Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Historic Preservation: Kate Mullany National Historic Site

Some of you may recall my daughter & I participating in a re-enactment of the Collar Laundry Strike of 1864 this past February. Well, on October 4, 2014 I was able to visit the Kate Mullany National Historic Site in Troy, NY with my aunt's DAR chapter.

The Kate Mullany House was declared a National Historic Landmark by the Secretary of the Interior in 1998 and designated an affiliated unit with in the National Historic Site Congress on 2005. It is located at 350 8th St. in Troy, NY. It is the home of the American Labor Studies Center. The site is undergoing restoration and does not have regular visiting hours. For information on visiting the site, call the American Labor Studies Center at (518) 331-4474. 

 The house at 350 8th St. is under renovation. The other half of the building at 352 8th St. is in foreclosure, and the ALSC is hoping to acquire it as well. Until that time, the renovations continue, as does the fundraising. For more information on supporting the restoration project, please click HERE.

The Kate Mullany house became a National Historic Landmark in 1998

My mom on the steps of Kate Mullany's House

The back yard has been recently landscaped

Kate & her Irish parents arrived in Troy in 1853

One of the exhibit panels at Kate Mullany NHS

Another of the exhibit panels at Kate Mullany NHS

Kate was inducted National Women's Hall of Fame 2000
 Read Kate Mullany's bio at National Women's Hall of Fame website.

Staircase leading to the 3rd floor

Original floors under modern bathroom linoleum

Lathe & plaster and modern plumbing

New old windows

Renovating the ceiling

Turquoise plaster over the brick fireplace

More renovations 

Me at the top of the stairs

3rd floor plan

Me in my "Don't iron while the strike is hot!" tee

Kate Mullany's grave at St. Peter's Cemetery in Troy, NY

Leaving a token to show I was there
The house is not open for regular tours during renovation, but call the ALSC for more information about scheduling your group visit.

Also, check out the PowerPoint presentation for more information on Kate Mullany & the Collar Laundry Strike.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Accessible History: Let the Visitors Linger

There are some interesting things going on in the history/ museum communities at present. They all seemed to be centered around one idea; "How do we engage more people in history & museums?"

One way, is the allow more access to historic sites. On his blog Twisted Preservation, Frank Vagnone writes about what he calls "fingerprinting." Read more here: Fingerprinting: A Defense of Leaving Your Mark. When it's all said & done, the self professed "Museum Anarchist" is saying let people take selfies & post them to instagram, pinterest, & tumblr. It can only increase the visitor experience, plus give your site some added exposure (pardon the pun) & free advertising.

But the other point he makes is even more provocative; let people have time in the space. Let them truly feel what it was like to live in a house museum, for example. Let them feel the history, the magic if you will, that we as site interpreters, tour guides, museum educators, guardians of the past, feel when we open up the site for the day. My favorite thing to do in all the house museums I worked at (the Schuyler House & Neilson House in Saratoga National Historical Park, the Marston House, & Villa Montezuma in San Diego, CA, and Schuyler Mansion in Albany, NY) was to walk in before the first tour of the day. Opening the curtains, or shutters to let the light in was almost poetic. I reveled in lingering on the staircase, glancing out an upstairs window, perusing the books on the historically accurate bookshelves. This is why I love house museums. As a visitor, I linger behind the group, so I can snatch a few fleeting moments without the constant chatter of the guide. This is the kind of thing we need to allow, & encourage. Our history NEEDS to be accessible. It belongs to all of us, not just a chosen few.