Museums 101: Primary Sources on Tour

Have you ever wondered how docents and tour guides knew all the stories that they told? Have you ever wondered if the stories they recited were even true?

Check out this Museums 101 video to see how Tudor Place found primary sources for a popular story that is part of the historic house  tour.

Then: Explore historic newspapers from your home state on Chronicling America

Find more Education at Home posts.

Slavery & the Gap in Archives

When you want to write about history, where do you start?
Archival material?

What if it doesn’t tell the full story?


Not even a little?

Scroll through to learn more about the complex relationship between archives and slavery.

The above image (captioned “Souls”) represents individuals the Peters enslaved at Tudor Place prior to 1860. These people are known to historians today because their names appear in written documents or were passed down by word. This is not a complete list of those enslaved by Thomas and Martha Peter, or the extended Peter family.

The Tudor Place staff is continuously researching in the archive and beyond the archive to fill in the stories about Elizabeth, Patty Allen, Joe, and the other individuals listed here. In some cases, the staff was able to learn more about their lives after emancipation.

But, say the Tudor Place Archive was our only glimpse of the lives of enslaved people, like Ralph Anderson or Will Twine, whose knowledge, labor, and skills were exploited here.

How much would Tudor Place know?

The names of individuals like Ibby and Annie come from account books, diaries, letters, runaway slave ads, and reminiscences.

That means the archive can tell researchers about economics, labor, or parentage. It also means that the few stories of enslaved people at Tudor Place are framed almost exclusively, though not entirely, by the lens of the family who enslaved and exploited them.

A Peter family member may recall the “good food” that Patty Allen prepared and “sent into the dining room”…

but the archive cannot speak about Patty Allen’s favorite meal to share with her husband on a holiday.

The archive does not even hold the name Mary-Ann gave her daughter.

The complexities go beyond tracking what was written down and what wasn’t. Because slavery is inherently dehumanizing, the Peters’ recordkeeping about people they enslaved is incomplete at best, and dehumanizing at worst.

By only recording labor, prices, parentage, and stories told primarily through the enslavers and not the enslaved, the Peters put the inhumanity of slavery into the archive. Replicating the violence of talking about enslaved people only through “what we know” from archives is a problem across all American historical institutions.

These are called “silences.”

It is Tudor Place’s job to stop replicating the silences.

Tudor Place’s work to fill the gaps in the archive includes:

  • Archaeological excavation
  • Recording oral histories with descendants of those enslaved at Tudor Place
  • Exploring other archives and repositories to try and fill in the gaps at Tudor Place
  • Collectively researching the community of free African Americans living in Georgetown in the 18th and 19th centuries alongside other Georgetown institutions
  • Reading primary documents closely to recognize gaps


Join us in stopping silence. You can:

The Royal Visit: “Two burning, boiling, sweltering, humid furnace-like days in Washington”

United Kingdom king george VI and his wife queen elizabeth standing at top of stone steps with dignitaries
The King and Queen’s arrival at the British Embassy garden party, June 8, 1939. Press photograph now part of the Tudor Place Collection.

As Great Britain prepared for World War II, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth made an historic visit to the United States. A 1939 party invitation in the Tudor Place Archive led to research by Curator Grant Quertermous; here is his article with the story of the royal visit to Washington, DC and how that involved members of the Peter family.

Read the essay.

Standing in Solidarity: A Message from Mark Hudson, Executive Director

Events of the past week serve as painful reminders of our nation’s legacy of racism and the struggles that remain with us today. As an historic site that bears the scars of slavery, Tudor Place seeks to look this injustice in the eye. In acknowledging this part of our story, we pursue a common understanding that may help our nation and our community transcend its troubled past.

We mourn for all those who have suffered at the violent hand of racism and stand with those whose voices cry out for justice, longing for the day when protests will no longer be needed.

-Mark S. Hudson
Executive Director