February 18, 2014
By Áine Cain
Do you have what it takes to “Crack the Code?”
Families can plunge into General George Washington’s espionage operations on Feb. 19 and 26 from 3:30-4:30 p.m in the Hennage Auditorium of the Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg.
“‘Crack the Code’ is a program we developed several years ago in conjunction with an exhibition we had on the Signers and the Declaration of Independence,” said Christina Westenberger, assistant manager of museum education. “The aim of the program is to teach the guests about the Revolution using various codes and ciphers that were used during the war.”
Extensive research went into finding the right combination of codes and ciphers to produce an engaging, hour-long event. Guests will learn about a specific event, a code or cipher used during the event, and decode or decipher the message based upon the information learned.
“The program has been enjoyed by kids of all ages and many adult guests,” Westenberger said. “Working with a parent or adult companion has made the program enjoyable for younger guests.”
Families can learn about decoding ciphers and spying techniques, like those employed by Washington’s secret service chief Benjamin Tallmadge. Working under the alias of John Bolton, the young cavalry officer created the New York-based Culper Spy Ring. The ring’s diverse ranks included a well-connected merchant, the wife of a captured rebel judge, and a tavern keeper. The spy family relied upon coded messages, false rumors, invisible ink, and intricately planned dead drops in order to sabotage the British army and pass along information to Washington’s camp.
The ring successfully operated from 1778 to the end of the war in 1783. Its most notable victories were foiling a British attack in Rhode Island and uncovering Benedict Arnold’s betrayal.
Another fascinating Revolutionary spy was James Armistead, the former focus of RevQuest. While in Williamsburg, Armistead worked as a double agent for Lafayette and played a critical role in gathering intelligence that led to the capture of General Cornwallis during the Battle of Yorktown. Armistead was a slave and did not immediately receive freedom after the war. However, armed with a letter of recommendation from Lafayette, Armistead successfully petitioned the Virginia Assembly and secured his freedom in 1787.
– Áine Cain, a student at the College of William and Mary, is an intern with The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.
February 13, 2014
What was slavery really like for enslaved people and their masters? Students will have the opportunity to watch “Harsh World, This World” on Feb. 13 and be guided through true personal stories that demonstrate kindness, betrayal, trust, cruelty — all the emotions that govern complex human relationships.
The stories in this Electronic Field Trip are centered around traditional proverbs of both English and African origin, including:
“Harsh world, this world.”
“A hungry man is an angry man.”
“A river not controllable is bound to burst its banks.”
These provocative statements are the premise for the dramatic stories about everyday life for slaves and their masters.
“All of the stories featured in Harsh World, This World were based on first-hand accounts from enslaved people and their masters. These stories were very powerful… capturing the harsh realities of the time,” said Linda Randulfe, director and executive producer.
“The cast performed the scenes with a great deal of emotion, and after some of the takes the set was quiet, as the crew absorbed the intensity of the experience. Each of the actors did a wonderful job interpreting the outstanding script written by Abigail Schumann.”
Electronic Field Trips, which are broadcast monthly during the school year, cover civics and history topics — the Bill of Rights, the three branches of government, 18th-century trades and the Continental Army, the complicated relationships between slaves and their masters, Civil War ironclads, the War of 1812, and more.
Broadcasts air at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on participating public broadcasting stations and cable channels. Click here to view the live broadcast.
– Karen Gonzalez
You might also be interested in:
How to celebrate Black History Month
Learn about the Bray School
January 29, 2014
The snow fell peacefully in Colonial Williamsburg overnight and left behind a glistening Revolutionary City. Do you wonder what the sheep were thinking? We did. Go to the comments section below this post, and try your hand at writing a caption for Colonial Williamsburg photographer Dave Doody’s photo of our famous sheep. We’ll publish the best one later this week.
January 28, 2014
Volunteers are hard at work recreating a wedding garment for the spring wedding re-enactment between Pocahontas and John Rolfe at Historic Jamestowne. They are embroidering the recreation of a special jacket that she is believed to have worn.
“I have about 50 volunteers so far,” said Brenda Rosseau, manager of the costume design center, “but I just sent out 60 more packets.” The packets are small swatches of linen that are sent out to people who want to volunteer their embroidery skills for the project. They are asked to send back their sample embroidery swatch as an “audition” for the project.
Volunteers come in to the costume design center at Colonial Williamsburg and work on frames, which are stretched linen panels with drawings of the outlined design to be embroidered. Eventually, five frames will be in the works, with two to three embroiderers working around each one.
The designs are from a 17th-century book depicting small plants and animals that would have been known in eastern Virginia at that time. The embroidery and sewing would have been done in the homes of the local English women, rather than in a millinery shop.
“They did have access to linen and silk,” said Rosseau. “If you look at the original jacket, you can see that there were a lot of different hands involved in the project. I like it because it has a human touch.”
The completed costume will belong to Historic Jamestown and will remain in its collection.
Volunteer embroiderers of all skill levels are invited to contact Julie Zellers-Frederick at email@example.com or 757-856-1259.
– Photo, story by Karen Gonzalez
Listen to the podcast Marrying Pocahontas
More about the Pocahontas wedding jacket
January 15, 2014
Colonial Williamsburg’s latest Electronic Field Trip, “The Amazing Trade Shop Math Race,” premieres Jan.16.
Electronic Field Trips (EFT) are Emmy-Award winning, live Internet events and television broadcasts for fourth through eighth grades. The program is designed so that classrooms around the world can experience interactive history lessons from Colonial Williamsburg.
In “The Amazing Trade Shop Math Race,” Colonial Williamsburg’s tradespeople help two teams of students race against the clock to help the Continental Army. Quirky “Professor Eddie” helps students use their math skills to make shirts, bread, cartridge boxes and more.
“The challenge before The Amazing Trade Shop Math Race design team was to create a fast-paced, zany, history based, math skills competition utilizing Colonial Williamsburg’s Historic Trades,” said Abigail Schumann, director/producer of the latest EFT.
“Associate Producers Leslie Doiron Clark, Annie Lewis and Jen Garrott rose to that challenge, working hand in hand with representatives from five participating trades, military programs, and an expert on colonial surveying. All of the challenges were reviewed for math content by Rose Burwell, a local teacher and math specialist, who will also appear on air during the live broadcast.”
Schumann said the Amazing Trade Shop Math Race is designed to reinforce math-based standards of learning for grades 4 through 8 while illustrating the volume and variety of work necessary to supply the Continental Army during the American Revolution.
Students from local schools appear in the program; they were selected during an audition last year.
Electronic Field Trips — which are broadcast monthly during the school year — cover civics and history topics, including the Bill of Rights, the three branches of government, 18th-century trades and the Continental Army, the complicated relationships between slaves and their masters, Civil War ironclads, and the War of 1812.
Broadcasts air at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on participating public broadcasting stations and cable channels. For the first time, tomorrow’s broadcast is being offered via web-streaming for free. Click here to view the web-streaming broadcast.
– Karen Gonzalez
Learn more about Electronic Field Trips
Video: What’s an EFT?
See the schedule
View the broadcaster list
Subscribe to Electronic Field Trips
January 2, 2014
Wondering why a particular photo was chosen as you hang up your 2014 Colonial Williamsburg calendar? Dave Doody, Photo Services Manager at Colonial Williamsburg, says he looks for three particular characteristics when setting aside potential calendar images.
- Clear of modern distractions
- Evocative light
- Interesting composition that expresses the season
Doody heads the six-person Photo Services Department, which handles all of the official photography of the foundation and maintains a collection of more than a half-million images.
Colonial Williamsburg has had staff photographers since the early years of the town’s reconstruction.
“One thing that people don’t realize,” says Doody, “is that we work our way into every nook and cranny of the foundation eventually.” In other words, the photographic record includes a lot more than scenic shots. You can browse through many and order your favorites online, or see the daily progress of the photography team by following their work on Facebook. Or send a New Year’s greeting to a friend via a Williamsburg postcard.
You can still get your own 2014 calendar featuring official Colonial Williamsburg photography. Simply donate at least $35 to the Colonial Williamsburg Fund in support of the foundation’s educational mission (which also gets you a subscription to the Colonial Williamsburg journal). Be sure to type “CALENDAR” in the comment line of the form.
The calendar includes listings for many special events, including the foundation’s Electronic Field Trips, Drummers Call, and Grand Illumination.