Tag Archives: history

Pointe-à-Callière

This past summer, I went to Canada for the extra long weekend that I had for the fourth of July. The decision to go away was quite last minute, so my usual travel buddy and I decided on Montreal since we’ve not been and figured it wouldn’t be as crowded since they don’t celebrate Independence Day that weekend. Turns out Canada Day is July 1st, so there was more people then we expected, but we had fun nevertheless. First stop…

Pointe-à-Callière, located in Montreal, Quebec
(Montreal Museum of Archaeology and History)

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Pointe-à-Callière is open on Tuesday through Friday from 10am to 5pm and on Saturday to Sunday from 11am to 5pm; the museum is closed on Mondays. Admission to the museum is 20CAD, which is approximately 16USD, however the rates will be increasing next year, so check out the museum website for the difference. Pointe-à-Callière is part of the Montreal Museum Pass, which gives one access to a variety of museums for 3 consecutive days. The pass is 75CAD without a transportation pass and 80CAD with the transportation pass. (I got the one with the transportation pass, which is about 65USD. It was worth it to me as the trains were quite frequent and I was staying outside of downtown Montreal, where many of the sites are.) The museum is accessible via driving, walking and public transportation. If one chooses to drive, note that the museum doesn’t have a parking lot, but there is paid parking available nearby. It’s possible to walk almost anywhere, so walking is always an option , but in this case, it’s best if one is already close by, or it will be a really long walk. As for public transportation, take the 2 train to Place-d’Armes Station and walk about 5 minutes to reach the museum or take the 715 bus and get off right in front of the museum.  Places to check out nearby include the Montreal History Center and the Notre Dame Basilica of Montreal or just wander around the area, it’s quite nice.

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Pointe-à-Callière  is a complex of buildings that are connected on the underground level, which is where most of the exhibits are located. Right after the ticket counter is the 18 minute multimedia show, “Yours Truly, Montreal”, that details the birth of Montreal from the ice age to the present. The show is a great introduction to the museum as it gives visitors an overview of Montreal’s origins; it is available in several languages, so don’t miss it. The first floor of the entrance building contains a temporary exhibit, “Hello, Montreal”, which is on view from February 17, 2017 to January 6, 2019. (I missed this exhibit as I was rather confused with the museum’s layout, so I’m not sure what the exhibit is about.) The underground level of the entrance building contains the permanent exhibit, “Crossroads Montreal”. The exhibit houses the ruins of Montreal’s first Catholic cemetery and the foundations of the Royal Insurance Building. Through these remains, the exhibit details how Montreal was originally an Iroquoian village that became a French missionary colony and eventually grew to become a great Canadian metropolis.

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Next up is the “Memory Collector”, which is a light installation projected onto the walls of a section of Montreal’s first collector sewer. The exhibit is really relaxing and impressive, and is a definite must see at the museum. Following is “Where Montreal Began”, which is located on the actual site of where Montreal was founded. The exhibit focuses on the French missionary settlement that was established to convert the natives to Christianity. Visitors can see the the original remains and artifacts from the settlement and learn about the settlers who left France to establish the new colony. In addition, the exhibit also contains some artifacts from the indigenous people. Of interest to me was a hieroglyphic wheel depicting the signatures that the indigenous people used to sign the Great Peace of Montreal, a peace treaty between the natives and the settlers.

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The “Building Montreal” exhibit highlights the development of Montreal from the 17th to the 19th century. The exhibit contains various artifacts from the time period, interactive games to engage visitors and a multimedia installation. Next up is “Pirates or privateers?”,  an exhibit about life aboard a privateer ship during the turn of the 18th century. Visitors can learn about the food that was eaten, the skills needed to sail a ship and the punishment that is given if they failed to obey an order from the ship’s captain. The exhibit contains navigational instruments, personal possessions, tools, weapons and loot. (The exhibit appears to be geared toward children, since the ship was filled with kids, so I didn’t go through it that thoroughly.)

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Last, but not least is the temporary exhibit, ” Amazonia. The Shaman and the Mind of the Forest”, which was on view from April 20, 2017 to October 22, 2017. The exhibit highlighted the mythology of the Amazonian societies and featured objects from over thirty ethnic groups in the Amazon basin, including blowpipes, bows and arrows, musical instruments, baskets and items required by shamans. The objects were located throughout two floors, so there was a lot to see.

My travel buddy and I spent about 3 hours at Pointe-à-Callière, but I missed one of the temporary exhibit, so maybe add another half hour to see that. However, as always, other visitors will take more or less time depending on their interests. Admission to the museum is worth it, since there is so much to see and do that one can actually spend the whole day there if they wanted to. (Definitely check out the Montreal Museum Pass if you are interested in the other museums, so that you can get the most for your money.) Pointe-à-Callière is good idea for a family day trip as there is something for everyone in the family to do. Anyone interested in history, Canadian history or specifically, the history of Montreal will enjoy a visit. If it’s your  first trip to Montreal, or if you’ve been several times already or even if you live there, learn and see where Montreal began at Pointe-à-Callière.

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Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine

I missed the second posts from last month and this month, but that’s because  I’m still catching up with other things that need to be done first that was delayed by my annual trip. It’s going to take me at least 6 more months before I get to the museums from my trip, so I’ll do the destination revel now, I went to Japan, and it was awesome. Before I ramble on and on about how great my trip was, let’s wrap up in Baltimore with…

Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine, located in Baltimore, Maryland

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Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine is a park, and the park is open from 9am to 5pm daily. The Visitor Center and the Star Fort, both located within the park, is open from 9am-4:45pm daily. Admission to Fort McHenry is technically free as visitors are allowed to explore the park grounds and the Visitor Center for no charge, however admission to the historical area, also known as the Star Fort, is $10 per person. The admission fee is actually for a 7-day pass, so visitors can return anytime during the allotted 7-day period. The park is accessible via car, water taxi and public transportation. If you chooses to drive to Fort McHenry, there is ample free parking. If you happen to already be in the Inner Harbor, you can reach the park via a water taxi; note that if you didn’t arrive via water taxi to Fort McHenry, you cannot take the water taxi to leave. As for public transportation, take the free Charm City Circulator, via the Banner route, to the Fort McHenry stop (Stop #411). Other public buses also go to the historic site, please check the Maryland MTA site for more information. The Baltimore Museum of Industry is nearby if one wishes to stay in the area, but the various attractions in the Inner Harbor is only a stone’s throw away.

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First place visited was the Visitor Center, which contains the standard amenities, such as restrooms and a gift shop. In addition, the Visitor Center also contains three interconnected exhibits that relate to Fort McHenry. The first exhibit focuses on the origin of the national anthem, The Star-Spangled Banner. The Star-Spangled Banner was initially a poem penned by Francis Scott Key after witnessing the British bombardment of Fort McHenry during the Battle of Baltimore and then at dawn of the next day, still seeing the American flag waving at the fort. The next exhibit is about the Battle of Baltimore, a battle that is well remembered due to The Star-Spangled Banner in the War of 1812. The exhibit is a 10 minute film that focuses on the battle, and it is shown every half an hour. Last, but not least is an exhibit that focuses on the War of 1812. Visitors can learn about the origins, the battles and the aftermath of the war, in addition to viewing a variety of artifacts that include a canon, uniforms, and personal items of the soldiers.

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Walking through the park to the Star Fort, there are a variety of canons scattered about that visitors can take a closer look at. There are usually descriptions nearby to indicate the significance of each grouping of canons. The Star Fort is a five pointed-star shape that was popular when the fort was initially built as it allowed for a panoramic view of the surrounding area. The Star Fort contains barracks and related structures where soldiers lived and worked when the fort was still in operation, but today, these buildings house a variety of exhibits. Exhibits include the Commander’s Quarters, Guard House, Powder Magazine, Junior Officers’ Quarters and the Enlisted Men’s Quarters. The exhibits contain a variety of historical and military memorabilia. (Please excuse the terrible pictures. I didn’t realize that I had my camera set to manual focus until more than half through.) The star fort also does a flag change twice a day that is pretty interesting. They allow visitors to help with the process, so it’s a fun experience for anyone interested.

My travel buddy and I spent about 1.5 hours here, which is less than the recommended 2 hours that the site suggests. I think the additional 30 minutes that the site recommends is necessary as there is a lot to see and do (I felt we rushed through a lot of the exhibits as we had to catch a bus back home). However, the time frame needed for each visitor will vary depending on interest and other external factors. The admission to the fort is kind of expensive since most visitors will plan to go once only, but it’s nice to have the option to visit again within a week (and the money supports the national parks, so it’s for a good cause even if you visit only once.) Fort McHenry is a good family day trip idea as there is something for everyone in the family to do. Anyone interested in history, American history, and the origins of The Star-Spangled Banner will enjoy a visit to the historic site. Even if one is not interested in history, the park is still enjoyable as there are walking trails and it’s right by the water.  Wear comfy shoes, pack a picnic and enjoy the day learning American history at Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine.

Mob Museum

The second post for this month almost didn’t make it due to variety of factors, but mainly due to my desire to procrastinate. Nevertheless, it’s here. Without further fanfare, I end my West Coast trip of 2016 with…

The Mob Museum, located in Las Vegas, Nevada

The Mob Museum is officially the National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement (which sounds long and not quite as exciting as the Mob Museum.) The Mob Museum is open daily from 9am to 9pm. Admission to the museum is $23.95 when you buy in person at the museum and $19.95 when you buy online in advance. (Check for other types of discounts online, I was able to get my ticket for $17.) When you buy online, the site tells you to select a day and time for entry, but according to the Mob Museum website, you may enter any time as long as the museum is open regardless of what time you selected. The museum is accessible via walking, driving and public transportation. Should you choose walking as your mode of transportation, remember that the streets of Las Vegas are long, so something 2 blocks away could mean a 30 minute walk. If you choose to drive, there is a parking lot next to the Museum, which costs $6 for 3 hours and then additional after that. Public transportation is pretty convenient in Las Vegas, take the Deuce from the closest bus stop on the Strip and get off at Stewart Ave and 4th Street and walk a short block to reach the museum. Apparently there is a free Downtown Loop shuttle that one can take to reach the museum; unfortunately you’ll have to be in downtown Las Vegas for it to be useful as the shuttle doesn’t quite reach the more populated areas of the Strip. If you’re in the Downtown Las Vegas, check out the Freemont Street Experience or the Neon Museum to make a fun day trip of it.

The Mob Museum contains three floors of exhibits with a set route to explore the museum, starting on the third floor. Immediately getting out of the elevator, there is a photo-op for those interested to get a picture of themselves in a police lineupAs the photo-op is optional, those not interested can bypass the line and head to the first exhibit, “The Birth of the Mob”, to learn about the origins of the mob and how it came about in the early 1900s. There’s a short movie in this exhibit about Lucky Luciano, who is considered to be the father of modern organized crime in the United States.

In “A Tough Little Town”, visitors can learn how Las Vegas began as a frontier town and evolved to become a global capital of gambling and entertainment due to the construction of the Hoover Dam and the legalization of gambling and prostitution in Nevada. Next up is an exhibit documenting the Prohibition Era from 1920-1933, entitled “Prohibition”. The 1920s was a time of great economic and social change, where it was easy to defy Prohibition with bootleggers and speakeasies. The Prohibition Era saw a rise in crime due to the diversion of law enforcement to regulating alcohol distribution and to the establishment of black markets dominated by organized crime syndicates, which led to a stronghold for the Mob. The Great Depression brought about the repeal of Prohibition and ended the need for bootleggers and speakeasies, but the Mob had already laid deep roots and continued to thrive.

“The Feds Fight Back” focuses on law enforcement’s response to the growing Mob influence and rising crime sprees post-Prohibition. The exhibit highlights J. Edgar Hoover and his group of G-Men, known initially as the Bureau of Investigation, later as FBI. Originally, the agents weren’t allowed to carry guns or make arrests, but because of two sensational crimes of the era that led to murders in both cases, the G-Men were permitted to carry guns, make arrests and cross state lines to chase down suspects, as it isn’t within local police’s authority to do so. When the G-Men couldn’t get a Mob member through a serious criminal offense, the government brought in the T-Men, agents of the U.S. Treasury, who took down Mob members for tax evasion. (I find that quite funny and interesting.) Finishing out the third floor is “The Tentacle Spreads”, which focuses on the Mob’s endeavors after the Prohibition. With the end of Prohibition, people no longer needed to obtain alcohol illegally, so the Mob found other ways, such as gambling  and dealing drugs, to make a profit.

First up on the second floor is “The Kefauver Hearings”, which includes a short 10 minute video in the actual courtroom used for the hearings in Las Vegas. The Kefauver Hearings provided many Americans with their first glimpse of organized crime’s influence in the US as the hearings were televised live on national television. The hearings concluded that the Mob existed, which was denied by some, including J. Edgar Hoover.  “Open City” is another Las Vegas centered exhibit. Due to gambling being illegal in many states, mobsters focused on Las Vegas as the place for their ventures since Nevada legalized gambling. See a variety of items on display, including showgirl outfits and a small display of cheating methods, and learn how casino owners skimmed money to avoid taxes.

“Spinning A Deadly Web” explains how the Mob has a hand in everything, from politics to world affairs. Last exhibit on the second floor is “We Only Kill Each Other”, which focuses on how the Mob lifestyle affected the individuals, their families and innocent bystanders. Visitors can view a variety of weapons used for hits, and images of some of the Mob’s most notorious hits.

The first exhibit encountered on the first floor is “Bringing Down the Mob”, which focuses on the joint efforts of law enforcement to convict the mob. The exhibit highlights some of the newer technologies in the 1970s, such as wire taps and listening devices, to get incriminating evidence on criminals. Also, there is a small section on undercover work. “Weapons Training” is an interactive exhibit that allows visitors to test their skills and judgement in the virtual world. (It’s quite fun, you get to shoot bad guys, but also weird cause other people are just watching you act silly.) Right next to the this exhibit is “International Organized Crime” that explains about crime in the 21st century; modern crime transcends traditional boundaries and is a more global affair.

Next is “Memories of the Mob”, which contains a room full of pictures relating to the Mob members and their families. “100 Years of Made Men” highlights the most notorious figures from 100 years of Mob history; a brief story for each figure is included. Last, but not least is “Hollywood and the Mob”, which details how Hollywood has merged fact and fiction pertaining to the Mob to create fascinating stories for public entertainment.

My travel buddy and I spent about 3 hours exploring the Mob Museum, but as usual others may take more or less time depending on interest level. The museum contains lots of reading material, but it was pretty crowded when we went, so it might take some more time if you want to read everything. (I skipped some of the more crowded sections as there was just too much people.) The price of admission at the door is slightly steep in my opinion, so try to look for deals, or at least buy online in advance to save some money. Anyone interested in Mob or organized crime history, or just history in general, will have great time at the museum. The museum has several videos and plenty of interactive exhibits, but is much better suited for adults and older children as there is a lot of reading involved. Las Vegas is known as Sin City, so it’s only befitting that its history is deeply entwined with the Mob’s, and where better to learn about both then at the National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement, or better known as The Mob Museum.

Independence National Historical Park

I took a trip this past Memorial Day weekend, so I’m loaded with more material, so I may switch back to posting twice a month in the coming months. But before I get ahead of myself, let’s finish with my last stop during my Philadelphia day trip from last August…

Independence National Historical Park, located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Independence National Historical Park encompasses several street blocks, thus various buildings and facilities are considered as part of the park. The historical park is open daily from 9am to 5pm, but hours may vary for some of the buildings and facilities, thus it’s best to check the park’s website for hours of operation. Independence National Historical Park is easily accessible via car and public transportation. If you choose to drive, there are various parking lots nearby, but note that fees do apply. If you choose to take public transportation, take the SEPTA Market-Frankford Subway, the blue line, to 5th Street/Independence Hall Station, and walk about one block west to reach the Visitor Center or one block south to reach Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. The historical park can be a short half day visit if you want to visit the must see sites only, but if you want to see everything, it can take several days, so there’s plenty to do. Should you wish to switch things up a bit, stop by the Museum at the Chemical Heritage Foundation to take a break from history and learn some chemistry.

As mentioned above, Independence National Historical Park includes a lot of sites, but I only managed the must sees during my visit, thus this post will cover only the following: Independence Square, Liberty Bell Center and Independence Visitor Center. Independence Square is comprised of Independence Hall, Congress Hall, Philosophical Hall and Old City Hall. To get into Independence Square, visitors are required to go through a security screening, but the line moves relatively quick. Independence Hall is open daily from 9am to 5pm, and to 7pm in the summer. Admission to Independence Hall is by tour only. Timed-entry tickets are required between March to November. Tickets are free and can be obtained at the Visitor Center on the day of the visit, or for a small fee tickets can be reserved in advance either online or by telephone. ( I didn’t want to pay a fee, so I just headed to the Visitor Center first thing and obtained tickets. Don’t get there too late, since they do have a limited amount of tickets per day.)  The tour starts in the East Wing of Independence Hall, where the ranger guide gives a 10 minute overview on the drafting and signing of the Declaration of Independence, followed by a 20 minute tour of the first floor of the Independence Hall, bringing the total tour time to 30 minutes.

The West Wing of Independence Hall contains the Great Essentials exhibit. Visitors can view original printed copies of the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation and the U.S. Constitution. There is also an inkstand on display. (Please excuse the poor photos, my hands aren’t still enough for longer exposure times needed to take pictures in low light.)

Congress Hall is open from 9am to 5pm daily. Congress Hall is accessible only by tour, but there is no need to obtain tickets, as it’s on a first come first served basis, so just show up around the scheduled tour times. Tours last about 15 minutes and are scheduled for every 30 minutes. Congress Hall was home to the U.S. Congress from 1790 to 1800, when Philadelphia served as the temporary capital of the U.S. The building is two floors, the open space ground floor was where the House of Representatives met, and the U.S. Senate congregated on the second floor, which is comprised of several rooms.

Philosophical Hall houses the American Philosophical Society (APS) and its museum. The APS was founded by Benjamin Franklin in 1743 to promote useful knowledge.  The APS museum is open between April to December, from Thursday to Sunday, 10am to 4pm. (Check their website for current hours and exhibits.)  The museum contains one exhibit that rotates on an annual basis that features the society’s collection of historical items and materials. The museum is on one floor of the building, spanning several rooms. When I visited, the exhibit on display was “Gathering Voices: Thomas Jefferson and Native America”, which lasted from April 15, 2016 to December 30, 2016. The exhibit highlighted Jefferson’s collection of Native American languages. I didn’t get a chance to visit the Old City Hall as I was running low on time and also I couldn’t find the entrance, so I decided to skip it and move onto the next destination.

The Liberty Bell is one of the most famous sites in Philadelphia. The bell can be seen in the Liberty Bell Center, which is very close to Independence Hall. The center is open from 9am to 5pm year round, to 7pm during the summer months. Admission is free.  Asides from viewing the Liberty Bell (which is a lot smaller than I expected), there are various exhibits highlighting the history of the Liberty Bell.

Last, but not least, is the Independence Visitor Center. I started here to get tickets for Independence Hall, but didn’t see the exhibits inside until the end. The visitor’s center contains a theater where visitors can enjoy films about the founding of the United States and the Revolutionary War. In addition, there’s an exhibit inside showcasing some prominent historical events and figures related to Philadelphia, such as the Underground Railroad and Benjamin Franklin.

Seeing all of the above took me about 2.5 hours total, including travel time to each place, and waiting for tours to begin and in lines . The majority of the time was spent with the guided tours as the time was predetermined; in the self-guided areas, I spent significantly less time, not more than 20 minutes in each area, and looking back now I don’t feel it was an adequate amount of time for some of the sites. Thus other visitors will most likely need more time to see all of the above, but the minimum time to spend is 2.5 hours (however, you may spend less time too, if you read and move faster). Everything at Independence National Historical Park is free, thus it’s a good place to bring your friends and family as there’s enough to do that everyone will find something interesting. People who enjoy history will definitely have a field day as every where they turn, a piece of history is staring back. So put on your good walking shoes and learn about the founding of the United States at Independence National Historical Park.

Benjamin Franklin Museum

The weather is getting warmer and the summer is coming soon, I hope to see more places this year, but we’ll see how that goes. Any who, continuing on with my previous adventures in Philly…

Benjamin Franklin Museum, located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

The Benjamin Franklin Museum is open 7 days a week, from 9am to 5pm. Admission to the museum is $5. The museum is part of Franklin Court, which was Benjamin Franklin’s Philadelphia residence from 1763 until his death. Franklin Court contains the “Fragments of Franklin Court” exhibit, a Printing Office and the courtyard, which all are accessible to visitors. (My one-tracked mind latched onto to the museum as the main event, so I was unaware about the additional exhibit and the printing office. I suppose they are also part of the reason as to the small crowds when I visited.) The museum is accessible by car and public transportation. There is no onsite parking for those who intend to drive, but there are various parking lots within a mile of the museum. For those who wish to use public transportation, take the SEPTA Market-Frankford Subway, the blue line, to the 2nd Street station or 5th Street Station (they’re about equidistant from the museum) and then walk a few blocks to reach the museum. Visitors can see the other attractions at Franklin Court if they have time, or walk a little further to visit Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. If it’s too much history for one day, then stroll around the corner to the museum at Chemical Heritage Foundation (which I highly enjoyed).

The Benjamin Franklin Museum is located underground, beneath Franklin Court. The museum is one floor and contains five exhibits exploring the different aspects of Franklin’s life. Right at the start of the museum, visitors can find Skugg the squirrel, who is a sort of scavenger type-like guide for visitors; he can be found sporadically throughout the museum, pointing out fun tidbits. The first exhibit is “Ardent and Dutiful”, which focuses on Franklin’s personal life. Visitors can learn about his family, his friends, his hobbies and even his household expenses. Franklin suffered from gout, due to excessive eating of red meat and drinking wine, hence he wrote a story about a conversation he would have with his personified gout; visitors can view a clip of the story at this exhibit.

The next exhibit is “Ambitious and Rebellious”, which focuses on Franklin’s life as a printer. Franklin bought the Pennsylvania Gazette, oftentimes contributing pieces to the newspaper under various alias, and made it one of the most successful newspapers during his time. The exhibit contains some of the tools that are needed for printing. Following is “Motivated to Improve”. This exhibit highlights various inventions and ideas that came about because of Franklin, such as bifocals, the “Franklin Stove”, universities, lending libraries and home deliveries by the postal system.

Most people have heard the story of Franklin flying a kite with a key during a thunderstorm, thereby discovering electricity. “Curious and Full of Wonder” focuses  on his other experiments with electricity and science, in general. The last exhibit is “Strategic and Persuasive”, which showcases Franklin’s time as a diplomat. Included in the exhibit is the “Join or Die” cartoon used to encourage the American colonies to unite against British rule. The museum ends with a small segment on Franklin’s efforts to write an autobiography that he never finished.

My travel buddy and I spent about 45 minutes at the museum, but the timing will vary from person to person. Admission to the museum is reasonable for the amount of material that is on display. Adults and children will both enjoy a visit as there is enough information to keep the adults busy and equally as much for children to touch and interact with, thus it’s a good place to bring the whole family for a visit. If you’re visiting Philadelphia, it is only appropriate to take some time to learn about Benjamin Franklin, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States and “The First American”, and a great place to start is at the Benjamin Franklin Museum.

Salem Witch Museum

Last Massachusetts post from May, met my own expectations of posting within half a year of visiting. Yay! This post would’ve been much more relevant  if it was posted around Halloween, but still a fun visit…

Salem Witch Museum, located in Salem, Massachusetts

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The Salem Witch Museum is open seven days a week from 10am to 5pm; with extended hours during the summer and the month of October. Admission to the museum is $11. The museum doesn’t have its own parking lot, but there are several parking garages with nominal fees that are within walking distance should you desire or need to drive. If you are already in Salem, walking to the museum is the best option. The Salem Witch museum is a bit out of the way from the main tourist area, but it is right next to Salem Common, a wonderful outdoor space with monuments and a gazebo where one can just sit and enjoy some sun and grass.

The Salem Witch museum is divided into two sections, and both are guided: the first section is a presentation where visitors take a seat and watch for an allotted time, and the second section is with a live museum guide.  (I’m not exactly sure about their photography policy, but I don’t think they allow it, so there’s no other photos in this post.) The first section is a presentation of the Salem witch trials where visitors get to experience the trials through a combination of narration, lighting and 13 dioramas. The trials lasted a little over a year, but they resulted in the death of 20 innocents: 19 people were hanged and 1 was pressed to death by rocks, and even 2 dogs were hanged by association. If you’ve read The Crucible by Arthur Miller, you will realize that the characters in the play are actually real people who had a part in the trials, such as Abigail Williams, Tituba and John Proctor. The second section is an exhibit called Witches: Evolving Perceptions, where a live guide explains how witches evolved from pagan midwives who used healing herbs to the modern day witch with the green skin. A bit of pagan history and Wiccan Religion is also covered. Lastly, the guide explains about the phenomenon that is “witch hunting”, which is brought on by widespread fear and a trigger that leads to a scapegoat deemed as the “witches” of society. Through this explanation, one understands that the Salem witch trials isn’t an isolated event, this phenomenon has happened again and continues to happen in society, e.g. McCarthyism.

My buddies and I spent about 1 hour at the museum; the presentation section is about 30 minutes long and the live guide section is about 10 minutes long. One should allocate an additional 10 minutes to waiting on line to get a good seat for the first section as the ticket is timed, and the doors don’t open till then, but if you don’t particularly care, you can just head in when the doors open. For the second section, the group is split into two groups (your ticket will have either A or B) as the exhibit area is smaller and can’t accommodate the large group, so while one group is in the second section, the other group can hang out in the gift shop. (Their gift shop easily fitted the second group of people. Also, what a good way to entice visitors to buy something at the gift shop.) The museum is a fairly good family trip idea, but younger children may not respond so well to the dark setting and lighting.  As Salem is most famous for the witch trials in 1692, a good place to learn about it and more about Salem is at the Salem Witch Museum.

Salem Maritime National Historic Site

I went on vacation recently, and having been slacking a lot, hence not that many posts. I had every intention to get this post out around the U.S. National Park Service’s (NPS) Centennial back in August, however I’m about 2 months behind, but better late then never…

Salem Maritime National Historic Site, located in Salem, Massachusetts

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The Salem Maritime National Historic Site encompasses a variety of indoor and outdoor areas. The indoor exhibits are located in several different locations and the hours vary from place to place (visit the NPS website for operating hours); some locations are open to the public, whereas others require a guided tour. Outdoor exhibits are open 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. The best way to get to the historic site is by foot if you are already in the area; or by car if you are traveling from outside of Salem. The historic site doesn’t have onsite parking, but there are several parking lots nearby with a minimal fee (very minimal, some costs as little as $0.25 per hr). The Salem Maritime National Historic Site is a bit further away from the tourist area, but there are  other places to visit nearby, and if you visit all the places within the historic site, it could take a whole day.

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First stop at the historic site is the Custom House, which is open Monday to Friday from 1pm to 4pm and Saturday to Sunday from 10am to 4pm. This Salem Custom House was built in 1819 (there were others prior), and housed the offices for representatives of the U.S. Custom Services. The house is two stories and has a cupola (the cupola is off-limits to the public).  On the first floor, visitors can see an exhibit on the tools used by the Custom Services, which include a variety of measuring devices such as scales and measuring sticks, and the  Collector’s Public Office, where records were kept and where merchants and ship captains paid their duties. Also on the first floor is Nathaniel Hawthorne’s office; his time working at the Custom Service inspired his famous novel, The Scarlet Letter. On the second floor is the Collector’s Private Room and Office. There is an eagle sculpture, known as the Custom House eagle, on the roof of the building. The current eagle is a replica.  The original was carved by Joseph True and place on the roof in 1820s, but weather and time has aged the sculpture, and thus was replaced by the replica in 2004 in order to preserve the original, which is now on display in an exhibit on the second floor.

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Next stop is the Friendship of Salem and Derby Wharf. The Friendship of Salem is a replica of a cargo vessel built in Salem in 1797. (The ship is currently undergoing maintenance, check the NPS website for the latest updates on the Friendship.) The day I visited, the sails and masts weren’t there, so it’s not quite as majestic, but google images of the Friendship and see the ship at its full glory. Visitors are free to walk about the both the main deck and the lower deck. Visitors can pose by the ship’s wheel and pretend to be captain of the ship on the main deck. The lower deck contains the living quarters of the captain and the ship’s crew. Derby Wharf is the longest of the three wharves that are part of the historic site. Derby Wharf was started in 1762 by the Derby family, and as their trading increased, they kept extending the wharf until its current 1/2 mile length in the early 1800s. The Derby Wharf Light Station, situated at the end of Derby Wharf, was built in 1871 and has since helped with navigation in Salem harbor.

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The Derby House and the Narbonne House are two areas of the Salem Maritime National Historic Site that can be viewed only by park ranger-led tours. The Derby House and Narbonne House tour is about 1 hr long, and typically is available once a day at 2:30pm (check the website for tour times). Reservation is required, and the tour can only accommodate 8 people at a time, so interested visitors should visit the Salem Visitor’s Center early to sign up for a spot. First on the tour was the Narbonne House, which was originally a butcher’s house, but has been home to various middle class families throughout the years. The house was built in sections and held together by dowels. The interior of the house is unfurnished, but contains an exhibit highlighting the items found in the house’s backyard. The Derby house was home to one of America’s wealthiest families, the Derbys. The house has many luxuries of the time period, such as a big front door, wallpaper, canopy beds, banisters, and high ceilings. The interior of the house is furnished, but they aren’t original to the house, just imaginings of how the house may have been decorated back when the Derbys resided there. Also worth a visit is the Salem Visitor Center, where there are special exhibits and movie presentations in regards to Salem’s maritime history.

I took about 2.5 hours for both self-guided explorations and the ranger guided-tour of the Salem Maritime National Historic Site. As always, other visitors may take more or less time depending on how much they want to see and their interest. (I only covered the highlights of the historic site, there more places to see and tours to take for more in-depth views of the site.) The historic site is a great place for a family outing, as there’s plenty to see and do, and an ample amount of space for children to just run around outside. History lovers will enjoy a visit and the general population should definitely visit too, as it’s free and offers much to see, and even if history isn’t your thing, you’ll enjoy being outside and near the water. Salem is most notable in history for the witch trials of 1692, but it also has an important spot in maritime history and where better to learn about it then at the Salem Maritime National Historic Site.