Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A Spoonful of Sugar to Help History Go Down

Kate is always thrilled to find kindred spirits who are as excited about history as she is, so she was intrigued when stumbling across a recent news article about a history teacher in Hawaii who has a particularly fun way to share facts with her students.

Amy Burvall is one of the HistoryTeachers who have become YouTube sensations with well over a million upload views of their videos - on history. Band members "Mrs. B" (presumably Burvall) and "Mr. H" (still unidentified) created 50 videos over the last few years on topics from Prehistoric Man to Martin Luther to Napoleon.

The HistoryTeachers "band" takes popular songs from artists such as Madonna or Brittney Spears, rewrites the lyrics to be a sort of Cliff Notes version of the topic, and then has Burvall sing the new words a la karaoke. She dresses up in costumes and wigs appropriate to the period and adds a few flashy production tricks afterwards to make some very appealing music videos.

Occasionally the lyrics sound a bit contrived, but some are positively catchy, such as the memorable refrain from the Gwen Stefani-influenced Black Plague song. ("Ooh, ooh! Fleas on rats, fleas on rats!") The French Revolution sung to Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance" is also a favorite and there's even a version with Spanish subtitles to the subtitles!

The HistoryTeachers have their own YouTube channel as well as a Facebook page, but you can just type "HistoryTeachers" into the search box at YouTube to peruse all of the videos.

Teachers across the country have been using the videos in class and some kids are stumbling upon them all by themselves. Obviously music videos will never take the place of actual study and discussion, but like Mary Poppins says "In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun. You find the fun, and snap! The job's a game!" Or in this case, "Snap! The lesson's a song!"

Landlubbers, Escape to the Maritime Festival!

If you're in the Chicago area in February, turn your bow into the wind and sail on over to the annual Maritime Festival!

Held on Saturday, February 26 at the Chicago History Museum, the Maritime Festival celebrates the Great Lakes as well as the high seas. From 10:00 am until 4:30 pm, workshops, demonstrations, lectures and seminars are offered as well as displays of maritime art, knots, ships and lighthouses. In the evening, enjoy a concert featuring many celebrated maritime music professionals from all over the world singing new and traditional sea shanties.

Hands-on activities for kids like knot tying and boat building as well as performances for younger sailors take place throughout the day. Kate will be presenting "Thirteen Families West Across the Lakes," the story of how the schooner Telegraph brought pioneers to Illinois as told in her book Ruth by Lake and Prairie. You'll find her in the Guild Room at 12:15 pm.

Adult tickets are $14 for all daytime activities and the kids you bring who are 12 and under are admitted free. The evening concert tickets are $20, but if you order online before February 22, daytime activities are also included in the ticket price.

So pull up the anchor and set sail for a full day of nautical fun and history at the Chicago Maritime Festival in February! Hope to see you there!

Where History Is Happening

Ronald Reagan's 100th Birthday Party
Sunday, February 6
10:00 am - 4:00 pm
You are invited to the Birthday Party/Open House honoring President Ronald Reagan's Centennial Birthday celebration at his birthplace in Tampico, IL. Refreshments, including Birthday Cake, will be served.
Admission is free.
Other events including bus tours are available throughout 2011.
For more information: Contact Joan Johnson (815) 622-8705

Bucket Brigades to Tactical Units: Joliet's Fire and Police Departments
Sunday, January 23
4:00- 5:00 pm
On display through June 12, 2011
Discover how technology has improved on-the-job efficiency from common situations to catastrophic emergencies, allowing Joliet's Police and Fire Departments to better serve the public. View dozens of historic items, such as an authentic 1910 "Keystone Cops" police uniform, 1920s Tommy Gun, 1950s inhalator and a polygraph machine from the 1960s.

Fairways, Greens and Clubs

Call for hours
The diverse evolution of golf and its relationship to society comes alive through the unique exhibit, Fairways, Greens & Clubs. Staged in a replica of the interior of a traditional golf clubhouse, the mystique of vintage golf comes alive through displays showing the progression of golf equipment, infiltration of golf clubs, course design and maintenance, along with intriguing stories of men and women closely related to the sport.
Wheaton Center for History Members - Free
Adults - $7.50
Seniors 60 years & up - $6.50
Students 9 years and up - $5.50
8 & younger - Free

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Don't Give up the Ship Story!

Recently the Associated Press reported that a team of divers, Charles Buffum, Craig Harger and Michael Fournier, believe they have discovered the wreck of the USS Revenge off the coast of Rhode Island.

The divers say they have viewed four canons, an anchor, and some other metal objects. Nothing made of wood has survived and they have not yet found a ship's bell or anything else that has a name on it that might identify the wreck, but the objects seem to be from the right time period and no other military ships were reported to have disappeared in that area.

The Revenge sunk while under the command of Oliver Hazard Perry when it hit a reef during a storm in 1811, 200 years ago this week. Perry supposedly was demoted following the event and was sent to sail on Lake Erie, a much smaller sea.

Perry became known as the "Hero of Lake Erie" during the War of 1812 when he became the first US commander to defeat a British squadron. He is also credited with the saying "I have met the enemy and they are ours" and his battle flag's motto "Don't give up the ship" is still symbolic to our Navy.

Once can visit Perry's Victory and Peace Memorial at Put-in-Bay in Ohio and a painting, "Perry's Victory on Lake Erie hangs," hangs in the rotunda at the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus.

The local interest in this story is about a legend that ties Joseph Naper's brother to the Battle of Lake Erie. A book published in 1907 called Concerning the Van Bunschoten or Van Benschoten family in America indicates that Joseph's brother Benjamin Naper served under Perry and is in fact depicted as one of the oarsmen in the painting. An art historian, however, says that the artist, William Henry Powell, used seamen from Brooklyn as his models. Still, the gentleman with the white sidewhiskers sure looks like the only photo surviving of Joseph Naper!

Strolling the Streets of Yesteryear

Today one can "walk" down the street of a town half a world away thanks to Google Maps. While the results are not quite as sophisticated, one can also "walk" many towns from the past thanks to Sanborn Maps.

The Sanborn Maps were drawn starting in 1867 for assessing fire insurance liability in urban areas. Farms and very small towns are not represented, but many, many other areas are. In Illinois, nearly 500 communities are recorded, from Abingdon to Zion City.

Each map shows the streets and the blocks in between, as well as water sources like wells, springs, etc. Buildings are drawn indicating additions and sheds and are labeled as well: Harness Shop, Blacksmith, Candy Shop, Dry Goods.

While it's certainly interesting to see how a familiar street was laid out one hundred years ago, it's also fascinating to learn what sort of businesses thrived then. Drugstores were on every corner - much like they are today!

While the first Sanborn Maps were created in 1867 and the last ones in 1970, they weren't drawn every year and not every town had them. To see what's available, check with your library. You may even be able to access them from your home computer and stroll the streets of yesteryear to your heart's content.
A Reception with Elizabeth Wright at Chicago History Museum
Saturday, January 22
12:30 pm
Join Elizabeth Wright, granddaughter of Frank Lloyd Wright for an exclusive look at her newest book, Dear Bob, Dear Betty: Love and Marriage During the Great Depression. The book examines the witty, sassy, and poignant correspondence between the youngest son of Frank Lloyd Wright and his future wife during their courtship. Mingle with Ms. Wright before the program at the pre-lecture reception for members only. Both events are FREE for members.

Charles Darwin and the Voyage of the Beagle
Sunday, January 23
4:00- 5:00 pm
Imagine an evening at London's Royal Geological Society with the affable, young Charles Darwin among friends, telling the stories of his amazing adventure sailing around the world on the HMS Beagle. Storyteller and science teacher Brian "Fox" Ellis steps into Darwin's shoes to model the scientific process and engage listeners in a discussion of the facts so they can draw their own conclusions. Registration Recommended.
Advance: $5/Naperville Heritage Society Sustaining Members and students, $6/non-member
At the Door: $7/adults, $6/youth or student

Civil War Symposium
10:00 am - 3:00 pm
Explore a variety of topics with local historians during the 150th anniversary of the start of America's Civil War. This year's program will feature:
Reflections on Abraham Lincoln, The Wisconsin Grays Go to War,
Civil War Era Music and
Frederick Douglass: Mission of the War...Abolition!
The 2011 Midway Village Museum Civil War Symposium includes all speakers and a box lunch.
The cost is $28 for Adults and $18 for students (3-17)
Advance registration is required by Wednesday, January 19. Call the museum at 815 397-9112 to register.