History Majors, Professors Suggest Historical Sights to Visit Over Winter Break

Building at Arlington National Cemetery.

Today we feature History majors and their professors, who suggest historical sites to visit over winter break. 

The statue of liberty.
Statue of Liberty

Kaan Aktas, a senior education and history double major from Cliffside Park, NJ (Bergen County), is a transfer student from Bergen County Community College and a first-generation college student. He recommends that Rowan students visit the Statue of Liberty, or Ellis Island, because “Ellis Island has the Immigration Museum, which is also indoors and can get pretty empty during the wintertime. The Statue of Liberty is very beautiful and breathtaking. It shows the relationship between France and the U.S., and also the importance of immigration to our country.”

Anthony poses against a backdrop, wearing a suit and tie
Anthony Raisley

Anthony Raisley, a senior history major with minors in international studies, entrepreneurship, and new media studies and a CUGS in Italian, is from Middletown, NJ (Monmouth County). He also recommends that Rowan students visit Ellis Island, as well as The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City Transit Museum, American Museum of Natural History. He says “Much of what’s at these museums I feel that even if you are not a history major you can relate to and learn.” He also tells us about his favorite museum or historical site. “Ellis Island is my favorite. All of my great grandparents came to the United States from Italy through Ellis Island. It was very impactful to see the sight first hand and what other immigrants coming to the United States went through, and how immigration has enriched New York City, and the U.S. today.”

Jen poses in front of a mirror.
Jen Gruberg

Jen Gruberg, a senior history major with minors in education and international studies is from West Deptford, NJ (Gloucester County). She recommends visiting the James and Ann Whitall House Museum and Red Bank Battlefield. She says “The Whitall House sits on the side of the Delaware River and was a private plantation since 1748. It was used as a field hospital in 1777 during the American Revolution. It’s now a museum and park in Red Bank, NJ. My favorite part about the park is the artifacts left in the trenches and in the house itself. There are cannons, cannonballs, anchors, and medical equipment, but unfortunately due to COVID, you can only see things that are outside of the house.” She also tells us about her favorite museum or historical site. “It’s so hard to pick a favorite, but my favorite museum or historical site I’ve visited would be the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. I’ve been there a handful of times and I’m always in shock of the sheer beauty of the place.”

A photo from the Morris Arboretum.
The Morris Arboretum

Connor Hoagland, a senior history major with a minor in French from Mount Holly, NJ (Burlington County), is a transfer student from Rowan College at Burlington County. They recommend visiting the Morris Arboretum in Philadelphia, or the Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton, NJ. They say: “Both of these places are primarily outdoors. I like the arboretum since it’s one of the last of its kind remaining, and I’ve been there a few times when I was younger. The Grounds for Sculpture has some really impressive works of art and it’s fun to just explore.” They also tell us about their favorite museum or historical site. “My favorite historical site would have to be Independence Hall in Philadelphia. The free tour and the knowledge that the country was literally founded in that building was pretty nice. History has always been my strongest subject, and I’ve always had an interest in the revolution, especially since it pretty much happened in my own backyard.”

Bobby poses next to a cannon at the Museum of the American Revolution.

Bobby Scott a senior secondary education major with history subject matter, is from Elk Township, NJ (Gloucester County). He recommends students visit the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia, the Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, VA, or the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC. He says “Each of these museums or locations show true insight into what life was truly like for people who have through trying times of history, or pay remembrance to the sacrifices that others have made in service to their nation in the hopes of bringing freedom to others.” He also tells us about his favorite museum or historical site. “Pearl Harbor was perhaps the most significant sight I have ever visited, however, it is quite a distance from Rowan University and sadly out of reach for many college students. Arlington holds an even more impactful memory upon me, as seeing the thousands of graves of those who selflessly gave their lives for their friends and their country. Pictures cannot capture the emotions, and words are difficult to choose that convey the emotion and overwhelming presence of such a place. The Holocaust Museum, which is only a short distance from Arlington, gives a truly personal account of the horrors that Jews and other minorities were forced to endure during some of the darkest days of the twentieth century. Many who walk out of there are often in tears, as they finally come face to face with the odds that men, women, and children had to go up against. Each of these locations can often take even those who find history a dull and boring affair, and can turn it into a life-altering experience.”

Dr. Kelly Duke Bryant, history professor, recommends that students visit The Newark Museum of Art. She says “I teach African history, and this museum has a wonderful collection of African art. They are currently featuring the “Arts of Global Africa” in a special exhibition. Even if you can’t go in person due to distance or the pandemic, the online exhibition is worth a look. ” She also tells us about her favorite museum or historical site. “The National Museum of the American Indian (Smithsonian) is my favorite museum. I visited this museum a number of years ago, shortly after it opened, and was impressed by the range of historical artifacts on display and the complexity (and honesty) of the historical narrative presented. The building itself is gorgeous, too.”

George Washington's house in Philadelphia as shared by Dr. Emily Blanck.
George Washington’s house in Philadelphia.

Dr. Emily Blanck, history professor, recommends that students visit the Harleigh Cemetery in Camden/Collingswood (Camden County), Historic Germantown (Philadelphia), and Washington’s House (Philadelphia). She says “These two off-the-beaten-path destinations have interesting aspects. I love Walt Whitman, and in the COVID environment, it is good to stay outdoors. Bundle up and go visit Walt Whitman and many other souls in Harleigh Cemetery in Camden. It is one of the oldest with lots of prominent folks with interesting headstones. Historic Germantown is great because they have worked to engage with the past of slavery as well as feature important elite homes. There are many small and medium historical sites here, and they’re not well-trod, so the chance that you’ll be in a crowded indoor space is slim. The Johnson House is especially a gem, but there are a couple of small museums dedicated to understanding and remembering the black experience too. Another COVID-friendly outdoor spot is Washington’s House near Liberty Pavillon in Philadelphia. It is just the frame of the house and it focuses on the interpretation of George Washington’s slaves when he was President. Great stories and it’s really accessible. ” She also tells us about her favorite museum or historical site. “I can go on the Independence Hall tour over and over. I don’t know why. I like hearing the different interpretations from the rangers and hearing the outlandish stories folks have about America’s founding.”

Dr. Hague poses at a book signing for his first book.
Dr. Hague at a book signing for his first book that he wrote. One of the sites he recommends, the Stenton Historic House, is featured extensively throughout the book.

Dr. Steven Hague, history professor, recommends that students visit The Mercer Museum in Doylestown, PA; the Wharton Esherick Museum in Malvern, PA, and Stenton historic house in Philadelphia. He says “As a former museum director I would suggest three great and very cool hidden gem museums in the Delaware Valley: The Mercer Museum in Doylestown, PA; the Wharton Esherick Museum in Malvern, PA, and the Stenton Historic House in Philadelphia. Imagine a giant concrete castle built as a museum filled with objects from the early time of America, everything from a whaleboat hanging from the ceiling to a gallows. Chock-a-block filled with great stuff. That is the Mercer Museum. Wharton Esherick was an American artist who worked in wood and built his own house. Quirky, fun, and absolutely worth the visit. Call ahead. The Stenton Historic House is one of the best-preserved 18th-century historic sites anywhere. Off the beaten path with remarkable collections and history. And a Rowan grad runs their award-winning educational programs!” He also tells us about his favorite museum or historical site. “There are so many (in addition to the regional ones mentioned above): Art Museum: The Louvre in Paris – stunning – with a close honorable mention for the Met in New York and the Philadelphia Museum of Art, which is world-class. Historic site: two houses – Beauport, a rambling house filled with amazing collections, in Gloucester, MA. Similarly, Sir John Soane’s Museum in London. Both were put together by quirky, eccentric individuals with lots of flair.”

Dr. Dack poses outdoors.

Dr. Mikkel Dack, history professor, recommends students visit The German Resistance Memorial Center. He says “The memorial’s (virtual) permanent exhibition provides extensive documentation of the motives, aims, and forms of the fight against the Nazi Dictatorship. This is an important topic of German and WWII history that most students are unfamiliar with.” 

Denis Long, a senior history major with a minor in American Studies, is from Point Pleasant, NJ (Ocean County). They recommend that Rowan students visit the Monmouth Battlefield in Freehold, New Jersey. They say “While I’m not sure if its Visitors Center will be open, Monmouth Battlefield in Freehold, New Jersey is a beautiful, scenic location filled with historical significance to the American Revolution. Since its Visitors Center is likely closed, I recommend reading up on the Battle of Monmouth Courthouse beforehand, it’s a really wonderful piece of American history!  I’ve been going there most 4th of Julys ever since I was young. I have many great memories there of traversing the fields and Comb’s Hill with my family, taking in the history. I also did research on the battle that I presented for an undergraduate research workshop at Penn early this year and to be able to spread my love for this event makes it even dearer to my heart.” They also tells us about their favorite museum or historical site. “Besides from Monmouth Battlefield, Ellis Island struck a chord when I visited it last summer. It was a beautiful museum packed with information and stories about immigration to the United States that helped show the importance of immigrants and diversity to this nation. People of all races, ethnicities, and other walks of life were there and to see people come together to learn about all of this honestly made me emotional.”

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Story by:
Rachel Rumsby, sophomore communication studies and public relations double major

Photos of Morris Arboretum and the Statue of Liberty and header photo courtesy of:
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