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

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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:

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Tips: Houseplant TLC

spider plant

Houseplants can be beautiful, fragrant or just interesting, and they have the ability to calm us. Maybe you’re growing plants in your house or apartment at the moment or have thought about doing so. If you’re a beginner, here are some tips on getting started caring for houseplants — and if you’re a veteran, think of this as a confirmation that you’re taking care of your green housemates properly.

1. In choosing a houseplant, consider what you have to offer it: Is your house or apartment mostly dark inside, or do you have a lot of sunlight? Reading the label placed in the pot (if it’s a nursery plant) will tell you what level of light the plant does best with. You can also do a little online or book research on the plant’s needs. You certainly can move the plant around to other spots to see if it responds better to different types of light.

2. After you’ve set up the plant in the place you want, put a plate or lid under it to collect water. A houseplant will inevitably become thirsty, so next, you’ll want to water it. The rule of thumb for learning whether your plant needs water is exactly that: gently push your thumb down into the soil around your plant as far down as your knuckle. If that soil feels dry, add water to the pot until it runs out the bottom. Fresh water collected from outside is great for plants because it’s free of water-softening chemicals added to tap water, but either way your plant will be grateful.

3. If you’re growing a plant with thick, fleshy leaves, it’s probably storing water in those leaves and you won’t need to water it as much. Water this kind of plant once a month during winter while its growth is slow, and twice a month during the rest of the year. But also check the plant’s watering instructions or do some research on this topic.

4. Also, during the winter months, indoor air is normally much drier because of heated houses and apartments. It’s not a bad idea to find a spray bottle and mist your plant with water every day. You’ll see it respond with healthy looking leaves and maybe even an unexpected bloom.

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Activity: Tudor Place Virtual Garden Adventure

Explore Tudor Place’s garden using Google Earth “street view”. Click here. Check below for instructions on how to use the tour.

Looking for elementary educational activities? Find links to Tudor Place worksheets and recommended books below to turn the virtual tour into a virtual field trip.

Subjects: Plant science, natural science, garden science

Materials: Computer, printable worksheets (optional), Google Earth app (optional)

Time: 5-30 minutes

Abilities: Students grade 2 and lower need assistance

OR

Open using the Google Earth App on a phone or tablet.

  • The first page (Introduction) shows an aerial view of Tudor Place and maps the route through the garden.
    • If the screen does not automatically zoom in on Tudor Place, zoom in using your mouse or the + sign in the top left. The viewer might have to reorient the map over Tudor Place by dragging the map with the mouse.
  • For a full screen view, click the circled button and choose “Play full screen”.
  • To start the Google Earth tour, click next. This should bring the viewer to the first stop of the tour: the North Garden.

If the view does not automatically shift to street/garden view, place the yellow man in the top left corner the map onto the map.

  • At each stop, drag the map around to see the garden from every angle. Click on the pictures in the slideshow above the text for more information and other activities.
  • Navigate between the stops by clicking next and back, or by clicking on the named stops in the panel on the left.
  • Pair this virtual field trip with the read-aloud books and the worksheets. Recommendations for pairing are below.

Recommended read-aloud book videos:

Recommended Education at Home worksheets and activities:

Questions? Comments? Photos to share? Email us with your Education at Home needs: education@tudorplace.org

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Activity: Architecture Inventor (Girl Scouts Premier Partner Program)

thornton presentation drawing of tudor place
Step into the shoes of architect William Thornton and design your own houses. Download the activity here. Brownies will be able to complete all activities needed for the Inventor badge.

  • Imagine new ways to use everyday items that are normally thrown away
  • Create designs for a brand new house
  • List the things that a person needs in a home
  • Solve a problem for a housing need
  • Share with someone how you would use your new idea

Time: Up to 3 hours

Materials: Worksheet, recycled items

Find more Scout Programs here.

Activity: Notice on a Nature Walk (City Nature Month and iNaturalist partnership)

 

black couple looking at box knot garden

Citizen science – the collection and analysis of data relating to the natural world by members of the general public, typically as part of a collaborative project with professional scientists.”

City Nature Challenge brings citizen science to the Washington DC area with iNaturalist every year. This year there is a new challenge: what can we notice when we stay at home?

City Nature Challenge asks residents in urban areas to become stewards of nature by documenting the biodiversity around them – even if it’s just outside their front door. Over 10,000 observations have been made in the DMV project since April 1. Northern spicebushes were found about 15 times, and over 50 of our neighbors have spotted an American bullfrog.

iNaturalist is a joint initiative of the California Academy of Sciences and the National Geographic Society with the goal of connecting average citizens and professionals to build a scientific catalog. The app relies on people like you to take photos of wildlife and upload them to the site with a geotag. Then, professionals and hobbyists from all over the world can use the app to identify species of plants and animals.

The result is a huge stash of biodiversity information that iNaturalist shares with scientific data repositories like the Global Biodiversity Information Facility. It is citizen science in action.

Whether you browse and learn how to identify common plants, submit photos from your nature walk, or use your professional horticultural knowledge to submit identifications, iNaturalist, City Nature Challenge and Tudor Place want you to look around, notice nature and share your observations!

More Information

Questions? Comments? Photos to share? Email us with your Education at Home needs: education@tudorplace.org

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Activity: Playing the Past (Girl Scouts Premier Partner Program)

We have set the scene for you to recreate life at Tudor Place in 1911! Download the activity here.
Junior Girl Scouts will be able to complete all activities needed for the Playing the Past badge.

  • Read about people who lived over 100 years ago.
  • Choose a character you want to recreate in a play set in 1911.
  • Create a costume to represent the important pieces of your character.
  • Build a set and props to bring your reenactment to life.
  • Play the role in a movie scene, give a speech, write a diary entry, or play 20 questions.

Time: Up to 3 hours

Materials: Worksheet, household props, historical research databases like Chronicling America (optional)

Find more Scout Programs here.

Activity: Plant Yoga

Finding it hard to stay active? At Tudor Place, one of our favorite activities is plant yoga! Plant yoga is a quick and easy activity for people of all ages to practice balance and movement in your home or yard. You can do it for 5 minutes or you can do it for 30 minutes–whatever works for you! Always seek the advice of your physician or qualified health professional before starting or changing any exercise program.

How to do plant yoga:

  1. Put on comfortable clothes you can move around in. Find an open space where you can stretch in all directions.
  2. Find a plant (or two! or three!) to mimic.
  3. Pose and move around like your chosen plant. Droop like a weeping willow! Plant your feet like roots in the ground!  (More examples in the photos below).
  4. That’s it! Share what you’re up to with us on Instagram and Facebook and tag us #tudorplace, or email us at education@tudorplace.org

Who: Everyone

How Long: 5-30 minutes

Where: Indoors or outdoors

Our staff and their children had a blast doing plant yoga!

Download and share the Plant Yoga Activity.

Questions? Comments? Photos to share? Email us with your Education at Home needs: education@tudorplace.org

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Activity: Tudor Place Coloring Pages

Coloring is one of the great joys in life for young and old. While we cannot paint the exterior of Tudor Place a nice Cape Cod blue nor can we paint the columns on the Temple Portico to look like they are made of marble, we can color these printable Tudor Place coloring pages however our hearts desire! There is no historical accuracy in coloring.

Use these coloring pages to decorate Tudor Place as you would if you lived here. Maybe your Tudor Place will be covered in flowers to celebrate Spring? Or perhaps your Tudor Place is located underwater and there are fish everywhere. The only limit is your imagination!

We’d love to see your finished Tudor Place drawings! Share with us on Instagram or Facebook #tudorplace.

Temple Portico Coloring Page

South Lawn Coloring Page

Pierce-Arrow Coloring Page

Questions? Comments? Photos to share? Email us with your Education at Home needs: education@tudorplace.org

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Lesson: What Trees Can Tell Us

Trees gain one ring per year, like candles on a birthday cake. In this activity, students use tree rings to tell the story of a tree and its environment. Download the lesson plan and answer key here. Fit for elementary education.

 

Subjects: Plant science, natural science, simply math, historic preservation
Materials: Worksheet, glossary, and answer key (download) & pencil
Time: 25 minutes
Abilities:
5th grade reading level; basic counting and math; making comparison statements

 

Introduction:

Dendrochronology is the science of using tree rings to learn about the age and history of a piece of wood. Say the word out loud:

“ den-dro-chron-ol-o-gy ”


Dendrochronology is not only used for trees. Dendrochronology helps people learn about wooden buildings. Tree rings can also tell historians about the climate from long ago.

At Tudor Place, scientists took samples of wood from parts of the old house. The scientists used dendrochronology to learn what year the wood was cut down from a tree. They can’t know exactly, but they can make a good guess. The scientists discovered that parts of the building were older than we had thought. We can learn history through trees!

Learn how to read tree rings. Then find out what trees can tell us!

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