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Park Displays Rarely Seen Items From Its Collection

Morristown National Historical Park

National Park News

Over President’s Day weekend, the park displayed some of the items from its extraordinary collection in an exhibition that marked Morristown NHP’s 75th anniversary.

Items included pamphlets by revolutionaries such as Tom Paine, an original broadside of the Treaty of Paris dated 1784, a stamp from the Stamp Act of 1765, and the above lottery ticket, purchased and signed by George Washington in 1768.

They are part of the 329,069 items at the Morristown National Historical Park, where a lack of display space has kept almost all of that collection in storage. But that will soon change.

This collection, in fact, represents the convergence of two separate collections.

With the founding of the park in 1933, the NPS acquired the collection of the Washington Association of New Jersey, comprised of museum, library, and archival material donated to the new historical park (the first historical park in the system). This donation now comprises accession number one and is considered the foundation on which all future donations in the park will be compared with.

Twenty-two years later the park was again the beneficiary of another significant contribution when local financier and antiquarian Lloyd W. Smith decided to bequeath his substantial collection to the park. After Smith’s death in 1955, the park received his collection, which nearly doubled the park’s holdings. Today, Morristown can boast of a museum collection of over 40,000 artifacts, a library of over 45,000 volumes, and an archive with over 250,000 items.

The public has only seen a fraction of this material over the park’s 75 year history. Researchers have often overlooked the archives due to the difficulty in locating items. In an effort to remedy these omissions, the park, over the past several years, has been renovating the 1937 John Russell Pope designed museum building and has added a new library and archival wing. The park is working to reintroduce itself to visitors and researchers through new and dynamic exhibits, which will be located in four distinct galleries within the building. The park is also reissuing finding aids and is more thoroughly processing the archives to allow for greater electronic access to research material.

Overall, the combined collection represents decades of collecting material that pertains to the cultural and military heritage of Colonial, Revolutionary, and post-Revolutionary America. The collection reflects the aspirations, achievements, and failures associated with seminal events over the past 500 years of western history. The voyages of exploration are chronicled in the archives; research documenting the causes and implications of revolutions are available in the library, and the museum collection allows us to marvel at the ingenuity of our shared American heritage.

Thanks to work in the early 20th Century by dedicated preservationists, we today are able to enjoy the tangible remains of the past and more fully appreciate our most recent common ancestry. With everyone from Ferdinand and Isabella to Calvin Coolidge represented in the archives, it is clearly an opportunity for scholars and the merely curious to indulge their imaginations about by-gone eras. As the first historical park in the system, Morristown is poised to once again stand at the forefront of visitor experience and scholarly explorations.
 For further information, please contact Dr. Jude M. Pfister, chief of cultural resources, at 973-984-2313 x 204, jude_pfister@nps.gov ; or Joni Rowe, museum specialist, at 973-984-2313 x 203, joni_rowe@nps.gov



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