Time Travel 101

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New Jersey Colonial paper money side 1, 1759

Friends, teachers, history buffs…lend me your ears! Today, I wanted to share something a little different from our creative story times,community  events, and interviews. It’s related to another fantastic area of my job, Namely, working with special collections.

The Time Travel 101 program is a partnership between between our library and Princeton University’s Program in Teacher Preparation. It’s focused exclusively on the teaching of history using primary sources. The program consists of five different suitcases that contain primary sources teachers can borrow and use in their classrooms. Topics include Medieval manuscripts, New Jersey history, and WWII.

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Child’s gas mask and carrying bag, circa 1940

So actual 15th-century illuminated manuscript pages go directly to local classrooms for students to hold, examine, and learn from? YES! And at no cost as well! If you’d like to learn a little more about the program, please see this excellent article by Stephanie Ramírez, Princeton University Library Communications Specialist and Staff Writer.

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Book of Hours page, circa 1425-1450

And while the suitcases can only travel to certain local school districts, blog readers will be delighted to know that digital versions – complete with printable collections materials and curriculum for your classrooms – can be found right here on our library’s website.

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Various trade cards, late 19th century

Since Time Travel 101 launched a few years ago, we’ve been hearing great things from schools. My favorite is this e-mail, which was sent to us by a local teacher:

I wanted to give you some feedback on the Time Travel 101 suitcase. We LOVED it!!!! I was able to share it with approximately 10 teachers in grades 4-5-6. A teacher thought the suitcase lesson was too advanced for her students, but then the next day a student brought a copy of a summons for his 9th great-grandmother, accused of witchcraft! He said that he had told his parents about the suitcase, and they showed him this family artifact. He brought it to school to show the teacher and the class. I just thought this was a wonderful connection that this student made because of the suitcase lesson!


If you’re interested in some more of our special collections blog posts, you’ll find original Beatrix Potter stuffed animals here, the art of minim here, rebus puzzle cards here, a weird books post here, constellation cards here, some cool book curses here, an article about a different classroom special collections program here, and our awesome Gutenberg print history event here.

You can also jump over to Cotsen’s curatorial blog, which always has something interesting going on!

Love That Lute

rock outStrum a merry tune! This box lute was designed for a Robin Hood event. It needed to be quick to assemble, made from super cheap materials, and it had to be sturdy enough to handle even the most energetic Medieval power ballad!

You’ll need:

  • 1 box (mine was 4 ½” X 4 ½” x 9” but a large tissue box works too)
  • Stencils (optional)
  • 10 craft sticks (mine were 4.5″ long)
  • 3-4 rubber bands
  • 1 paper towel tube
  • Hole punch
  • 2 pipe cleaners
  • Scissors and tape for construction
  • Markers for decorating

The first step of the project is optional – use a stencil to decorate the front, back, and sides of your box. I found this brass stencil in the stamp and card making aisle at Michaels craft store. It was $4.99 (I used a 20% off coupon on it too).

brass stencilI used an ultra fine tip Sharpie on different areas of the stencil to create the look you see below. But you could also use markers and simply freehand your box’s decor!

stencilsNext, slide 3-4 rubber bands lengthwise over the box. I used different gauge rubber bands so, when plucked, they would each produce a different sound (Office Max sizes 33, 19, and 18 to be precise).

rubber bandsTo make your lute’s “frets,” stack 5 craft sticks on top of one another, then secure them together with tape. I used masking tape to give the lute a pop of color, but scotch tape works too! Try to stick the tape close to the ends of the sticks, where it won’t interfere with the rubber bands. Repeat the above steps with the second set of craft sticks. We prepped the frets in advance, to speed along the construction process at the event.

stacked and taped sticks Slide the frets under the rubber bands. Give the rubber bands a few experimental plucks!

fretsSet the box aside for a moment, and use scissors to cut a paper towel tube down to 8″. Punch four holes in the bottom of the tube like so:

punched holesThen thread two pipe cleaners through the holes.

threaded pipe cleanersNow place the threaded tube on top of the box. Bend and tape the pipe cleaners firmly to the top of the box…

taped neckThen curl the ends of the pipe cleaners upwards!

curled

You might be wondering why I didn’t use hot glue to attach the bottom of the tube to the box. The reason is this: the Robin Hood event was 5 hours long and drew big crowds (over 3,000 people). When events get that long and large, I find non-heated adhesives for projects (like the glue dots used on this pom-pom cannon). So, pipe cleaners and tape it was!

You can leave the top of the tube undecorated (which somewhat replicates the actual neck of a lute and it’s angled-back pegbox). Or, you can curl the ends of 2 pipe cleaners and tape them to the top of the tube for some extra flourish.

finished lute

Herbal Magic

amuletHave issues with goblins? Need a peaceful night’s sleep? Are you seeking wisdom and courage? This herbal amulet is just what you need! We made these amulets at a Robin Hood/ medieval history event, but they would also work splendidly at a Harry Potter program.

You’ll need:

  • A 3.5″ mini organza drawstring bag (I bought mine at Oriental Trading Company)
  • 1 tissue (I used the smaller, 8″ x 8″ square kind)
  • herbal amulet list template, printed on 8.5″ x 11″ paper
  • A 30″ piece of ribbon or string
  • A selection of dried herbs (more on this below!)

After doing a little research on medieval herbal lore, we created a list of herbs and their purported properties. I purchased the herbs in bulk at my local natural foods store, which was much cheaper than buying them in individual bottles.

scrollAt the event, kids checked off which herbs they wanted in their amulets. Then a student volunteer helped the kids put dried herbs on squares of tissue. A little herb goes a looooong way, so just a sprinkle is needed – especially if kids select multiple herbs. Here’s about how much you want in your amulet in total:

tissue and herbsNext, bunch the tissue around the herbs and slide the bundle into a mini organza drawstring bag. Roll up the herbal list and slide it in the bag too. Tighten the drawstring and tie a 30″ piece of ribbon or string around the top of the bag. Hang the amulet around your neck.

finished amuletThat’s it! You’re now ready to repel bad spirits, fight curses, attract money, and scare away thieves! At the very least, you will smell quite, quite interesting.


Many thanks to the Savory Spice Shop in Princeton for donating the dried lavender in the photo! Mmmm…lavender…