What’s New at WDS – April 29, 2020

Below you’ll find three weekly columns created to keep you informed and entertained. Be sure to check out our Facebook and Instagram pages for more photos and information.

Everyday Living at WDS

“Quarrel not nor contend with thy brethren or sisters, but live in love, peace and unity.” Beyond the archaic language (from “The School of Good Manners: Composed for the help of Parents teaching Children how to Behave during their minority,” 1787), this is the same message kids are hearing today, especially during these trying times of COVID-19!

This point begs the question: Were colonial children so different from kids today? We ask this of students taking our Child Life program, where young visitors gain an understanding of how a colonial household functioned and a child’s role in it.

Visiting students are always surprised to learn what life was like for their counterparts in early America. In the Stevens House bedroom, students see that multiple children slept in one bedroom and had no privacy. Most astonishing to them is the realization that colonial kids worked from sunup to sundown—girls in the house, boys on the farm—and almost all the homes in 1700s Wethersfield were farms!

Our students also enjoy discovering the leisure activities of 18th-century children and playing games such as hoop rolling, battledore (modern-day badminton), and skipping rope.

Collections A to Z – “C” is for Crane

Curator Rich Malley says that while cranes have been a regular feature here during the construction of our new Education and Visitor Center, other cranes have been an integral part of the WDS scene since the museum was organized. The fireplace cranes found in the Deane and Stevens houses, that is.

Kitchen cranes are the pivoting iron arms found in 18th and early 19th-century American and British kitchen fireplaces that hold cooking pots suspended above an open fire. Simple, yet effective, kitchen cranes provided two important improvements over earlier, fixed, hanging rods in fireplaces. First, the ability to pivot the crane enabled a certain amount of control in the cooking process by varying the distance between the fire and the cooking vessel, similar to adjusting the dial on your kitchen range top.

Equally important, especially to those doing the cooking, was the increased safely margin when working near an open fire. By being able to swing the crane away from the fire and out over the hearth, the cook, typically a woman wearing a long skirt, could check and stir the contents in the pot and add ingredients without the risk of burning her clothing. Now that’s home improvement!

Around the Grounds

In this week’s “Around the Grounds,” Property Manager Dick Agne shows us a view from the lower level up through the elevator compartment. The exhibit room with its ceiling skylights is visible through the studs on the ground level. We can also see new insulation and steel I-beam installed in the ceiling of the future Welcome Center and Gift Shop, which will replace the old education room, which had no insulation and only had wooden support beams! The final photo, from Saturday, April 25, shows the south elevation behind the Deane House.