Monthly Archives: July 2012

18th Century House, 21st Century Museum

The Hammond-Harwood House is lucky enough to have interns and volunteers who use their unique skills and talents to accomplish projects that add immeasurably to the experiences we are able to offer to the general public. One current example is summer intern Jeran Halfpap, a rising senior at St. Mary’s College, who created a 3-dimensional digital model of the Hammond-Harwood House that is now available for viewing on our website. Below, Jeran talks a bit about the technology that allowed him to create the model.

By Jeran Halfpap, the Intern Who Does Stuff

Using modern technology and software is a great way to keep museums in the public eye, and to engage kids with the topics. It brings the “wow!” factor to the table, and is sometimes just plain fun.

Pictured is the post-process picture of the back of the Hammond-Harwood House for use in the 3-d model. It has been distorted and photoshopped to remove the bushes and look even.

With more powerful computers, and more and more developers making new, more powerful software, the tech world is getting more advanced. Since April 2010, a new web standard called HTML5 has been brought into the mainstream. It is still being developed, but the world is starting to see more and more of it, and it is promising. It will replace HTML4 in time, and even has the potential to replace Adobe Flash, which is clunkier and slower to load. Modern web browsers, like Chrome, Firefox, and Opera are all focusing on getting HTML5 to work, to bring fancy new content to you faster! Internet Explorer will get it eventually, but it’s a bit behind the game.

With HTML5 getting more popular it is important to take advantage of the opportunities that it provides! This means updating websites and bringing our educational sites into the future. The Hammond-Harwood House has recently gotten such an update; using WebGL and a service called, we have embedded a 3-d model on our website! It took me a while, but after gathering pictures of the house and stretching them out to fit the model, you can spin and zoom into the building! With all new technologies, you might have to upgrade your software, which is usually a simple update.

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Filed under Architecture, From the Intern Desk

18th Century Healthcare

By Tara Owens, Educational Programs Coordinator (Formerly Intern Extraordinaire)

All the attention surrounding the Supreme Court’s decision upholding the healthcare bill made me wonder about what type of medical treatments were available during the 18th century. People living in urban areas such as Williamsburg, Virginia, would have had access to an apothecary, who provided medical services, prescribed medicine, performed surgeries, and even served as man-midwives. In essence, the apothecary was the 18th-century equivalent to our modern doctor. Some of the remedies prescribed by apothecaries are still in practice today. These included chalk for heartburn, calamine for skin irritations, and cinchona bark for fevers. It was later discovered that cinchona bark contains quinine, still used today to treat malaria.

Those living in more rural areas ultimately relied on self-diagnosis and treatment that was based on folklore and tradition. For example, headaches were often treated by vinegar of roses, a remedy made of rose petals steeped in vinegar and applied topically.

The most surprising fact I discovered was that doctors in the 18th century actually performed inoculations on patients to protect against smallpox. Inoculation is based on an easily observed medical fact – that those who contact an infectious disease and survive are protected against catching it again. In fact, George Washington had his Revolutionary troops inoculated following a smallpox outbreak in his camp.

Lady Montagu in Turkish dress by Jean-Etienne Liotard, ca. 1756
Lady Montagu is credited with bringing the practice of smallpox inoculation to England from Turkey, where her husband was the British ambassador

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Filed under History

Cleaning House

Susanna Whatman, painted by George Romney in 1782

You would expect a woman this elegant-looking to be renowned for her beauty or gentility, but Susanna Whatman’s fame derives from a very different source. Susanna Bosanquet married James Whatman, a wealthy paper mill owner, in 1776 and began keeping a manual on housekeeping in order to better manage her servants. It is one of the few surviving primary source documents that reveals how 18th century homes were maintained. While some of her notes about the duties of housemaids and cooks no longer apply today, some still seem very helpful. I’m going to remind myself of this tidbit next time I can’t find something in my kitchen:

“There should be a place in the Kitchin for everything kept there, otherwise it will be lost or mislaid without being missed, and [this] holds good for every other department, and saves many things, and much trouble. “

From The Housekeeping Book of Susanna Whatman, page 44

Available for purchase here

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Filed under History

What a Curator Looks Like

The word “curate” has become trendy: stores “curate” their wares, people on Pinterest “curate” pictures they’ve found on the internet, and some people even claim to “curate” their outfits. Various news articles and blog posts have been written in response to what the authors contend is the misuse of the term. Some of them, like this blog post from the Hermitage Museum and Gardens in Virginia, go so far as to leap to the defense of people whose job title is Curator, arguing that the overuse of “curate” obscures the fact that Curators’ responsibilities extend past simply making choices; real Curators spend years building subject matter expertise and striving to preserve the artifacts under their care. These authors seem to feel that the transformation of curating into a cultural phenomenon has distorted the public’s idea of what Curators do and cheapened the meaning of the word “curate” itself.

As someone with Curator in their job title, I have a different perspective. The very fact that so many people want to “curate” reinforces my feeling that what I do is important. It is true that some people may not understand that I am much more likely to be found on top of a ladder with a dusting cloth in hand than standing in a gallery staring at a painting, but it still feels like a compliment that they identify curating as an activity that requires knowledge and is of value to society. Working in a museum is not always as glamorous as it may seem, so it’s nice to know that other people want to do what I do, or at least what they think I do.

Is this what a Curator looks like?
(Please don’t judge my office, I promise I’ve cleaned and organized it since this picture was taken)

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Filed under Friday Photo