The Powel House

I thought it was really interesting to visit the Powel House for a second trip, especially after talking to the two public historians who spent time with us. The first time I went, I mainly found information on Elizabeth Powel since my paper focused around her life. I did not realize that so many different stories could be told about the house, like when the project that was talked about to create five different tours for the Powel House that could be conducted. Talking about the opera that took place back in September showed how the Powel’s were not the only family to have a significant role with the house. It also showed the different ways public historians can attract people to historical sites and learn more about them. I also thought it was noteworthy how that in class we have read about the American Wing and other Museums that have period rooms as exhibits, and that the Powel House has two rooms that are in two different museums. It felt like readings besides the Murtagh’s The Preservation Movement seemed to come full circle.

The preservation of the Powel House seemed to take place for many of the reasons Murtagh brought up. One of the most notable points was that the Powel House was a place that George Washington frequently visited during his time in Philadelphia. In fact, George and Martha Washington danced at the Powel House for their twentieth wedding anniversary, so a place of such value had to be saved. George Washington is one of the main symbols of nationalism in America, so preserving a place where it spent time was saving history. Murtagh also brought up how many preservation groups were formed by elite women, like the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association. The Powel House came about in a similar fashion by the women of the Wister family in Philadelphia (I tried to find the name of who it was exactly since I forgot to make a note of it while on tour). She wanted to preserve the house, but in doing so, only wanted to have the memory of George Washington visiting and Samuel Powel. All of the rest of the stories were lost or mainly pushed to the side, like Elizabeth Powel taking the back burner to her husband.

Just as one last note, Jonathan was very helpful in showing how a place like the Powel House can be preserved. He mentioned how looking at documents like fire insurance can give an idea on the lay the house had and items that the owners may have had. The small details like that seemed very interesting and that preserving is somewhat like a puzzle.

Below are some pictures from the visit”

The Wagner Museum

For today’s class, it was spent at the Wagner Museum right near Temple’s campus. It was fascinating to see how off campus housing for students has surrounded the preserved historic site. A way for the museum to reach out and gain some more attraction might be to reach out to Temple as an institution. It seemed that the class, as history majors, found it to be interesting. Students from the school of science and technology may like to also be exposed to what Wagner has to offer if they are interested in ecology, biology, or other areas of natural science. The Wagner should reach out to professors to have their students who may be interested explore the museum since it is so close to campus and free.

It was a bit hard to imagine that the museum was supposed to be for the public to learn about natural sciences in the 1890s with the way it is set up. Looking at the cards that labeled the specimen, I even had a hard time understanding what some of the items were. Most items had their Latin names written down to describe what they are, but how much of the public actually knew Latin in the late nineteenth century. Along with that, it also made me wonder how much of the population was literate. Another obstacle that may have occurred was with the minerals, who had their scientific compounds on the label. I took advanced classes of chemistry in high school and a class in college, but did not know what made up some of the minerals.

The Wagner also has me wanting to learn more about natural history museums. There was a display about taxidermy that I enjoyed since I had no idea how it was done. The Wagner also seemed to show how the creation of the museum was what Wagner seemed to dedicate his time, besides being a merchant. Collecting over 100,000 items for the displays and finding what was on display fascinated me since there was so much. The trip has me wanting to go and visit more museums like it.