The Archaeology and Anthropology Archives

On the basement floor of Glatfelter Hall at Temple, there is a neat collection of various archaeological artifacts and items that our class had the pleasure of visiting on November 8th. We got to see a variety of items including, pots, medicine bottles, leather straps, and even a conch shell. Now while these items may seem quite mundane, they can offer a lot of information and reveal much about the past. They can describe what kind of materials were being used at the time or what people used them for. They can reveal what a culture used to carry liquid with or what they used to hold different things. The collection at Temple has accrued these items which are important for looking at our history. After viewing the different items, our hosts then talked to us about archaeology and even about repatriation. Archaeology offers so many cool and exciting opportunities to study ur past. The one woman said that she had been to Central America unearthing sites finding various artifacts from days long ago. It is so interesting because while these people aren’t alive anymore, their tools and artifacts do live on and we can infer things about them. The other woman talked about her work in the Caribbean. Not only does she do outstanding work in her field, she also gets to experience the beautiful Caribbean islands. I think that sounds like an amazing job. What an opportunity?! They also gave us some information about repatriation of artifacts and remains to Native people in the area. This is really important because cultures can be reunited with certain things that are culturally valuable to them that keeps the memory of their people alive. I’m very happy that Temple has set something up to be involved in this cause.

The Black Museum Movement

During the 1960’s and throughout the 1970’s there was an ethnic revival within the black community after the fight for racial equality. African-Americans sought to establish institutions such as museums to express the history of African Americans. Unfortunately, many mainstream museums and textbooks consistently leave out and neglect black history. It’s almost as if these people don’t even exist. These people have a rich history and they are a part of our history. Their story often goes untold and this movement was started to end that inequality. This movement also had ties to the Black Power movement which asserted the establishment of a black identity. Black people have gone through so much and their identity was stripped away from them and still to this day that identity can be difficult to find. Andrea Burns talks about four institutions in her book, but the one that caught my eye was the African American Museum of Philadelphia mainly because it is right here in our city. I have never been there myself but I have friends who have visited before. I would very much like to go because it is important to try and understand other cultures. It is important for all people to know where they came from and they should be proud of their heritage. Much like I am proud of my Irish ancestry, African Americans should be afforded the same exact right. Another aspect I like about this book is how it seems as though there should be a strong connection between the community and the museum. People should get involved about understanding their history so they can affirm their own identity.

The American Philosophical Society

Today was a great day! The class had the pleasure of visiting the American Philosophical Society receiving a tour of the building. We got to see the archives, the reading room, and Benjamin Franklin’s own personal library. Our tour guides, Bayard and Cynthia, led us around the building where we got a peak in what they do everyday. There were countless amounts of manuscripts. I even saw one section called “Flying Saucer Materials”. A section all containing documents relating to UFO research. Bayard and Cynthia work in the archives pouring over loads of documents deciding what should and shouldn’t be saved. They spend large amounts of time in the reading room looking and analyzing old documents and digitizing them. Bayard even told us that while reading documents from a bio-chemist/bio-physicist, he found out that the man was also a Olympic Medalist in yachting. How crazy is that?!

Here are some pictures from the trip. You can get a glimpse of what the reading room looks like as Lynn photobombs the picture. The building, while not the original, is still very beautiful and very close to the original according to Bayard. I really enjoyed the trip because I’ve learned a little bit about what archivists do day to day. I’ve seen the Temple Archives but they don’t compare to the APS. I also liked how it seems that archivists never know what they are going to find. This seems really exciting. They get sent various materials, ranging from documents to VHS tapes. At one point I wanted to say that life is like being an archivist, you never know what you’re gonna get. The idea of looking through documents and deeming what should be kept is a very interesting one. These people are responsible for a lot of information and I think their work is under appreciated. They hold loads of important and telling information and it was such an interesting trip. I hope I get to visit again in the future.

The Burk Mansion and Preservation

Yesterday, our class had the pleasure of visiting the Burk Mansion. Unfortunately we didn’t get to go in, but we still got to get pretty close and take a closer look through the fence. The mansion was adorned with classical greek style pillars and wrought iron. It was built in the Italian Renaissance Style in 1906. Burk’s mansion is rather ginormous containing twenty-seven rooms, seven bathrooms, and even a conservatory. After Burk passed away in 1921, his sisters held control over the house until 1945 when the Upholsterer’s International Union bought the property. It was owned by the UIU until 1970 when Temple University acquired the mansion. It was used for educational purposes and even a daycare until a fire in the 1990’s caused the property to become abandoned. To this day the mansion still stands and has been marked as a historical site on Temple’s campus.

In the picture above, as Nate unknowingly photobomb the picture, one can see the detailed architecture of the building in that green limestone exterior. Along with the architecture, there is the ornate wrought iron fence. The building is very beautiful and it brings up an important issue in public history and preservation as a whole. Many times, companies, universities, and other influential and rich organizations can buy an old property, wait for it to be condemned, and then bulldoze it in order to erect new and improved buildings like offices or living spaces. This is a huge problem because old important historic sites that tell us a lot about our past are being bought and demolished in order to make a pretty penny. The Burk mansion is a building that is currently being preserved but who knows what will happen in the future.

The Hill-Physick House Visit

This past Tuesday, September 25, our class had the opportunity to visit the Hill-Physick house in Society Hill. Phillip Physick, known as “the father of American surgery” lived in the house after separating from his wife Elizabeth Emelen Physick. The house is three-stories and was built in the classic Federal style. When entering the house, the first thing that I noticed was the smell. It smelled old and musty. The main hallway had some very nice wallpaper and the furnishings were very decadent and beautiful. As we moved into the ballroom, I really liked the mirrors. They were bordered in gold and a black eagle adorned the top. It gave me a very patriotic feel as the eagle was the prominence of the mirror itself calling back the idea that America had recently won its independence and the U.S. was on the rise

 

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As the tour progressed we were able to go down into the basement which was very dark and damp. In the basement there was a stone trough with a drain. Physick was a surgeon and some people believe this is where he tested out his homemade tools for his work. The basement was underground and put off a very eerie feel. After this part of the tour, our guides took us upstairs and sat us down at a long table where they talked about advertising and how they raise funds for the house. They had a plethora of events from spooky parties to eating oysters and learning about the history of the house. While I did enjoy learning about their events and they seemed quite interesting, I would have liked to explore the rest of the house. I didn’t get to see Physick’s tools or room where he did most of his work which was somewhat disappointing. However, all in all, the trip was a lot of fun and the house took me back in time which was an enjoyable experience.

 

Our Trip to the Second Bank Building

Yesterday, on September 11, 2018, my public history class went on a site visit to the Second Bank Building of the U.S. Our tour guide Karie Diethorn led us through the building and gave us so much useful and intriguing background information about the museum. In the first main room, we looked at paintings done by Charles Wilson Peale and the different men and women in the paintings were put into different sections of the exhibit. The people in the paintings corresponded with their field of excellence whether it be Education, Business, or Law. There was also a sculpture of George Washington made out of wood that looked like stone. He, along with his colonial dress, had a cloak around him calling back the ideals of classical Greece. He looked quite astute and noble. One of the first things I noticed when entering the museum was the old musty smell. We entered through the basement and went up the stairs to the main hallway. The smell really took me back to the old days when things were made of brick, stone, and wood. It really felt like I got a taste of what it must have been like to live back then. Karie, an expert on Early American History led us through the museum elaborating on the exhibits and what their significance was. I really enjoyed how appealing she designed the exhibits to be. They were very attractive and inviting. A lot like what I imagine Peale wanted his museum to be. While Karie really gave us a firm background on Peale, Washington, and figures like Robert Morris and his wife Mary White, Erin Pauwels really gave us fantastic information about the art aspects and what Peale was trying to convey in his paintings. After looking through the exhibits in the main hallway, we got to move into a room filled with portraits painted by Peale. Many of the men he painted were founding fathers and early statesmen. Peale often painted those he admired or looked up to. In this room, many of the paintings are arranged close to the ceiling to convey the message that we should look up to these political, stately, and educated men who founded this country. This room reminded me of Peale’s “Long Room” where men to look up to are placed at the top signifying their intelligence, work ethic and enlightenment. One last interesting piece that we saw was a taxidermy eagle. It was perched on a rock with its wings spread. I got a feeling of nostalgia and pride from this piece. To me it represents the birth of new and proud country that won its independence from a tyrannical empire. I really enjoyed this museum experience and I am excited to go back in the near and distant future. I would highly recommend this awesome piece of American History.