Discovering history, with songs, speeches and touchscreens in Morristown

Siblings Steven, 6, and Mariah Quad, 8, of Morris Township check out interactive exhibit at grand opening of Discover History Center in Morristown, Feb. 17, 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Siblings Steven, 6, and Mariah Quad, 8, of Morris Township check out interactive exhibit at grand opening of Discover History Center in Morristown, Feb. 17, 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
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Officials lavished many words on the $2.25 million Discover History Center that opened Saturday in the Washington’s Headquarters Museum in Museum.

But Mariah and Steven Quad, ages 8 and 6, cut to the chase.

“It’s really fun and you can learn a lot from it,” said Mariah, a third-grader from Morris Township.

“And it’s cool,” added her kid brother.

That’s pretty much the response that the National Park Service and the Washington Association of New Jersey were hoping for when they envisioned this hands-on assortment of touch-screens, push-button maps and faux-log huts, which describe the brutal winter of 1779-80 that Gen. George Washington and his ragtag Continental Army endured in Morristown during the Revolutionary War.

Slideshow photos by Jeff Sovelove:

Morristown NPS Supt. Tom Ross, left, holds ribbon for Eileen Cameron of the Washington Association, at grand opening of Discover History Center in Morristown, Feb. 17, 2018. Photo by Jeff Sovelove
Mom and son explore new Discover History Center in Morristown, Feb. 17, 2018. Photo by Jeff Sovelove
Leah, 6 as George Washington, with Todd, and Adam,3 of Florham Park, at grand opening of Discover History Center in Morristown, Feb. 17, 2018. Photo by Jeff Sovelove
Audience at grand opening of Discover History Center in Morristown, Feb. 17, 2018. Photo by Jeff Sovelove
Kevin, 9, of Staten Island looks at interactive screen, at grand opening of Discover History Center in Morristown, Feb. 17, 2018. Photo by Jeff Sovelove
An interactive map, at grand opening of Discover History Center in Morristown, Feb. 17, 2018. Photo by Jeff Sovelove
Exhibit at grand opening of Discover History Center in Morristown, Feb. 17, 2018. Photo by Jeff Sovelove
Replica soldier hut, at grand opening of Discover History Center in Morristown, Feb. 17, 2018. Photo by Jeff Sovelove
Replica of soldier hut, at grand opening of Discover History Center in Morristown, Feb. 17, 2018. Photo by Jeff Sovelove
Replica soldiers hut, at grand opening of Discover History Center in Morristown, Feb. 17, 2018. Photo by Jeff Sovelove
Gay Vietzke, Northeast regional director of the National Park Service, speaks, while Morristown NPS Supt. Tom Ross and Eileen Cameron of the Washington Association listen, at grand opening of Discover History Center in Morristown, Feb. 17, 2018. Photo by Jeff Sovelove
Exhibit at grand opening of Discover History Center in Morristown, Feb. 17, 2018. Photo by Jeff Sovelove
Pamphlet on display at grand opening of Discover History Center in Morristown, Feb. 17, 2018. Photo by Jeff Sovelove
A re-enactor at grand opening of Discover History Center in Morristown, Feb. 17, 2018. Photo by Jeff Sovelove
Revolutionary War soldiers' utensils, at grand opening of Discover History Center in Morristown, Feb. 17, 2018. Photo by Jeff Sovelove
New Jersey floor map, at grand opening of Discover History Center in Morristown, Feb. 17, 2018. Photo by Jeff Sovelove
Antique hammered dulcimer at grand opening of Discover History Center in Morristown, Feb. 17, 2018. Photo by Jeff Sovelove
Outside the Ford Mansion, at grand opening of Discover History Center in Morristown, Feb. 17, 2018. Photo by Jeff Sovelove
Playing a colonial gane, during grand opening of Discover History Center in Morristown, Feb. 17, 2018. Photo by Jeff Sovelove
Park Ranger Eric Olsen, right, give tours of Ford Mansion, at grand opening of Discover History Center in Morristown, Feb. 17, 2018. Photo by Jeff Sovelove
Kitchen at the Ford Mansion in Morristown, Feb. 17, 2018. Photo by Jeff Sovelove
Inside the Ford Mansion, at grand opening of Discover History Center in Morristown, Feb. 17, 2018. Photo by Jeff Sovelove
The Ford Mansion, as Gen. Washington might have remembered it, during grand opening of Discover History Center in Morristown, Feb. 17, 2018. Photo by Jeff Sovelove
Contributors to new Discover History Center in Morristown, Feb. 17, 2018. Photo by Jeff Sovelove
Eileen Cameron, center, cuts ribbon at grand opening of Discover History Center in Morristown, Feb. 17, 2018.She is joined by fellow members of the Washington Association of NJ, Park Service and Morris County officials, and Assemblymen Michael Patrick Carroll and Anthony M. Bucco. Photo by Jeff Sovelove
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Discovery Center Grand Opening (6) - Morristown NPS Supt. Tom Ross, left, holds ribbon for Eileen Cameron of the Washington Association, at grand opening of Discover History Center in Morristown, Feb. 17, 2018. Photo by Jeff Sovelove
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“As we enter the park’s 85th year, we are thrilled to have these new exhibits, which will engage, inspire and educate adults and children for many years to come,” said Tom Ross, superintendent of the Morristown National Historical Park.
 
Created by Steve Feldman Design of Maryland, the exhibit attempts to answer the obvious question: Why did these soldiers endure such hardships, when prospects for defeating the mighty British empire seemed so bleak? said Eileen Cameron, president of the Washington Association of New Jersey.
 
Video: Critics weigh in history exhibit

While meant for everyone, the Discover History Center is  geared especially for young visitors.
 
“Ten-year-olds, fourth graders, who study the American Revolutionary War and the founding of the nation, are very busy people,” Cameron said.
 
“Schools, sports and screens–TVs, computers, tablets and phones– fill their lives. The new gallery is for them, and all students, and we hope to lure them in for just a bit to the gallery, and to the story of Morristown, New Jersey, and the American colonists and their fight for independence, liberties and freedoms,” she said.
 
Slideshow photos by Kevin Coughlin:
Siblings Steven, 6, and Mariah Quad, 8, of Morris Township check out interactive exhibit at grand opening of Discover History Center in Morristown, Feb. 17, 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Re-enactor Linda Russell at grand opening of Discover History Center in Morristown, Feb. 17, 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Continental soldier tries 21st century image preserving device at grand opening of Discover History Center in Morristown, Feb. 17, 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
SPEAK SOFTLY AND... Eileen Cameron of the Washington Association of NJ at ribbon cutting of Discover History Center in Morristown, Feb. 17, 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Tom Ross, superintendent of the Morristown National Historical Park, speaks at grand opening of Discover History Center in Morristown, Feb. 17, 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Cultural and Heritage Commission, tries exhibit at new Discover History Center in Morristown, Feb. 17, 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Morris County Tourism team: L-R: Barbara Taylor, GW, Carol Barkin and Carol Anton, at grand opening of Discover History Center in Morristown, Feb. 17, 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Abby Goldman-Krebs, 6, of Fair Lawn enjoys a scone at grand opening of Discover History Center in Morristown, Feb. 17, 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Kevin Tremble, left, and Judge Kenneth MacKenzie, both of the Washington Association of NJ, at grand opening of Discover History Center in Morristown, Feb. 17, 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Gay Vietzke, Northeast regional director, National Park Service, speaks at grand opening of Discover History Center in Morristown, Feb. 17, 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Maestro Robert Butts of the Baroque Orchestra of NJ performs at grand opening of Discover History Center in Morristown, Feb. 17, 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll (R-25th Dist.), right, at grand opening of Discover History Center in Morristown, Feb. 17, 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Assemblyman Anthony M. Bucco (R-25th Dist.) and his wife Amy at grand opening of Discover History Center in Morristown, Feb. 17, 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Morris County Freeholder Kathy DeFillippo at grand opening of Discover History Center in Morristown, Feb. 17, 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Morristown Councilman Robert Iannaccone, left, and his wife Karen chat with Tom Ross of the Morristown National Historical Park, at grand opening of Discover History Center in Morristown, Feb. 17, 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Morristown High filmmaker Katie Rosa chats with Eileen Cameron of the Washington Association of NJ, at grand opening of Discover History Center in Morristown, Feb. 17, 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
George Apgar from Piscataway portrays Washington aide-de-camp Col. Heindrick Fisher, at grand opening of Discover History Center in Morristown, Feb. 17, 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Eileen Cameron, president of the Washington Association of NJ, addresses grand opening of Discover History Center in Morristown, Feb. 17, 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Mariah and Steven Quad, ages 8 and 6, from Morris Township, try at grand opening of Discover History Center in Morristown, Feb. 17, 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
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P1070962 - Siblings Steven, 6, and Mariah Quad, 8, of Morris Township check out interactive exhibit at grand opening of Discover History Center in Morristown, Feb. 17, 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
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Dignitaries included Gay Vietzke, northeast regional director for the National Park Service, and former NPS Morristown Superintendent Randy Turner; Assemblymen Anthony M. Bucco and Michael Patrick Carroll; Morris County Freeholder Kathy DeFillippo; and Morristown Councilman Robert Iannaccone.
 
Morristown NPS Supt. Tom Ross, left, holds ribbon for Eileen Cameron of the Washington Association, at grand opening of Discover History Center in Morristown, Feb. 17, 2018. Photo by Jeff Sovelove
Morristown NPS Supt. Tom Ross, left, holds ribbon for Eileen Cameron of the Washington Association, at grand opening of Discover History Center in Morristown, Feb. 17, 2018. Photo by Jeff Sovelove
 
Kenneth MacKenzie, a retired state judge who is a member of the Washington Association, said he thinks the Park Service got it right at the Discover History Center.
 
“Kids today want push buttons and touch screens to make things happen. They’ll find ample opportunity here,” said MacKenzie.
 
Their grandparents should like it, too.
 
“I feel it’s a daunting challenge, but by sticking with it, you can make it work–even for octogenerians,” MacKenzie said with a smile.
 
Admission is free to the Discover History Center, along with the rest of the Washington’s Headquarters Museum and the Ford Mansion, at 30 Washington Place in Morristown. Special Presidents Weekend activities continue from 9:30 am to 3 pm on Monday, Feb. 19, and from 9:30 am to 1 pm on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018.
 
 
Video: Grand opening sights and sounds, from Jeff Bross

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