Fulbright Lecture: Spectacle and Social Order in ‘Scientific’ Prints

In the second half of the eighteenth century, scientific demonstrations, sponsored by Benjamin Franklin, the Midlands-based Lunar Society, and others, were popular entertainments that said as much about social order as they did about science and technology. Depicted in paintings and popular prints, the social message of these demonstrations was elevated even more. Visual references created witty social commentary, and invited a variety of audiences to find relevance in the artworks. In this talk, Prof. Louise Siddons will take a close look at mezzotints by Valentine Green after Joseph Wright and others, asking how changing audiences affected the interpretation of the imagery in his prints.

Dr. Siddons is Professor in Art History at Oklahoma State University whose research interests focus on the history of printmaking and photography, particularly in relation to representations of race, racialization, gender and sexuality. Her Fulbright award supports the completion of her book manuscript which will examine American photographer Laura Gilpin’s 1968 book, “The Enduring Navaho.” Siddons will examine her position within the intersectional politics of twentieth-century photography, Indigeneity and queerness, as well as discuss the propositions Gilpin made for both queer and Native self-determination and sovereignty through the book’s visuals.

Watch the full talk below:

Live History Class for Kids: Georgian Work and Industry

Join our virtual history classes on the 2nd and 4th Thursday of the month at 4:30pm BST to learn about key aspects of the Georgian period, when Benjamin Franklin was living in London. Together we will uncover the past and develop historical skills!

In this class we’ll look at different jobs which people had in the Georgian era. We’ll learn about the Industrial Revolution and the impact this had on Britain as well as the wider world. We’ll create our own fact file and the most important inventions from this period!

Activity materials: pencil, paper, ruler

Most suitable for KS2 and KS3 (US Grades 2-8) but all ages welcome!

Watch the class below:

Live History Class for Kids: Georgian Politics and Government

Join our virtual history classes on the 2nd and 4th Thursday of the month at 4:30pm BST to learn about key aspects of the Georgian period, when Benjamin Franklin was living in London. Together we will uncover the past and develop historical skills!

In this class we’ll look at the British government in the 18th century, as it grew more and more powerful. We’ll learn about the main political parties (the Whigs and the Tories) and politicians who served as Prime Minister during the Georgian era. We’ll create a table to help us remember all these facts!

Activity materials: pencil, paper, ruler

Most suitable for KS2 and KS3 (US Grades 2-8) but all ages welcome!

Watch the class below:

Live History Class: Georgian Art and Literature

Join our virtual history classes on the 2nd and 4th Thursday of the month at 4:30pm BST to learn about key aspects of the Georgian period, when Benjamin Franklin was living in London. Together we will uncover the past and develop historical skills!

In this class we’ll look at the styles of art and literature which were popular in the Georgian era. We’ll learn all about famous artists such as Hogarth, Reynolds and Gainsborough as well as how people saw their artwork at exhibitions. We’ll also see how the novel grew in popularity and look at influential writers like Jane Austen before making our own 18th century-style portrait!

Activity materials: pencil, paper, paints (optional)

Most suitable for KS2 and KS3 (US Grades 2-8) but all ages welcome!

Watch the class below:

Live History Class: Discover Georgian Music

Join this special half term edition of our virtual history classes series all about music in the 18th century! In these classes, we learn about key aspects of the Georgian period, when Benjamin Franklin was living in London. Together we will uncover the past and develop historical skills!

Did you know that Benjamin Franklin was a great lover of music? He enjoyed singing and even invented his own instrument… the glass armonica! In this class, we’ll look at popular styles of music from the Georgian era. We’ll also learn about famous composers from the period and hear their music played on a modern replica of Franklin’s armonica. Then we’ll have a go at making our own percussive instruments!

Activity materials: small container (e.g. empty Kinder egg capsule, empty hand sanitiser bottle), rice

Most suitable for KS2 and KS3 (US Grades 2-8) but all ages welcome!

Watch the full class below:

Live History Class: Georgian Buildings and Architecture

Join our virtual history classes on the 2nd and 4th Thursday of the month at 4:30pm BST to learn about key aspects of the Georgian period, when Benjamin Franklin was living in London. Together we will uncover the past and develop historical skills!

In this class, we’ll explore architectural styles and well-known architects from Georgian era. We’ll look at the design of Benjamin Franklin House and what makes it typical of the period. We’ll then have a go at designing our own Georgian façade!

Activity materials: paper, ruler, pencil

Most suitable for KS2 and KS3 (US Grades 2-8) but all ages welcome!

Watch the full class below:

Science on Stage

Wednesday 26 May, 1.30pm-2.45pm BST. Register here for this virtual event.

Science on Stage is a science enrichment event for upper Key Stage 2, run jointly by Benjamin Franklin House and The Royal Institution. Both our charities have a rich historical and scientific heritage and hold science events with school-age students to inspire the next generation of scientists. During this year’s online event, students will learn all about Benjamin Franklin, the science of sound and the invention of the glass armonica. They will be awe-struck by electrical demonstrations, as they find out how scientists at the Ri have contributed to our understanding of electricity.

Programme:

1.30pm-1.35pm – Welcome and Introductions

1.35pm-2.05pm – Benjamin Franklin House’s presenter Eleanor Hamblen will tell you all about famous scientist Benjamin Franklin and his invention of the glass armonica. What is sound? How do you invent a musical instrument? Eleanor will answer these questions through demonstrating Franklin’s magical instrument and showing you how to make your own music using bottles and water!

2.05pm-2.10pm – Movement Break

2.10pm-2.40pm – The Royal Institution’s presenter Dan Plane will tell us some stories from the history of electricity. How did Ri scientists, such as Humphry Davy and Michael Faraday, explore and experiment with electricity? What discoveries did they make? And do any of them still matter today? Dan will answer these questions through live demonstrations, feature surprising sources and uses of electricity from 200 years ago, some of which we still use today.

2.40-2.45pm – Questions and Farewell

Schools: We invite Year 5/6 classes to participate. Each class teacher should sign up separately, so that they receive their own joining link.

Families: We invite parents/carers to sign up on behalf of their children. Participants should be supervised and the recommended age range is 9-11.

Online Safety Protocols: The event will be held via Zoom Webinar. Only the presenters will appear on screen and be able to speak over the microphone. Participants will be able to type in the chat, but this will only be seen by the presenters and not by other attendees. All presenters are DBS checked. Please note that the event will be recorded.

All participants will also receive resources for optional follow-up activities. For more information, contact our Education Manager.

Franklin in Portraits: Charles Willson Peale and His Museum

To celebrate the launch of our virtual exhibition, Franklin in Portraits, join us for a series of talks about Benjamin Franklin’s most famous portraits. We continue our series with a discussion on this Charles Willson Peale portrait painted in 1785. It was ultimately made for his collection of portraits of Famous Americans for his museum in Independence Hall. Karie Diethorn, Senior Curator and Chief of Museum Branch of the Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia, will discuss with Dr George Boudreau the significance of this portrait and the Peale Museum. Franklin and Peale first met in London in 1767 and formed a friendship over their shared interest in natural sciences.

Watch here:

Karie Diethorn has a Bachelor of Arts degree in history and medieval studies from Penn State University and a Masters degree in American history and a certificate in museum studies from the University of Delaware.

Since 1994, she has managed Independence National Historical Park’s museum operation as chief curator.  She has taught historic site management as an Associate Professor in the University of Delaware graduate museum studies program and museum collections management as a Visiting Lecturer in Philadelphia’s University of the Arts graduate museum studies program.  She is co-author of the catalog History of the Portrait Collection, Independence National Historical Park (2001) and a contributor to the anthology of essays in Quaker Aesthetics, Reflections on a Quaker Ethic in American Design and Consumption (2003).  Her most recent exhibit project is “People of Independence 1750 to 1840”, the permanent fine arts at Independence National Historical Park.

Dr George Boudreau is a cultural historian of early Anglo-America, specializing in the history of Philadelphia, the work of Benjamin Franklin, material culture, and public history. Boudreau was the founding editor of the journal Early American Studies, and has won six major grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities. He was a fellow at Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington in 2019-20 and has previously completed fellowships at the Jamestown Rediscovery and the Omohundro Institute for Early American History and Culture at Williamsburg, the International Center for Jefferson Studies at Monticello, the Library Company of Philadelphia, Winterthur Museum and Library, the American Philosophical Society, and the David Library of the American Revolution. A 1998 Ph.D. from Indiana University, he is currently senior research associate at the McNeil Center for Early American Studies at the University of Pennsylvania and is a member of the Academic Advisory Panel for Benjamin Franklin House.

Digital Book Launch: The Howe Dynasty by Julie Flavell

Join us for a very special digital book launch and Q&A with Julie Flavell to celebrate her newest book The Howe Dynasty: The Untold Story of a Military Family and the Women Behind Britain’s Wars for America 

In December 1774, Benjamin Franklin met Caroline Howe, the sister of British Admiral Richard and General William Howe, in a London drawing-room for “half a dozen Games of Chess.” As Julie Flavell reveals, the games concealed a matter of the utmost diplomatic urgency, a last-ditch attempt to forestall the outbreak of the American War of Independence. Aware that the Howes, both the men and the women, have seemed impenetrable to historians, Flavell investigated the letters of Caroline Howe, which have been overlooked for centuries. Using Caroline’s correspondence and other revelatory documents, Flavell provides a compelling reinterpretation of England’s famous family over four wars, centering on their enigmatic roles in the American Revolution. The Howe Dynasty interweaves action-packed stories of North American military campaigns—including the Battle of Bunker Hill and Long Island—with parlor-room intrigues back in England, creating a riveting narrative and a long overdue reassessment of the entire family. The Howe Dynasty forces us to reimagine the Revolutionary War in ways that would have been previously inconceivable. 

Born in Massachusetts, Julie Flavell has pursued a lifelong interest in Anglo-American relationships as reflected in her first book, When London Was Capital of America. A Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, Flavell lives in Britain. 

Watch the full talk below:

Live History Class: Georgian Health and Medicine

Join our virtual history classes on the 2nd and 4th Thursday of the month at 4:30pm BST to learn about key aspects of the Georgian period, when Benjamin Franklin was living in London. Together we will uncover the past and develop historical skills!

In this class, we’ll explore health in the Georgian era and the development of modern medicine. We’ll find out why it was common for women to faint and why there was an anatomy school at Craven Street. We’ll even have a go at making our own smelling salts!

Activity materials: Epsom salts, essential oils (available at low cost at most pharmacies), course sea salt, small container or pouch

Most suitable for KS2 and KS3 (US Grades 2-8) but all ages welcome!

Watch the full class below: