History at Home – Craft Corner

Think pressed plants are just for show? Check out this article about how pressed samples from the 1800s are being used to track the effects of heavy metal pollutants on the environment and human health.

From the article: “Herbaria have long been a valuable resource—traditionally to aid in identification of local flora—but more recently to address ecological questions including invasive species and the effects of climate change. Likewise, plants have been used for decades as indicators of heavy metal pollution. This is one of the first studies, however, to demonstrate the efficacy of using herbarium specimens of herbaceous plants to track changes in heavy metal concentrations over time.”

This 19-century plant press is constructed of two wooden drying frames.

The slatted frames help the plant specimens dry quickly and evenly to preserve their color and shape. The leather straps have multiple notches to tighten the frame and help squeeze the plant and drying paper together.

Donated by Thyme in the Garden, Asheville.

From National Geographic Kids: The holiday we know today got its name from a man named Valentine. While a few different stories are told about what he did to inspire the holiday, many people believe he’s celebrated for his role as a Roman priest who helped couples secretly get married.

As the story goes, Emperor Claudius II of Rome—who reigned from the year 268 A.D. to 270 A.D.—banned marriage because he thought unmarried men made better soldiers. Valentine thought this was unfair and decided to break the rules and perform marriages anyway. He kept the ceremonies quiet, but he was eventually caught and later killed on February 14 of the year 270 for defying the emperor. Right before he died, Valentine supposedly wrote the first-ever “valentine” to his jailer’s daughter, with whom he’d fallen in love. Later, in the 5th century, Pope Gelasius I declared the day of his death as St. Valentine’s Day.

This is a variation on the tradition Cherokee Butterbean Game. It can be played by several individual players or several teams. Traditionally, this game uses three butterbeans that have been split in half. More…

From the Museum of the Cherokee Indian: Cherokee people began growing a form of corn two thousand years ago. By about a thousand years ago, or 1000 AD, they were growing corn and beans, as we know them today. Corn, beans, and squash was always grown together and was known as the “Three Sisters.” Beans restore nitrogen to the soil while corn depletes nitrogen. The vines of the beans and squash twined up the cornstalks. When corn and beans are eaten together, they provide complete proteins and amino acids for our diet.

Corn was so important to the Cherokee that they had important celebrations and ceremonies called “Green Corn Festivals.” The first of these was held in August, before the sweet corn was ready to eat. The last was held in October or November, when the
field corn was ready to be picked. At these ceremonies, people purified themselves physically and spiritually before feasting together. At this time, people got married and divorced. All old scores were settled and everyone started a new year together.

How did the Halloween holiday originate? The original Halloween, known 2,000 years ago as Samhain, looked very different than Halloween as we know it today.

But Halloween in 2020 will likely look very different than it has in the recent past due to the pandemic. For one, there will likely be more people wearing masks on Halloween this year. 

Give us a call or send us an email for a free washable white cotton face mask (and assorted decorations) for your child to decorate for Halloween. Be creative!

This activity can be done using common materials found in your home. But we’ve also constructed kits that are available for pick-up at the Smith-McDowell House Museum at 283 Victoria Road. Fill out the form below to reserve a kit. First come, first served.

One per household, please. $5 suggested donation per kit.

Looking for a fun activity that combines history and science? Try making butter at home! All you need is a jar and some heavy cream.

In 1987, the Preservation Society of Asheville and Buncombe County put together Color Me Asheville: A Coloring Book for Children and Adults.

In May 1920, students at Asheville High School were asked to create posters “in four colors…represent[ing] the apple in all its glory” to help advertise the first WNC Apple Show, which took place in downtown Asheville in October 1920.

The festival was originally supposed to take place in November 1918, but was cancelled due to the 1918 flu epidemic.

Draw your own poster for the 1920 Western North Carolina Apple Show. Remember you can only use 4 colors and make sure to “celebrate the apple in all its glory.”

Clippings: Asheville Citizen Times May 9, 2020

Images: WNC Apple Show, October 1920, E.M. Ball Collection, Ramsey Library Special Collection

Submit your design to [email protected] for a free WNCHA student membership and to have your work featured on our social media.