Friday, December 3, 2010
First, we decide on a theme for the Christmas program. This year Jon Bachman, our Educational Events Coordinator, picked a year - 1774 - as the interpretive theme. Having one particular year gave me a good starting point for deciding how to set up the house appropriately. Then I took some time looking at Lee family papers (like the 1776 household inventory) and period accounts (like the diaries of planter Landon Carter and local schoolmaster Philip Vickers Fithian). Pulling information from secondary sources came next (At Home and The Festive Tradition are two favorites).
That's just a sneak peak of what we have going on in the Great House this holiday season. Come see it all aglow on December 11th and throughout December, January, and February.
Landon Carter quote: Jack P. Greene, ed., The Diary of Colonel Landon Carter of Sabine Hall, 1752-1778, II (Richmond, Va., 1987), p. 908.
Friday, November 19, 2010
Hi folks, my name is Townsend Hart and I’m a historic preservation and museum studies minor at the University of Mary Washington. I’m currently interning with both Gretchen Goodell (Curator) and Abigail Newkirk (Director of Interpretation and Education).
The objective for the internship is to research various objects belonging to Stratford and create interpretive proposals. Initially I planed to work on five objects in total, but some of the objects required more in depth and time consuming research. It has really been a learning experience and I’m thankful for the opportunity to do such involved, fascinating projects.
The first object I began with was the nursery fireback- marked with two cherub angels and the date 1745. I was able to find some interesting things about both this particular fireback as well as firebacks in general. For example, the fact that the Lee’s even had one greatly tells of their wealth considering firebacks were rare and only in the possession of the upper class at the time. To complete my research I looked through archival information (early RELMA notes, Lee family member accounts), books on iron works, and Robert E. Lee biographies.
The second object that I worked with was a handwritten book of Sermon’s attributed to Hannah Lee Corbin (originally dated to around 1780). My initial task for the book was to determine who actually penned the book because there is no name written. For this I completed a handwriting analysis comparing some letters written by Hannah Lee Corbin and her son-in-law George Turberville. Next I attempted to find a single original source...what a crazy experience this was! Google Archives proved to be an excellent resource. I was able to search an individual sentence and come up with original sources, many from 18th century journals. If it was Hannah Lee Corbin who penned this, it really shows her moxie and intelligence.
I have loved getting to see the inner workings of a historic house museum first-hand. There really is no better environment to have this experience than at Stratford. I enjoy taking breaks to feed the horses, or Zander and Steve as I call them, but I highly doubt these are their actual names. I’m looking forward to making way on my next project: thinking of something cool for the coaching event in the spring as well as come up with some creative ideas for the interpretation of the coach house.
Thursday, November 4, 2010
The building is located to the south-east of the Great House and furnished with child-sized furniture, a colorful rug, costumes to play dress-up, and building blocks. The centerpiece for this new room is a custom made Discovery Chest. This piece of furniture has nine drawers filled with books, stuffed animals, dolls, fake food, shark teeth, and colonial games. Each drawer has a box that can be lifted out, allowing families to bring the items to the carpet or tables to play.
This area will continue to grow and evolve as we get feedback from our youngest visitors, but a great step forward in providing families with a memorable experience at Stratford Hall!
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
The exhibits in the West Slave Quarters have been updated and are now open to the public. If you would like a refresher on all our activities this summer, please read our posts about Restoration of the Slave Quarters and Furnishing Plan for the Slave Quarters.
The first pieces to go into the new spaces were the new barriers. Andrew and Eric from AK Metal Fabricators spent two days at Stratford Hall to install our new barriers. The design is the same as those used in the Southwest Outbuilding. These barriers will protect the collection, allow visitors a clear view of the exhibit, and stand-up to the elements. They also pivot open, making cleaning and maintenance very easy.
Our next component was the new text panels. Neal and Doug from Gropen spent a day installing text panels and reader-rails (text panels that sit on top of our barriers).
The last installation was the archaeological samples. Built-in to our new reader-rails are archaeological boxes. These plexi-glass boxes contain archaeological finds that were discovered around the Slave Quarters and provide insight into the lives of the slaves who lived here. The final step was for Curator Gretchen Goodell and Collections Manager Sarah Holland to move the artifacts and furniture into the new exhibits.
Below are some more images of the finished exhibit. Next week we will highlight the new Hand-on Activity Room.
Thursday, September 16, 2010
The layers of paint are being removed using infrared heat and scrapers. Once the paint is removed, any required preservation of the wood can be done. The entire cornice will then be primed and repainted. This is a very labor intensive project that will continue throughout the fall and continue in the spring (work will stop for the winter months).
While you may not notice a huge difference the next time you visit us, this type of work is an integral part of the preservation of Stratford Hall.
Thursday, August 26, 2010
Much like her husband Thomas Lee, Hannah Ludwell Lee was known for her strong personality. Before moving to The Clifts, Thomas and Hannah lived at Machodoc. In January 1720, thieves broke into their home and set fire to the plantation. Thomas, Hannah, and their children escaped the flames by jumping from an upper window. Hannah, pregnant with their fourth child, miscarried. Thomas and Hannah eventually recovered their financial losses, beginning construction on Stratford Hall in 1738.
We do not know the architect of Stratford Hall, but Thomas and Hannah’s eldest son provided a hint when he mentioned that he regretted Hannah’s taste had been followed in the design.
Alice Lee was a young teenager when her parents died. Giving up hope of receiving her inheritance from her father’s estate, in 1760 she went to England where she met and married William Shippen, Jr. of Philadelphia. During the meeting of the Continental Congress in Philadelphia, she and her husband entertained her brothers and other important revolutionary figures, such as the Adamses. Alice Lee Shippen actively collected money in Philadelphia to support the American troops and accompanied her husband (appointed Director General of Hospitals in April 1777) at several encampments of Washington’s army. These encampments included Middlebrook, NJ, Reading, PA, and Valley Forge, PA.
Alice's sister also expressed views that were not typical of the time. Hannah Lee married Gawen Corbin II of Pecatone Plantation. When Gawen died in 1759, his will stated that Hannah would forfeit the estate if she remarried. Rather than lose the property, Hannah entered a common law marriage with Dr. Richard Lingan. Dr. Lingan moved into Pecatone and there they raised their two children.
In 1778, Hannah Lee Corbin wrote her brother Richard Henry to advocate for voting rights for women landowners. Richard Henry's response (dated March 17, 1778): "Perhaps 'twas thought rather out of character for Women to press into those tumultuous Assemblies of Men where the business of choosing Representatives is conducted."
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
You've heard already about the preservation work currently in progress, and the planning for educational hands-on and classroom space that will open in the east building in the coming months. But remember I mentioned that there are two buildings? What about the west building (the one closest to the Great House, pictured above)? In October 2010 we'll be revealing a brand new exhibit space in this structure. Designers are putting the finishing touches on the text and graphic panels. I'm working feverishly on lists of museum objects and appropriate reproduction objects to furnish the two lower-level rooms (the building is a double quarter for two families, with main living rooms below and attic lofts above). And Sarah, our collections manager, is getting dirty this week as she tries to safely clean and move the historic furnishings out of the spaces and into storage.
What will you see when we reopen the space in October? You will see two separate living spaces. One will house an enslaved gardener named Anthony (he appears in a 1776 inventory) and other skilled male workers. I am hesitant to call this a "bachelor" household, though. Slave women often worked as field laborers, so perhaps the single men living here had wives and children that they visited on Sundays and holidays at outlying farm quarters away from the Stratford home farm.
The other living space will be furnished to represent a female domestic family, specifically a woman named Nelly and her daughter Mary. Nelly and her child Mary appear in a 1776 estate inventory, and we find Mary again in a 1782 slave list with the descriptor "blind" after her name. What was life like for Mary? That's just one topic we'll touch upon in these new exhibits.
You'll also soon see on display fragments found in archeological digs in the area. We've included things like a stoneware and creamware dish fragments, a sewing needle, and a shell button. Artifacts that indicate that slaves were consumers. They purchased fashionable goods using money earned by raising and selling vegetables and other goods, or bartering their skills.
This project has been in the research and development phase for close to two years, drawing upon period documents, archaeology, and current scholarship. Stay tuned for the big reveal in October. We look forward to having you visit and hearing what you think!
Thursday, August 12, 2010
The interpreters at Stratford Hall guide visitors through the Great House seven times a day, seven days a week. This July, almost two thousand people toured the Great House. When you add in bus loads of school children and special events, our staff interacts with thousands of people each year.
I am the Director on Interpretation and Education. My job is to help take all this new information and ensure it is reflected in the interpretation (guided tours, school activities, and programs). Our interpreters are constantly learning more about Stratford Hall and updating their tours. While the investigations and projects are underway, the interpreters must also know how to talk about what the visitor is seeing (construction, restoration, furniture out of place, and open probes in the walls).
After the projects have been completed and the reports submitted for review to the staff here at Stratford Hall, all aspects of the interpretation will be reviewed. Just like the tour we provide today is very different from the tour a decade ago, the current tour will undoubtedly be updated to reflect the changes in scholarship.
We hope you continue to follow our progress and visit Stratford Hall to see for yourself all the work that has been done. If you have any questions, please leave a comment below or on the Facebook Fan Page.
Thursday, July 29, 2010
Prior to their arrival, we opened multiple probe areas throughout the first floor so they could see what evidence might be behind the plaster. Other physical evidence they examined and scrutinized included nail holes, wear patterns on the floors, scars and patches in the wood work, and wall framing that could be observed from the attic. We are waiting for the team to analyze their finds before we share too much, but I can share one or two discoveries. One question we think we answered is that the unique niches in the East and West Passages appear to be original with a little reworking by "Light Horse Harry" Lee. One other discovery we were not expecting is that the evidence points to a closet being present in the back section of the Nursery that would have been accessible from the adjoining Chamber.
Monday, July 19, 2010
Hi Stratford Hall blog followers, my name is Tim Barrett. I am a Master of Historic Preservation student in the University of Georgia’s (UGA) College of Environment and Design. A summer assistantship has brought me to Stratford Hall (SH). This opportunity has been made possible through from a recent multi-year partnership between SH and UGA. The result of this partnership will be reports, recommendations, and management strategies to improve the interpretation and stewardship of the SH cultural landscape.
Initially, a cultural landscape inventory, or “CLI,” is being developed with assistance from the Jaeger Company (a private landscape architecture firm based in Georgia). A CLI typically includes an inventory of historic features and an assessment of their condition, integrity, and significance. This field has become familiar to me through an internship with the National Park Service’s Cultural Landscape Program, nonprofit consulting work supporting the acquisition of historic sites, and a mapping project with National Geographic Society staff on the Chesapeake’s “Treasured Landscapes.” However, the depth and richness of SH’s cultural landscape is unparalleled. From its beginnings, SH has been defined by its people and landscape, and undoubtedly these forces have had a profound influence on American history. Where else can you find early 18th century buildings, nesting eagles, old sunken roads, world-class geological resources, two miles of contiguous waterfront, and 1900+ acres affording unspoiled historic viewsheds all in one place?
The SH cultural landscape inventory is still in its early stages. Thus far, we have begun to identify and document the historic landscape features that can be found throughout SH’s significant land holdings. Field work has been both fun and revealing and has even required occasional bushwhacking through some of the property’s remote, densely-forested areas whose landscape has stories to tell but is no longer accessible by roadway or trail. Here, the ticks and chiggers thrive, the poison ivy is thick, and the summer sun is unforgiving. Sunscreen and calamine lotion are constant companions.
I have had the privilege to work with and learn from Stratford’s exceptional staff, including former education director, Ken McFarland, and research and library collections director, Judy Hynson. Ken and Judy’s collective knowledge and commitment to
Please stay tuned for research developments, state of the art maps depicting SH’s cultural landscape, and perhaps even a few surprises as the work of this exciting partnership continues to unfold in the fall and beyond.
Thursday, July 8, 2010
Did you know that Stratford's kitchen likely once had a large closet space located near the hearth? After examining pre-restoration photographs, as well as a 1763 document mentioning materials stolen from the "kitchen closet," the kitchen proposal will definitely suggest looking for evidence for that closet! (Look at the ceiling and wall to the left of the hearth in this pre-restoration photograph--see the outline where the plaster is missing?)
Thursday, July 1, 2010
The interns of the preservation department, under the supervision of Phil Mark, are commencing work on their summer restoration project. Erin White, a graduate student from the Heritage Resources program at Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, Louisiana, started the ten-week internship at the end of May. Jess Warren, from Georgia, is a student in the building preservation technology program at Belmont Technical College in St. Clairsville, Ohio, and he started his internship in mid-June.
This is what they have to say:
Our main project for the summer is the restoration of the reconstructed slave quarters near the Great House. Before Jess’ arrival, Phil and Erin started by removing the back window sashes on the east quarters. The sashes were labeled and taken back to the preservation shop. Using environmentally-friendly silent paint remover, which uses infrared heat, Phil and Erin began removing the glaze, glazing points, and paint from the exterior side of the sashes. We then removed the panes of glass, taking much care not to break them. After all of the glass was removed, the interior sides of the sashes were sanded.
Jess cut the Restoration Glass to replace the broken panes. Restoration Glass is cylinder glass made in Germany in the manner of early glass production before the invention of float glass in the 20th century. Restoration Glass is appropriate to the period of the main house. After the panes were checked to ensure a proper fit, Jess used Sarco glazing to set the glass, which requires a very steady hand.
Currently, we are removing paint and sanding the eaves and window frames of the quarters. We then use Boracare, a non-toxic insecticide, to protect the wood. After this dries, primer, then paint, is applied. If you come by the slave quarters and see us on scaffolding, this is probably what we are doing, so feel free to ask any questions. We’re there Monday through Friday, 9:00-5:00!
Friday, June 25, 2010
Friday, June 11, 2010
Posted by Paul Reber, Executive Director
Thursday, June 3, 2010
The focus of this year's dig is the Oval Site (ST92), a farming complex which dates from approximately 1740 to 1780, and is located about 800 feet south of the Great House on the western side of the Oval drive. The site was originally discovered in the 197os during a plantation-wide survey directed by Dr. Fraser Neiman. Beginning in 2001, the site has been investigated by 8 UMW field schools. At present, the site consists of what we suspect to be an overseer's house featuring a full-height brick-lined basement, a large 20' x 40' post-in-ground barn, and a third structure, also post-in-ground, that was discovered last year in the western portion of the site. This structure is believed to have been either a kitchen or slave quarter.
The 2010 Field School is continuing to investigate and uncover portions of this possible kitchen or slave quarter. We are currently in our third week, and have already found a portion of what we hope is another posthole for the building, several other features, and numerous artifacts. The artifacts include both architectural debris and domestic refuse ranging from countless brick fragments, hand-wrought iron nails, and pieces of window glass to a wide variety of ceramics including coarse utilitarian earthenwares to fine porcelain tablewares. Brass tacks, white-clay pipe stems, table glass, gun flints, brass buckles, iron bridle bits, and even a prehistoric projectile point have been found as well.
By carefully digging 5' x 5' squares of dirt, layer by layer with shovels and trowels, in the area of the suspected third building, the students and crew continue to learn more about the size of this structure, what it was used for, and what was around it. The artifacts screened from those layers of dirt tell us when the site was occupied, what kinds of materials were used in the building's construction, and what kind of activities were carried out by the occupants of the site. Learning more about this building and the enslaved African Americans and free white employees who likely worked and/or lived in this structure contributes to the understanding of Stratford's complex 18th century communities and landscapes.
The Field School is onsite Monday through Friday from 8am to 4pm and runs until June 18th. We hope you'll come and visit while we're working and learn more about this site!
Thursday, May 20, 2010
Looking at the inventory taken after Thomas Lee's death in 1750 (excerpt above - click to zoom), you definitely see a mixture of fancy and practical. A clock worth 10 pounds and a "Chandeleer" worth 21 pounds are listed along with "a Parcell of Cannisters," a coffee roaster, and "4 Water Glasses and other things" worth less than a pound combined.
Now I just need to decide which way to go with my wedding gifts...
Looking glass image courtesy Pook and Pook.
Thursday, May 13, 2010
Stratford Hall's collection of visual images contains thousands of photographs and slides just waiting to be organized digitally into a searchable database. Although many of them are interesting images in their own right, even without an additional layer of history attached, just a short caption makes them much more meaningful. We want to catalog our images in a database that will also capture background information. For example, a 1930s black-and-white image of a setter with pups is charming; however, the fact that Stratford Hall's Resident Superintendent, Gen. B. F. Cheatham, sold the offspring of his cherished Irish Setter Shirley (pictured) to raise money for reconstructing the springhouse is a much more compelling story.
Historic images of the Great House at Stratford have the additional importance of documenting changes in the structure. This circa 1908 cyanotype [this process used predominantly between 1880 and 1920 and identified by its blue tint], taken by Edward A. Preble and given to Stratford by his daughter Marjorie Preble Thorne, shows a small porch at the east end of the house, straight front steps, outside window shutters, and a painted five-board fence bordering the lawn.
Digitizing our images will allow us to make more of our collection accessible to the public and will prevent needless handling of precious originals, helping to preserve them for future generations. The project is a challenging one, but we've already begun "brainstorming" about logistics and plan to have a digital strategy developed within the next new months. Check back with us for updates and more shared images.
Thursday, May 6, 2010
Many people in and out of the museum world wonder what a Collections Manager really does on a day-to-day basis. My job description is long and filled with specific language targeted for people knowledgeable in Collections Management. I receive questions ranging from “So you handle the money right?” to “What is there to manage?” As the staff of Stratford Hall recently completed the restoration and reinterpretation of the Southwest Outbuilding and Northwest Stair Passage, this is a prime opportunity to explain what my job entails at a Historic House Museum.
The Southwest Outbuilding, with its reinterpretation of a workshop and servants chamber, has a mixture of both period correct reproductions as well as pieces from Stratford Hall’s decorative arts collection. The workshop, filled with close to one hundred tools from the M-WTCA and other donors, needed to be individually cataloged, their condition evaluated, photographed, measured, and labeled with accession numbers using museum appropriate materials. Once this information is collected, I input the data into our collections management database, Rediscovery, as well as create and maintain paper files with photographs, invoices, and other pertinent information regarding the objects. Even objects that are considered non-accessioned (which means they are not part of the permanent collection) receive the same treatment as accessioned objects. They are labeled, cataloged, photographed, and measured so that future employees at Stratford Hall do not pick up a pillowcase on the newly crafted field bed and wonder if it is part of the permanent collection. Even the hands-on activity was numbered to prevent future confusion!
This information assists members of the Stratford Hall Collections department with one of their most important tasks in managing the collection – inventory. Images, measurements, and accurate locations for pieces in the collections enable us to know where everything is on the estate. An accurate inventory helps with insurance values, donor and lender communications, and relationships with other departments within our organization.
Even though the areas are now open to the public, there is still much to do, including securing loan pieces to be displayed in these areas (which include working with insurance companies and fine art shippers), monitoring the building environment, adjusting cleaning routines, inventorying the pieces from the Architectural collection used in the Northwest Stair Passage, and other tasks as they arise. So please, come and see the reinterpreted spaces at Stratford Hall – who knows, you might see me in the back of a room - crawling on the floor – inventorying! J
Thursday, April 29, 2010
Now that we've mostly completed the Southwest Outbuilding and Northwest Stair Passage restoration and reinterpretation, staff is moving on to the next project on our list. This project is restoring and reinterpreting the slave quarters. The slave quarters were built in 1939, supposedly on original foundations (though archaeological work has not discovered those foundations). These buildings are the types that house slaves and skilled slaves might have lived in--they are much closer to the Great House and made of stronger materials (stone, instead of wood) than those lived in by field slaves. Thus, we are using what we know to help us tell the story of the enslaved people working in and around the house at Stratford Hall.