The Newseum and Current Events

In history class this week, we delved into the purposes of government. We also looked into what people do to create change in their government when they are dissatisfied with the government. As part of our examination of government and history, we will be discussing current events to make connections to the principles regarding change and conflict. It is our hope that students will make the connection that current events become our history.

A fantastic family field trip related to current events and history is a visit to the Newseum in Washington, D.C. When out-of-town friends and family come to visit, the Newseum is at the top of my recommendation list. Each of the seven levels in this building is packed with interactive exhibits that explore how news affects our shared experience of historic moments. For anyone interested in news, this building has it all from the very first newspapers created hundreds of years ago, through all the significant events of the last centuries to today’s 50 front pages of dailies around the world. There are fascinating, informative displays on such events as 9-11, the Unabomber, and a large piece of the Berlin Wall. Another exhibit displays Pulitzer Prize-winning photographs The Newseum also includes 15 theaters and several hands-on activities for the whole family, including the television studio reporting experience where you can try your hand as a “stand-up” news reporter.

WTC Newseum

The World Trade Center Antenna Photo Credit : The Newseum

 One of the Newseum’s most powerful exhibit is the emotionally-charged 9/11 Gallery — featuring a twisted wreckage of the broadcast antenna that stood atop the World Trade Center’s North Tower, a limestone cornice piece from the damaged section of the Pentagon and a piece of fuselage recovered from the field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where United Flight 93 went down. This exhibit also includes amazing pictures taken by the photographer, Bill Biggar, who actually ran toward the collapsing buildings when everyone else was running away and who lost his life in the process. His cameras were later found in the rubble and most of the photographs were salvaged.

 The Newseum is not just a history of news, journalism, and media. It is an exploration of what “freedom” means and how we can continue to exercise our own and spread it to those who are not fortunate enough to have it. The First Amendment, written on the side of the building where you enter, is also featured in its own gallery. It puts each of the five freedoms in historical context and provides perspective on what they mean to us more than 200 years later.

Berlin Wall

The Berlin Wall Photo Credit: The Newseum

The Berlin Wall Gallery is another highlight of mine and continues the theme of freedom. It features eight 12-foot-high concrete sections of the original wall — the largestdisplay outside of Germany and tells the fascinating story of how news and information helped topple a closed and authoritarian society.

The Newseum is a “must see” in Washington, D.C. While it is one of the few museums in Washington that charge admission, you will not go away feeling that your money was wasted. I recommend looking for discount tickets as they often run special promotions. Through Labor Day, the Newseum is offering a Summer Fun Deal where up to four kids age 18 and younger visit for free with each paid adult admission. Tickets are valid for two days so you do get plenty of time to see it all. Go see it!

~Ms. Andi Maples

Posted in Museums | Tagged ,

Living US History and the National Museum of American History

Welcome to Living U.S. History! Michael Drayne and I are U.S. History teachers in Maryland. With this blog, we hope to help make history come alive for our students. We believe that learning about history can and should extend beyond the classroom and textbook. We’ll write about what we’re learning in class and connect it to historical places to see and things to do in our area. Living in Maryland, we have the unique opportunity to visit historical sites and participate in historical experiences that are prevalent in the mid-Atlantic region and beyond, such as taking the four centuries walking tour in Annapolis, investigating the fascinating exhibits at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., or touring the haunting Antietam National Battlefield in Sharpsburg, Maryland. We hope that through these visits and experiences our students will live history — enriching their learning experience and expanding their knowledge of our nation.

My first recommendation is a classic. The National Museum of American History is one of my favorite Smithsonian museums and a great place to see a survey of our American history. From the Star Spangled Banner, to Abe Lincoln’s hat, to Julia Child’s kitchen, this has some of the best Americana out there. The museum is huge and it’s impossible to see and read everything in one day. I go armed with a short list of things I want to see (check out in advance from the museums website) and make sure I save time and energy for those exhibits.

Photo credit: The National Museum of American History

My favorite exhibit is the Star-Spangled Banner display. It is almost spiritual to be in the presence of a flag that has existed since 1814 and to read the original copy of Francis Scott Key’s poem. The Presidential exhibit is informative and has some fascinating artifacts. The First Lady exhibit is charming, especially seeing how fashions have changed over the years. Teenagers love seeing Harry Potter’s robe on display. I also recommend trying out the many different experiences offered by the museum from live musical and theatrical performances to interactive carts and spotlight tours. At the interactive carts, you can get your hands on history and learn about the museum’s collections through activities such as operating a cotton gin, experiencing what it felt like to wear a corset, or copying a letter the way Jefferson did. You can also meet wheelwoman Louise Gibson—a female bicycle rider from the 1890s—as she pedals around the Museum on her safety bicycle on both a jaunt around the nation’s capital and a journey to discover the place of women in the modern world.

I recommend checking the museum’s website in advance for the daily program schedule. The museum does have some renovations underway limiting some of the galleries, but there is still plenty to do and see, including the things I highlighted. Take an afternoon and check it out. It’s worth a visit.

~ Ms. Andi Maples

Image | Posted on by | Tagged

The French and Indian War, Fort Necessity, Fort Pitt, and Fort Ligonier

Our studies have recently covered the French and Indian War. There are many sites of interest related to this conflict in the Maryland and Pennsylvania region that I wish to share with you. First, some background on the war in this area.

The war, fought between 1756 and 1763, was a contest between England and France. The early battles centered on the need for control of the Ohio River Valley. Many British colonists from Virginia and Pennsylvania had settled in this wilderness territory setting up trading posts starting in the 1740’s. The French, who had long claimed this region, began to build forts to strengthen that claim and at the same time, curtail the ability of the British to expand into the Ohio Valley.

In an attempt to determine the intentions of the French in the Ohio Valley, the governor of Virginia sent then 21 year old George Washington to deliver a formal protest and learn of future plans and movements of the French. As he traveled as a embracery to meet with French leaders north of what is today Pittsburgh, he came upon the location where the Alleghany and Monongahela Rivers joined to form the Ohio River (which today is the site of the city of Pittsburgh) and determined this would be an excellent site for a British fort. At Washington’s recommendation to the governor, the fort was started with a force of 40 men. Washington realizing the need for more men to finish and defend the fort, returned to Virginia. On his return to the fort with an additional 120 men, he learned the news that

Fort Necessity Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Fort Necessity
Photo Credit: Wikipedia

the fort had surrendered to the French (The French renamed the fort Duquesne). Washington, with the rank of colonel in the Virginia militia, quickly built a makeshift fort they called Fort Necessity in an area known as Great Meadows an hour southeast of Fort Duquesne. Knowing the French were coming, Washington and his men left Fort Necessity in an attempt to take Fort Duquesne. Hearing from his scouts that they were badly outnumbered, he returned to Fort Necessity and prepared for the coming assault. On July 3, 1754, The French with their Indian allies attacked the fort. After a day’s exchange of fire, and a downpour that flooded the marshy land and destroyed Washington’s gunpowder, Washington surrendered.  After a brief negotiation, the French allowed Washington and his forces to return to Virginia. This encounter is viewed by many historians as the first shots of the French and Indian War.

Now the British were even more determined to take Fort Duquesne and stop the French. In order to accomplish this, the British Government sent General Edward Braddock to the colonies. With 2,400 men made up of regulars of the British army, a Virginia militia headed by George Washington, artillery experts, and engineers to cut roads and build bridges, Braddock set out in the spring of 1755 to take Fort Duquesne. The slow, labored pace crossing mountains and streams began to frustrate the general. Being within 9 miles of the fort, he agreed with Washington’s idea to take 1,500 of his men and proceed onward, leaving his supplies behind. On July 7, 1755, as they neared the location of Fort Duquesne and without warning, 300 French and their 600 Indian allies attacked from behind trees from all sides causing mass confusion for the British forces. Braddock continued to order his men to stay in formation against Washington’s pleas to have the men disburse. The British suffered huge casualties. General Braddock was shot in the fighting and a few days later died of his wounds. He was buried on July 14th near Fort Necessity, on the side of the road his men built. This road would eventually be called the National Road (Route 40). In the end, George Washington and only 450 men returned to Virginia.

Fort Ligonier Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Fort Ligonier
Photo Credit: Wikipedia

The French continued their success against the British until 1758 when the newPrimeMinister of Britain, William Pitt, assumed leadership of the war efforts. One of these campaigns was a full scale attempt to take Fort Duquesne in October of 1758. The British built a number of forts including Fort Ligonier, 60 miles from the Fort Duquesne, as staging forts to attack the French. The French and their Indian allies decide to attack Fort Ligonier before the British could reach the French fortress. After a day of fighting, the French suffered heavy losses and retreated. The British followed (yes, George Washington was here as well) only to find Fort Duquesne set on fire and abandoned by the French. The British soon rebuilt the fort and named it Fort Pitt after the British Prime Minister, hence, the name Pittsburgh today. Over the next few years, the French eventually lost most of their forts to the British in the land they called New France. With the Treaty of Paris signed in 1763, the Ohio Valley was now officially in British hands.

Places to Visit:

Braddocks' Grave Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Braddocks’ Grave
Photo Credit: Wikipedia

I have passed Fort Necessity many times. As a child, my family would make the trip to Western Pennsylvania yearly to visit my mother’s family. My grandparents lived off of Route 40 a few miles from the Monongahela River south of Pittsburgh in a town calledBrownsville. We passed the entrance to the fort on Route 40 each year and would, on occasion, stop and visit. The trip to see the sites mentioned above will have you traveling west from Frederick, Maryland on I-70 to I-68 to US 40. Fort Necessity National Battlefield is a 2 hour 45 minute drive from Hoover Middle School. I cannot think of a more perfect time to visit then in October when the Alleghany Mountains foliage is at their peak.   Fort Necessity is in Farmington, Pennsylvania and is open daily from 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. The fee is $5 with children 15 and under admitted free. The site has recently added an Interpretive and Education Center featuring exhibits reflecting 18th and 19th century Pennsylvania and a 20-minute film telling the story of the area. Near the entranceto the park on US 40 is a parking area to view the marker at Braddock’s Grave. Also next to the park on US 40 is Mount Washington Tavern. This is open for visitors from April 15-

Mount Washington Tavern Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Mount Washington Tavern
Photo Credit: Wikipedia

October 31. As the National Highway became the main route to the west, taverns for food and shelter could be found every mile along the road. This tavern is one of the few remaining. The Tavern was built in 1827-28 and is fully furnished in period pieces. On an aside note, if you extend your visit to see other National Road attractions, you can also plan to visit nearby Fallingwater and Kentuck Knob, homes designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and open for tours. You may also want to visit Laurel Caverns five miles further west of the fort. If it is a nice day and you want the best view of the fall foliage, I suggest eating at the historic Summit Inn Resort also five miles west of the fort. The hotel has an amazing history having been built in 1907 by local coal barons. As for my family history, my grandparents had their honeymoon here in 1924. You must eat on their Veranda Porch which looks out over the Alleghany Mountains and on a clear day they say you can see 60 miles to Pittsburgh.   If you decide to wait until the spring, the annual National Pike Festival is the third weekend in May. On that weekend, there are many local activities along Route 40 from Maryland to Illinois.

John Heinz Museum Photo Credit: Wikipedia

John Heinz Museum
Photo Credit: Wikipedia

If you decide to head to Pittsburgh next, take route PA-51N in Uniontown to visit Fort Pitt. The museum is located in historic Point State Park in downtown Pittsburgh. The bastion was reconstructed and opened in 1969. The two-story museum tells the story of the French and Indian War in Western Pennsylvania. Nearby is the Senator John Heinz History Center run by the Smithsonian Institution. This six story museum is the largest history museum in Pennsylvania. Finally, let’s say you decide to make it a week-end trip October 10, 11, and 12, 2014. Return southeast from Pittsburgh and visit the town of Ligonier. This is the week-end of their Fort Ligonier Days. This 3-day festival commemorates the Battle of Fort Ligonier.  There will be living history encampments, drills, and volunteers in historic garb showing frontier life and military tactics. The re-enactment of the battle is on Saturday at 2 and 4 pm and Sunday at 1:30 and 3:30 pm. You will also find great entertainment, food and crafts for sale in town. If you make this trip, send me an email and tell me about your experiences!

~Ms. Barry

Posted in Colonial America, Museums, National Parks, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , ,

The War of 1812, Fort McHenry, and the Star-Spangled Spectacular Festival

Courtesy of the Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine

Courtesy of Fort McHenry National Monument

For this week’s blog post, I’ll be jumping ahead to the War of 1812, a topic we study later in the year. Since September 13, 2014 marks the 200th anniversary of the bombardment of Fort McHenry, there are incredible opportunities to experience living history during the Star-Spangled Spectacular Festival in Baltimore. This week-long event from September 9-September 16 celebrates the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Baltimore which inspired Francis Scott Key to pen what became our national anthem, “The Star Spangled Banner.”

The War of 1812 was a defining moment in American history when our nation defended its young democracy in its second struggle for independence. Americans were outraged that the British supported Indian raids on the western frontier, interfered with American trade, and impressed or kidnapped American sailors from U.S. merchant and naval ships. In the War of 1812, the United States took on the greatest naval power in the world, Great Britain, in a conflict that would have a tremendous impact on our young nation’s future.

Photo Credit: Stitchers in Action by Barney & Wayne Photography

Photo Credit: Stitchers in Action by Barney & Wayne Photography

During the summer of 1814, the Chesapeake Bay became the epicenter of the war. British forces raided the Chesapeake Bay with Washington, D.C. and Baltimore as its targets. The United States suffered a costly defeat when the British captured and burned the nation’s capital in August 1814, causing President and Dolly Madison to flee the city. Baltimore, the third largest city in the United States and a hot bed of anti-British fervor, became the next target. On September 13, 1814, the British sailed up the Chesapeake and attacked Baltimore’s Fort McHenry, which withstood 25 hours of bombardment by the British Navy. The following morning, the fort’s soldiers raised an enormous American flag, a sight that inspired Francis Scott Key to write a poem he titled “The Star-Spangled Banner.” The successful defense of Fort McHenry from British attack during the War of 1812 saved the city of Baltimore from destruction and forced British forces to leave the Chesapeake Bay. Five months later, the war ended. Many in the United States celebrated the War of 1812 as a “second war of independence,” beginning an era of national pride symbolized in the “Star-Spangled Banner.”

star spangled banner manuscript

Courtesy of Maryland Historical Society

To celebrate the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Baltimore and the writing of the “Star-Spangled Banner,” Baltimore is hosting the Star-Spangled Spectacular Festival at Fort McHenry, the Inner Harbor, and Fells’ Point with various events — from the Blue Angels flying overhead to Tall Ships in the Inner Harbor, and tours of the Star-Spangled Banner Flag House. At Fort McHenry, there are several signature events, including an evening of patriotic music and a spectacular fireworks display on September 13th; and By Dawn’s Early Light, a program marking 200 years to the minute since the Star-Spangled Banner was raised over the fort. Throughout the week, there will be special exhibits at the Fort McHenry Visitor’s Center, including a piece of fabric from the original 30’ x 42’ flag and Francis Scott Keys’ original handwritten manuscript. Living history demonstrations will also be held at Fort McHenry. On Saturday, September 13th, Fort McHenry will literally explode with activity. Dressed as soldiers, sailors and citizens from 1814, Fort McHenry Guard members will provide a touchstone to the past. Starting at 8:00 a.m. cannons will fire from the fort’s gun deck. This is a great opportunity to hear the echoing cannon fire down the river, see the smoke, smell the gunpowder and imagine what it was like to be at the fort 200 years ago. The Pride of Baltimore II, a reproduction of an 1812-era Baltimore Clipper that helped America defeat the British, and Sultana, a full-scale reproduction of the British Navy’s 1768 schooner, will symbolically represent the ships involved in the fight from 9:00-9:30 a.m.

You’ll definitely want to check out the Star-Spangled Spectacular Festival! For a complete list of events, see the Star Spangled 200’s website and Fort McHenry’s Commemorative Events Guide.

~Ms. Andi Maples

Posted in A New Nation, National Parks | Tagged , ,