Friday, June 8, 2012

Public History: Summer Internship

At some point, maybe, I'll go back and write posts about all the things I did during the last two semesters.  As for right now, I'm doing something really exciting this summer and I'd like to tell you about it.  I have an education internship at this lovely place:
This is Tudor Place, the home of one of George Washington's step-granddaughters, Martha Parke Custis Peter.  The house was completed in 1816.  It is a striking example of Federal Period Neoclassical architecture.  This is the view from the Potomac side of the house.  The Peter family lived on the property from about 1805, when the property was purchased, until 1983.

The house is (mostly) not interpreted to one specific period.  Rather, it is decorated with objects and artwork that date throughout the 200 year range of occupancy.  That's how the Peter family decorated, so that's how the curators leave it.  This choice was made in part because the last owner, Armistead Peter III wrote a book in which he sat in each room of the house and described all that was in it and why as well as what happened in the rooms.  It's a great historical tool, a window into the six generations that lived here.   

I'm working for the education department running and developing programs for scout groups, school tours, private events, and summer camps.  It's been very fun so far.
I've learned to lead three main programs so far.  I became comfortable with "Storytime in the Garden" first.  In this program we lead children through the garden and teach them about the parts of plants and how they grow.  We even do plant yoga!

The next program, probably my favorite, is called "History Detectives."  In this program, kids are given flashcards featuring objects in the house that illustrate how household technology has changed over time.  The flashcards include the keys on a gasolier (gas-powered chandelier), 18th century call bells, a 1914 waffle iron, and a Franklin stove.  The children are encouraged to be detectives and spot those objects as we tour the house.  Once they find an object, we speculate about what it was used for and how it's different from what we use now. It’s a great program because you can really see kids figuring things out! 

I am also beginning to give adult house tours.  Those are fun as well, and I always learn something new from the questions guests ask.

Finally, for your enjoyment, here's a 1919 Pierce-Arrow roadster:


  1. That book sounds amazing!!! I really like concept non-fiction books like that. Maybe I will try the same thing in my apartment. "This futon I got from Craigslist. It is wildly uncomfortable but I can't get rid of it because we can't figure out how to get it back down the stairs." Maybe less historically valuable.

  2. I love the Roadster!