In celebration of the National Park Service Centennial in 2016, this exhibit showcases one object from every national park museum collection in District of Columbia. We invite you to explore museum collections from Anacostia Park, Capital Hill Parks, Carter G. Woodson Home National Historic Site, Fort Circle Parks, Ford's Theater, Frederick Douglass National Historic Site, George Washington Memorial Parkway, Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, Mary McLeod Bethune Council House National Historic Site, National Mall & Memorial Parks, The Old Stone House, Oxon Run Parkway, Peirce Mill, Rock Creek Park, Suitland Parkway, Theodore Roosevelt Island, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Washington Monument, Museum Management Program, Washington Office, and Museum Management Program, Washington Office.
Woodson, Carter G, ed. The Journal of Negro History, Volume I, 1916. (Lancaster, PA., and Washington, D. C.: The Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, 1916). Before Dr. Carter G. Woodson, there was very little accurate written history about the lives and experiences of Americans of African descent. Dr. Woodson worked passionately and diligently to change that. His home at 1538 9th Street, NW, Washington, D.C., served as the headquarters for the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, through which he started Negro History Week (now known as Black History Month), and for Associated Publishers, a publishing company devoted to publishing work by and about African Americans. Woodson is known as the “Father of Black History.”
One of Dr. Woodson's major contributions to the field of African American history was his founding of The Journal of Negro History in 1916. He served as its editor. The Journal provided a scholarly vehicle for publishing articles on African American history. Shown is a photograph of a bound volume of the first year of the Journal, which the Association for the Study of African American Life and History continues to publish today as the The Journal of African American History.
Carter G. Woodson Home National Historic Site, CAWO 1
This quartzite Holmes projectile point was made and used by Native Americans during the Late Archaic period (3750 B.C. -1250 B.C.), but was found by archeologists in the earthworks of Fort Foote, one of the Civil War Defenses of Washington. It may seem odd to find a prehistoric artifact in a Civil-War era site, but this location on a bluff overlooking the Potomac River would have been desirable for human habitation throughout history. Archeologists believe that the Holmes point was disturbed from an archaic period context during the construction of the fort.
Fort Circle Parks, FOCE 8523
On the night of April 14, 1865, as the Civil War was drawing to a close and revelers celebrated in the streets of Washington, President Lincoln attended a play at Ford's Theatre with his wife and friends. During the second act, the famous actor and Confederate sympathizer John Wilkes Booth entered the Presidential Box and fired this .44 caliber pistol at the president in an act of revenge. Lincoln died the next morning.
The deringer was found in the Presidential Box, where Booth dropped it, and used as trial evidence. The War Department transferred it to the National Park Service in the 1930s.
Today, visitors can see the deringer, along with other objects associated with Lincoln's Presidency and assassination, on exhibit at Ford's Theatre National Historic Site, one of the sites administered by the National Mall and Memorial Parks.
Ford’s Theatre National Historic Site, FOTH 3224
The Columbian Orator is a “how to” manual for public speaking. This guidebook formally introduced Frederick Douglass to oratory through its composed speeches, dialogues, playlets, and poems. He purchased this primer for 50 cents when he was an enslaved boy coming of age in Baltimore, Maryland. Douglass spent hours walking the Baltimore streets studying and repeating its contents to devise his own style of speechmaking. This manuscript also made him even more conscious of his own personal liberty. Douglass carried this handbook with him when he escaped from slavery in 1838.
He continued to use this text as a moral compass to craft rational arguments against slavery to sound his support for others like him that were disadvantaged and disenfranchised. Douglass matured into an outstanding “universal reformer.” Throughout his life, he aligned himself with men and women of all races to advocate for many progressive reform movements, including the abolition of slavery, racism, sexism, and capital punishment during much of the 1800s. Douglass's words and ideas remain sources of inspiration for millions of people around the world today.
Frederick Douglass National Historic Site, FRDO 650
Fort Marcy was an integral part of the Civil War defenses of Washington. This strategic location, along with nearby Fort Ethan Allen and other batteries on the northern bank of the Potomac River, were built to protect Leesburg Pike and Chain Bridge. Soldiers, such as Private Keller Bobb of the 130th Pennsylvania Regiment stationed at Fort Marcy, wrote letters such as this one to family members and loved ones detailing day-to-day activities and military excursions.
“On last Sunday Co's A & B were detailed for picket duty about a mile from camp. Co. A (Capt. Porter's) captured a rebel spy endeavoring to creep through to the lines. He had a rebel uniform on under his other clothes. He was sent to a fort down below our camp.”
-Private Keller Bobb, Co F, 130th Penn. Vols., September 2, 1862.
George Washington Memorial Parkway, GWMP 2543
Coming here in the 1800s, Civil War Veteran Walter Shaw found the wetlands were a good place to build his water garden. By building the paths that separate ponds from the tidal marsh, Shaw built a garden that was both peaceful and profitable. His daughter, Helen, later become an ambassador for water gardening and the Shaw Gardens. It was Helen who successfully lobbied Congress to save the gardens from dredge operations in the Anacostia River, and in doing so saved a section of the original marsh.
The photograph is one of several in the collection documenting the beauty and appearance of the gardens at the time it was owned by the Shaw family.
Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens, KEAQ 254
This pen is one of the several pens used by President Lyndon B. Johnson to sign the Civil Rights Act of 1964 on July 2, 1964. President Johnson gave it to Dr. Dorothy Irene Height at the ceremony.
Archivists working with the NPS processing papers donated by Dr. Height to the National Archives for Black Women's History found the pen with a photocopy of newspaper clippings describing the ceremony and the gift of pens to attendees.
The Daily Diary of the President for that day shows that Dorothy Height was at the ceremony and stayed for a strategy meeting afterwards.
Mary McLeod Bethune Council House National Historic Site, MAMC 743a
The Old Stone House was constructed in ca 1765 and is one of the oldest buildings in Washington, DC. It has been witness to the changing landscape of our nation's capital. Over the course of its history, the house has had many owners and tenants. One of these tenants was John Suter, Jr., a clock maker who rented the house from his mother-in-law in 1800. Located along Bridge Street (present day M Street NW), the front room of the house faced onto the busy commercial corridor of Georgetown and would have housed Suter's clock making shop for a short time. It is unknown if this tall case or “grandfather”� clock was created in this house, but it is the only object in the site's museum collection that is directly related to an occupant of the house. This tall case, which is on exhibit in the second floor dining room of the house, bears Suter's signature in the middle of the clock face. The detailing of the clock face includes a personified image of the sun, peering down from clouds, and this feature turns to indicate day and night. At either end of the archway are small, printed maps of the western and eastern hemisphere, showing the continents as they were usually shown in the 1700s and early 1800s–minus South America, which inexplicably does not appear.
The Old Stone House, OLST 3043
During both World Wars, Oxon Run Parkway was named Camp Simms. It was an army facility under the Department of Defense that encompassed trenches, foxholes and pistol and firing ranges. This 81 MM Practice Training Anti-Personnel Rocket may have been used during a military drill but did not explode.
Oxon Run Parkway, OXRN 20
This simple accounting book reveals telling glimpses into the people and processes at work in an industrializing, pre-Civil War Washington, DC. Business owner Peirce Shoemaker started the ledger in 1850 after inheriting the family's estate of agricultural and industrial businesses in the northwestern section of the city from his uncle, Abner Peirce. These holdings included the grain-processing operations at Peirce Mill, now a National Park Service site, as well as more than 900 acres of agricultural lands. Generally, the ledger contains accounts receivable and inventory information related to running these businesses, including barters of wood, pigs, hay, and buckwheat made in exchange for grain milling. But the ledger also contained lists, including several of the names, ages, and genders of enslaved persons. The first page of the ledger book also has a glued-on printed newspaper clipping advertising the sale of “five healthy, good slaves,”� directly opposite to the inside front cover bearing Shoemaker's signature. The 1850 census documented 18 slaves on the estate. By 1862, five years after Shoemaker closed the ledger, this number had grown to 20. This was the second highest number of enslaved people held by one family in Washington, DC.
Peirce Mill, PIMI 501
Of all the property owners who sold land for the creation of Rock Creek Park in Washington, DC, only two were African American: Jane Dickson and Charles Dickson. The two Dicksons - their relationship is unknown - owned nearly identical lots a few hundred yards apart, each consisting of a quarter acre of land, a small house, and a garden. While these properties represent the type of provision that the owners of formerly enslaved persons would make for newly freed persons, the name Dickson does not appear among the enslaved persons of the Peirce family, who owned the surrounding land. Though the chain of title for these properties is obscure, it appears that the Dicksons purchased these lots in the 1860s. In 2005 archeologists found a scattering of artifacts at the Jane Dickson Site, including nails, brick fragments, and a small china button. At the Charles Dickson Site, an excavation of an old cellar hole revealed this 3.5-inch tall iron figurine of a man, wearing a hat and holding his hands in front of him. One of the archeologists recognized that he resembled the African American cart drivers that were common figures on old metal toys and in real life, as carting was one of the main occupations of African American men in Washington, DC. Researchers then found an image of an antique mule cart toy for sale with a driver that looked very much like the one from the Charles Dickson Site. This small object provides an insightful glimpse into a home with children at play, perhaps with this figurine and an accompanying cart.
Rock Creek Park, ROCR 36859
This artifact is a quartzite hammerstone recovered from a prehistoric site located along the Suitland Parkway. Native Americans made a variety of stone tools, including projectile points, spear points, knives, drills, and dart points, to name a few. These stone tools required a lot of skill to make. Hammerstones are hard cobbles used in the lithic reduction/stone tool manufacturing process. Primary lithic flakes and cores associated with the hammerstone show that Native Americans were making tools from locally available quartz and quartzite.
Suitland Parkway, SUIT 395,SUIT 398, SUIT 399
This poem was recovered from the body of a North Vietnamese Army soldier by an American GI on April 8, 1969, along with other personal effects of the soldier. The NVA soldier was killed during an ambush by Company A of the 2nd Battalion (Mechanized), 4th Infantry, 9th Infantry Division near Rach Kien. At the end of his tour, the G.I. carried the poem home with him and stored it for over 42 years. On Veteran's Day 2011, he made a trip to Washington, DC and left it, along with the other items recovered, at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial at dawn on November 12, 2011. In a letter left with the recovered items, he explains that his motivations for leaving them were a longing for reconciliation and a desire to put the man's soul to rest. He contemplates the life that this man never had and asks for forgiveness from his former enemy.
This poem is written in Vietnamese and is titled “MÙA XUÂN HOA ÐUA NỎ”, or “The Spring's Flowers in Full Bloom”. It is a handwritten, personal copy of the poem broadcast over Hanoi Radio by Ho Chi Minh as code to begin the Tet Offensive. The other recovered items include a National Liberation Front (Viet Cong) flag; a silk pennant with Vietnamese text translating to “most decent squad”; a black and white photograph of 8 Vietnamese soldiers; two Vietnamese stamps commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Russian October Revolution. All items were left in a wooden box with Chinese characters lining the interior.
Visitors have left offerings like this at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial since its dedication, making it the first collection of its kind. Some, like the veteran who left this offering, describe it as a cathartic experience.
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial is one of the many sites administered by the National Mall and Memorial Parks.
Vietnam Veterans Memorial, VIVE 34998
This document contains the signatures of the officers and board of managers for the Washington National Monument Society in 1850, which included President Millard Fillmore. The Washington National Monument Society was founded in 1833 by a group of gentlemen who advocated for the creation of a monument dedicated to the nation's beloved first president. John Marshall, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, became the society's first president. A design for Marshall, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, became the Society's first president. A design for the monument by the architect Robert Mills, featuring a pantheon at its base and the eminent obelisk, was selected by the Society in 1845. The original plan for the monument is depicted in the top left corner of the manuscript.
Eventually, they Society's turbulent administartive history, lack of funding, and the impending Civil war, caused it, and consequently the construction of Washington Monument, to cease for more than two decades. In 1876, Congress assumed responsibility for funding the building, which was completed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1884.The Washington Monument has been managed by the National Mall and Memorial Parks 1933.
National Mall and Memorial Parks, WAMO 10
Thomas Moran (1837-1926) is a well-known painter of landscapes in the American West. As a member of the Hayden Geological Survey of 1871, his paintings of the Yellowstone area were instrumental in the establishment of Yellowstone National Park. The painting of Green River, Wyoming, frequently hangs in the Office of the Secretary, Department of the Interior, as representative of the many lands cared for by the Department.
Museum Management Program, Washington Office, WASO 1447
Thomas Moran (1837-1926) is a noted landscape painter of the American West. This chromolithograph is one of a limited edition of 2,500 that were made from a Moran painting of Grand Canyon. The Washington Office collection contains artwork for display in National Park Service and Departmental offices. The pieces in the collection remind visitors and staff of the National Park Service mandate to preserve cultural and natural resources for future generations.
Museum Management Program, Washington Office, WASOA 6
Park museum staff from: Anacostia Park, Capital Hill Parks, Carter G. Woodson Home National Historic Site, Fort Circle Parks, Ford's Theater, Frederick Douglass National Historic Site, George Washington Memorial Parkway, Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, Mary McLeod Bethune Council House National Historic Site, National Mall & Memorial Parks, The Old Stone House, Oxon Run Parkway, Peirce Mill, Rock Creek Park, Suitland Parkway, Theodore Roosevelt Island, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Washington Monument, Museum Management Program, Washington Office, and Museum Management Program, Washington Office.
National Park Service, Museum Management Program Staff: Amber Dumler, Stephen Damm, Ron Wilson, and Joan Bacharach