Photos: Posh Pots and Decadent Dishes

New specialty tours at Historic Kenmore provide opportunities for guests to explore a deeper understanding of Kenmore by focusing on the topics that make us uniquely Kenmore.

One such tour, “Posh Pots and Decadent Dishes: The Lewis Family Life through their Ceramics,” explores how everyday objects can teach us about how families lived. In the 18th century, ceramics were at the height of fashion and each piece can tell a fascinating story. While touring our collection, visitors learn what the objects pictured below and others reveal about the Lewis and Washington families.

This new ceramics-focused specialty tour is available each Thursday at 11:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. and on various Fridays and Saturdays.

Additional specialty tours also available and include:

  • This Old House: Preserving Kenmore

When Kenmore was completed in 1775, it was the height of 18th century fashion and luxury. We are still able to enjoy its grandeur because it has been preserved. This tour delves into the multiple restorations the house has undergone throughout the years and illuminates the work that goes into bringing a 200-year-old home back to its original glory.  Available each Tuesday at 11:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. and on various Fridays and Saturdays.

  • Sacrificing for Liberty: Kenmore and the American Revolution.

The Lewis family moved into their new home only months after the American Revolution began. Learn how the Revolution shaped the Lewis family and their new home. This tour talks about the events that lead to the revolution, how they affected the Lewis family, and how they moved one another forward to the country (and home) we now know.  Available each Wednesday at 11:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. and on various Fridays and Saturdays.

To learn more about visiting Historic Kenmore, visit kenmore.org/visiting.

Video: Tricks of the Trade – Archaeology Lab Edition

Sometimes, it can be a challenge to precisely identify an artifact. When faced with this challenge, archaeologists working in the lab put their five senses to work and call upon some interesting ‘tricks of the trade’ to make those difficult identifications.

Learn more about archaeology and being an archaeologist during Archaeology Day at Ferry Farm on Monday, February 15 from 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. Visit http://www.ferryfarm.org for event details.

Meet the Archaeologists: Field School Edition

Each summer. students from the University of South Florida attend a field school at George Washington’s Ferry Farm to learn practical aspects of archaeological excavations. This is what they said about their experience.

On weekdays, see Ferry Farm’s archaeologists at work on the excavation site from now through mid-June.

Meet the Archaeologists

Each summer, archaeologists from across the United States come to George Washington’s Ferry Farm for about two months of excavations on and around the site of Washington’s boyhood home. These are their stories.

On weekdays, see Ferry Farm’s archaeologists at work on the excavation site from now through mid-June.

Photos: How to Install a New Museum Exhibit

Back in late February, staff revamped the orientation exhibit in the visitors center at George Washington’s Ferry Farm.  The new exhibit called The Science of History at Ferry Farm tells the story of how archaeologists and historians discovered the location of the Washington family home using, in some cases, the latest scientific techniques.  It includes a variety of artifacts recovered from the house site.  This team effort involved members of the Curatorial, Archaeology, and Buildings and Grounds departments.  These photos present a glimpse behind-the-scenes into how an museum exhibit gets put together.

Caring for Historic Kenmore: Climate Control

Editor’s Note: The behind-the-scenes tour mentioned at the end of this post and on the video’s end title is sold out.

Today, we’re linking to a behind-the-scenes video on The George Washington Foundation’s YouTube channel.   In the video, Heather Baldus, Collections Manager, gives us a tour of Historic Kenmore’s underground heating and cooling system. This geothermal system helps maintain the proper climate inside the mansion and protects all of the furniture and historic objects on display.

You can see more during “Kenmore: Behind-the-Scenes” on Saturday, March 21 when Meghan Budinger, Aldrich Director of Curatorial Operations, gives an extraordinary tour of the mansion, including rare stories and insights into its history, furnishings, and ongoing preservation. Visit the cellar, second floor, attic, and other spaces behind-the-scenes! Admission: $12.00 adults, $6.00 ages 12-17. Reservations required and space is very limited.  Please call 540-370-0732 x24 or email hayes@gwffoundation.org. Please note: on this tour, participants visit each floor in the mansion, climbing a total of 80 stairs. A few passageways and stairwells are narrow and confined.

A Curator’s Culinary Secrets

Here at Kenmore, we spent much of this week putting away all of the Christmas and Twelfth Night decorations that adorned the house throughout the holiday season. As we were carefully wrapping it all in tissue and putting it in boxes until next year, it occurred to me that our readers might be interested in a little behind-the-scenes glimpse at a “trick of the curatorial trade”. Most historic house museums use props to show things realistically in their displays. One of the most fun is what we call “faux” food, and it is shown off best during the holiday season, as food was such a big part of 18th century Christmas celebrations. We always like to put as many historical details as possible in our rooms, and we often come across references in historical documents to what was served at a particular event, or the recipe for a family’s favorite meal. Obviously, we can’t put real food in restored rooms filled with period antiques and furnishings, so we use a variety of fakes to stand in for period-correct food. Some of it we make in-house, and some of it is produced by professionals who actually specialize in making faux food for museums.

There aren’t too many faux food-makers, and there is actually quite an art to it! Many of the dishes served in the 18th century are not common in the modern day, and even some of our fruits and vegetables look quite different than they did 200 years ago. The artists who produce faux food have to do the research to find out what a requested food was made out of, how it was prepared, and what it might have looked like in its final form. Then they have to make a fake version of it using materials that won’t harm historic objects that it might come in contact with.

For our holiday display this year, we decided to show our newly refurnished Dining Room as though a Twelfth Night feast had just concluded. It was the first time we would be showing an actual dinner on the dining table, and therefore we needed quite a bit of faux food. Our display included a boiled beef (with slices!), roasted beets, string beans, and broccoli (all professionally made, and loaned to us by our friends at Stratford Hall).  We added our own roasted acorn squash, collard greens with bacon, and roasted game birds on spits from our small but growing collection of professionally made faux food. These items are all made from molded clay that is fired in a kiln and then hand painted. Resin is added on some of them to give the appearance of liquid sauces.

The collard greens, however, are what is called a “lid” in the faux food world. From the top, it looks like a mound of food, but it’s actually just a round disk, that sets into a bowl. A similar trick is used for what looks like liquid in our punch bowl on display in the Drawing Room. From the top, it looks like a bowl of punch, with an orange slice and some cloves floating in it. It’s actually a thin disk made of resin that sits near the surface of the punch bowl. It’s pretty convincing from a couple steps away!

Faux Food - Punch Bowl

As you might imagine, professionally made faux food can get a little expensive, especially when trying to show large quantities, as we do on our 18th century dessert table display in the Passage. In those cases, we have to rely on our ingenuity. For instance, we made our syllabub glasses appear to be filled with a frothy concoction by filling balloons with sand and adding cream tops made from modeling clay that we fired in an oven ourselves. Many years ago, past museum employees tried a similar trick, using resin “caps” that sat on top of the syllabub glass, while a cone made out of the same resin was inserted into the glass to make it look full.

Faux Food - Balloons

Back in the Dining Room, you might notice that the salt cellars sitting next to each diner’s place are not filled with actual salt, but rather with tiny silicon beads. These beads actually came from a children’s bean bag. We also use red-colored Mylar from the craft store to make it look as though there is actually red wine in the wine glasses, and in some cases that the wine has spilled onto the tablecloth.

Faux Food - Salt & Wine Spill

So there you have it, a few culinary secrets from the curatorial world!

Meghan Budinger
Aldrich Director of Curatorial Operations