Christina di Lorena that measures just under one inch.

Find out more HERE.

Friday, April 3, 2015


NEW YORK In advance of next year's National Park Service Centennial, the Park Service and the National Park Foundation kicked off a nationwide campaign to encourage people to learn about and connect with the 407 national parks by launching a one-of-a-kind interactive installation that invites them to share their stories about their favorite parks and discover new parks and public lands they might want to visit.

Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell will join National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis, National Park Foundation Interim President Dan Wenk and Centennial Ambassador Bella Thorne to unveil a musical installation and the Find Your Park Virtual View Kiosks, which will connect people in New York City and several other cities to national parks across the country over the coming weeks. This marks the beginning of the Find Your Park campaign to educate people about and connect them to their national parks in preparation for next year's National Park Service Centennial celebration.

“When the National Park System was created in 1916, no one would have imagined that technology could someday enable schoolchildren in New York to explore parks thousands of miles away with the touch of a button,” said Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell. “While we never want a virtual experience to replace a genuine connection, we are hopeful the display will provide a gateway that inspires people to visit their parks and fall in love with the beauty, history and culture that make up our national parks and public lands.”

“National parks offer a variety of experiences for visitors, and the Find Your Park Virtual View Tour invites more Americans to stop and see what new opportunities await when they engage with national parks and the programs offered by the National Park Service,” said Director Jarvis. “There are diverse parks and historic sites across the nation, and with each stop on the Find Your Park Virtual View Tour, we’re connecting them with more Americans than ever before. Tap the screen and within seconds you’ll be speaking with a ranger or park visitor at Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming or at Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site in Atlanta, Georgia and exploring what the park has to offer in real-time.”

“Technology is a great way for my generation to connect with national parks,” Bella Thorne said. “I can’t believe that this tour makes it possible for me to stand in the middle of New York City and talk to a park ranger at Golden Gate National Recreation Area! It is a great reminder that national parks, near and far, can touch our lives every day.”

The Find Your Park installation gives visitors the opportunity to experience all 407 national parks in an interactive one-minute musical rotation. It uses audio, visual, and geo-location elements to inspire a new generation to discover the breadth of the national parks and the work of the National Park Service. To complement the installation and further demonstrate that it is easier than ever to Find Your Park, Find Your Park Virtual View Kiosks will be stationed at the launch event to connect visitors directly to National Park Service staff, influencers and park-goers at national parks across the country.

The Find Your Park Virtual View Kiosks will be available to the public at the North Flatiron Plaza in New York City on April 2 and April 3 and then will embark on a nationwide tour, giving others across the U.S. the chance to experience and connect with our national parks in a special way.

Everyone is encouraged to find their parks and share their stories on, which will feature an interactive story gallery with inspirational stories from the general public, National Park Service employees, and celebrity Centennial Ambassadors Bill Nye (scientist), Bella Thorne (TV and film actress), Roselyn Sanchez (TV and film actress), Terrence J. (TV personality) and Mary Lambert (singer/songwriter and LGBT advocate). Those who share their stories on and opt into The Centennial Project contest will be entered for a chance to have their submission brought to life by one of the celebrity Centennial Ambassadors as part of the centennial celebration in 2016.

Also on is a searchable list of ideas for ways to find your park, including in-park and digital activities. Content will be socialized with #FindYourPark, and will act as a hub for the public to share their park stories and inspire each other.

Find Your Park Virtual View Tour Schedule

  • April 2-3:
  • North Flatiron Plaza (New York, NY)
  • April 9-10:
  • El Pueblo de Los √Āngeles Historical Monument (Los Angeles, CA)
  • April 16-17:
  • National Mall and Memorial Parks (Washington, DC)

The Find Your Park Virtual View Tour was produced by GREY NY – the agency that also developed and implemented the integrated Find Your Park campaign. Find Your Park includes a stream of programs, exhibits, events, promotions and public activities throughout 2015 and 2016 that will encourage everyone to find their park. As a holistic marketing campaign, Find Your Park includes broadcast, print, digital, outdoor and radio creative featuring arresting visuals of the national parks, as well as public relations, influencer and social media efforts.


Monday, March 16, 2015

Building the Huts: Myth, Memory, and Archaeology at Morristown

Since Morristown NHP was first created in 1933, the question of how best to present and interpret the story of the 1779–1780 winter encampment has been debated and discussed on and off for nearly that entire time. Most visitors however, have no idea of the discussions and debates which led to what they see today. Should this matter? Or, should visitors simply take at face value, without question, the information presented to them, be it visual, written, or spoken? What most visitors perceive is a seamless line from archaeology, to study, to rebuilding, to interpretation. However, things aren’t always as simple as they seem.

Curator, Jude Pfister discusses the struggles of historical interpretation in the recent issue of Garden State Legacy. His article, "Building the Huts: Myth, Memory, and Archaeology at Morristown," looks at how what we see today was influenced by what our NPS forebears thought we should see, and by what modern scientific archaeology can tell us we should see. As with most elements of historical interpretation, emphasis areas and nuanced appreciation or rejection of history, often depend upon one’s perspective.

Read more HERE.

Building the Huts, Jude M. Pfister, D.Litt. | Issue 27 March 2015

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Successful Birthday Celebration

George and Martha Washington stand in the front hallway of the Ford Mansion,
where the Washington’s stayed over 235 years ago. NPS photo.

Morristown National Historical Park celebrated George Washington’s birthday by inviting the Continental Army and George and Martha Washington back to Morristown over President’s Day weekend.

On Saturday, February 21st, and Sunday, February 22nd, reenactors from the 2nd New Jersey Regiment portrayed Continental soldiers and officers at the Wick House, which became a military headquarters during the winter of 1779-1780. Visitors learned what it was like during the “Hard Winter” as well as the roles that officers, soldiers, and civilians played during the Jockey Hollow Encampment.

Also on Sunday, America’s founding couple, George and Martha Washington, returned to Morristown, 235 years after they spent the hard winter of 1779-1780 at the Theodosia Ford Mansion. This free program, which was given in cooperation with the Jacobus Vanderveer House & Museum in Bedminster, New Jersey, was funded by a grant from the Anne L. and George H. Clapp Charitable and Educational Trust.

Re-enactors portraying George and Martha Washington reminisced about that challenging time in American history and provided a first-hand account of the anxieties associated with the discomforts of that winter, as well as their much larger, shared task of keeping the spirits of the American ideal from falling victim to a winter which nearly stopped the Army in its tracks.

This entry by Vanessa Smiley, Chief of Interpretation.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

George and Martha Washington Return to Morristown

Joint Program with the Jacobus Vanderveer House & Museum
3 pm, Sunday, February 22, 2015

Morristown, NJ – America’s founding couple, George and Martha Washington, will return to Morristown, New Jersey, 235 years after they spent the hard winter of 1779-1780 at the Theodosia Ford Mansion.

Re-enactors portraying George and Martha Washington will reminisce about that challenging time in American history during a presentation Sunday, February 22nd from 3:00 - 4:00 p.m. at Morristown National Historical Park’s Washington’s Headquarters Museum, 30 Washington Place, Morristown, New Jersey. The free program, hosted by Morristown National Historical Park in cooperation with the Jacobus Vanderveer House & Museum in Bedminster, is funded by a grant from the Anne L. and George H. Clapp Charitable and Educational Trust.

“It is widely acknowledged that George Washington slept just about everywhere during the Revolution. Most people don’t realize, however, that his wife, Martha, also spent many a night away from Mount Vernon with her husband at winter encampments,” observed Jude Pfister, D. Litt., Chief of Cultural Resources, Morristown National Historical Park. “That was, indeed, the case at the Morristown 1779-1780 encampment.”

George and Martha Washington will give attendees a first-hand account of the anxieties associated with the discomforts of that winter, as well as their much larger, shared task of keeping the spirits of the American ideal from falling victim to a winter which nearly stopped the Army in its tracks.

The program is free of charge, but registration is suggested.  Register online at:

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Featured Artifact: Secret Compartments

Hollywood spins enticing tales of family secrets and hidden treasures, but what if your heirlooms really do have a story to tell? Several pieces in our eighteenth-century furniture collection are not what they seem.  In fact, these desks and cabinets cleverly disguise hidden compartments. Today we will take a look at three different examples, demonstrating various degrees of craftsmanship.

example 1

Pictured here is the upper half of a flat-top highboy. It appears to house six drawers, but only the bottom two drawers function. The remaining four are false fronts which decorate an upper storage "trunk."

The hinged molding opens to reveal a large storage area. The upper portion featured here would rest atop a lower cabinet of similar height, so accessing the upper compartment would likely require a stool of some sort.

example 2

As the previous example, pictured here is the upper half of a flat-top highboy. This Queen-Anne style piece is far more ornate, featuring brass pulls and locks on each drawer.  The hidden compartment is also more clever than the first.

A entire drawer is concealed behind the cornice molding. This would have made an ideal hiding place for important documents.

example 3

This final piece might be compared to an antique safe deposit box. Not only does this drop-front desk feature a locking front panel, it includes two layers of secure compartments.

Even decorative elements slide out to reveal hiding spots.

The most intriguing feature, however, is the "secret passageway" that opens to a set of interior drawers. Like an intricate puzzle, the entire center structure may be carefully lifted out to reveal additional storage compartments. The skilled craftsman that assembled this piece was careful to create the illusion that the center drawers were permanently fixed and were as deep as those that flanked either side--preventing the untrained eye from the suspicion that the center unit might be acting as a false front.

Unfortunately our investigation did not reveal any treasures, but perhaps we still have pieces in our collection that are keeping secrets!

This blog post by Sarah Minegar.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Bullying, Etiquette, and Family Honor in the Late-Eighteenth Century

Occasionally the museum staff come across a manuscript or artifact that feels so personal and relevant that we can't help but pour over it. This was certainly the case with a document written by New Jerseyan Edward Fleming to one Gabriel Ludlow, dated 1783.

LWS 756, b61,  f 65

This three-page letter, written from one concerned father to another, details how Fleming's son was bullied and he (the senior Fleming) personally insulted by Ludlow's son. In light of all of the recent anti-bullying advocacy, this document felt particularly resonant.

Let's take a closer look.