Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Great Monthly Museum Challenge: #1(b) The Christian C. Sanderson Museum

So, when I read about the museum here, I thought that it would be a pair of crazypants full of awesome sauce. I also wondered why I had driven by several times (it's on the way to and, indeed, walking distance from, The Brandywine River Museum) and not stopped in to check it out. It did NOT disappoint.....

"Anyone born in the twentieth century should see this museum. It's a history lesson, a nostalgia trip, a fascinating look at one man's life." - Therese Boyd
The Best Places You've Never Seen: Pennsylvania's Small Museums, A Traveler's Guide

Within this small, modest, Colonial-era house lies a world of wonders. From his Wikipedia page:

"Christian Carmack Sanderson (1882 – 1966) was a teacher, fiddler, square-dance caller, poet, and noted local historian in southeastern Pennsylvania in the early to mid-20th century. He corresponded with a wide range of notable people of his time and was a remarkable collector of historical memorabilia. Sanderson lived the latter part of his life in Chadds Ford and was friends with the Wyeth family there. From 1906-1922, Sanderson lived in the Benjamin Ring House, which was Washington's Headquarters before and after the Battle of Brandywine and 'more than any individual in his time, Christian Sanderson focused attention on the Battle.' Chris Sanderson is the subject of a biography written by his friend Thomas R. Thompson and a documentary film by Karen Kuder."

We were greeted at the front door by two friendly and knowledgeable volunteers, Norma and Jean (totally their real names). They gave us an introduction, made sure we didn't miss anything important, and answered all of our questions in detail, but they also allowed us to explore in whatever order and pace we liked. It was obvious that they love what they do and were happy to see us. In other words, they were fantastic docents.

What follows are some highlights from each of the rooms, but the museum really has to be experienced to be believed. To give you an idea of what you're in for, one of the upstairs rooms has a vertical display case/bulletin board with all sorts of small things pinned to it, among them this mind-boggling gem: a piece of folded paper, maybe 1" x 3", in a correspondingly miniscule hand-made waxed-paper envelope, with the label "Paper that Mom used winter of 1940-41 to keep cold out. Stuffed in cracks of windows." First of all, who saves something like that? Second of all, who types a LABEL for it?!?

Chris Sanderson, that's who. He was one part hoarder, one part collector, one part archivist, all parts fascinating. Evidently, no item was too small, too obscure, or too mundane for Sanderson to collect and label. In his day, he was known far and wide, and was much more famous than his neighbors, the Wyeths, who were referred to as "those painter fellows who are friends with Chris Sanderson." He was so well-known that when a popular actor from the 1890s named Joe Jefferson repeatedly ignored his letters asking for an autograph for his collection, he shamelessly went over his head. To his buddy, Grover Cleveland. Who was the current President of the United States. President Cleveland wrote a letter to Jefferson demanding that he honor Sanderson's request, so, of course, he did.

Here are some highlights of each room, followed by my scavenger hunt of awesome things that you should  look for.

First Floor: Entry Room
It was hard for me to absorb a lot of specifics in this room because we stepped directly into it upon entering and were fully taking in the task (and delight) we had ahead of us. There are some toys of Sanderson's, arrowheads and Revolutionary War nails, a gunpowder flask (Sanderson was a guide at the Brandywine Battlefield and found all sorts of things there, in his yards, and in the yards of his neighbors), pieces of WWI and WWII aircraft, a piece of wire from Westminster Abbey, and the spectacular Wyeth-Sanderson Historic Map of Chester County.

First Floor: Battlefield Room
I liked the super-cool propeller from a WWI fighter plane, the painting of Sanderson done by his good friend Andrew Wyeth, the Jennie Wade pocket book, and the Barbara Fritchie embroidery. And the canon balls. Ohhhh, soooooo many cannon balls.

First Floor: Chadds Ford Room
Want to see a jar of melted ice from the South Pole? It's here. Another one with water from the River Jordan? It's here. A jar of sand from the Panama Canal? It's here. A poster from the Lindbergh baby kidnapping? It's here.

Second Floor: Hallway
Along the hall upstairs is a truly impressive collection of mostly late 19th- and early-to-mid-20th-century autographs, mostly from sports figures, politicians, and Hollywood stars. See how many you can recognize. And there's also a piece of Caesar's bathtub tile. Just because.

Second Floor: Brandywine Room
A select but unique collection of drawings and items from his friends N.C. and Andrew Wyeth, some of which were created specifically of or for Sanderson himself. It was fun to see this room after being at the Brandywine all morning.

Second Floor: Music Room
There is the expected: violins, an Edison phonograph, posters for local concerts and dances, dance cards, a zither. Then there is the unexpected: a miner's cap, an ostrich egg, a mastodon tooth, a piece of petrified wood. Don't ask why. It's the Sanderson Museum, that's why.

Second Floor: School Room
One of my favorites. Sanderson kept meticulous, decades-long class photos and lists of every single student he taught, as well as personal notes from some of them.

Second Floor: Carmack Room & Pocopson Room
These two rooms are just stuffed with things to look at, many of them miniscule (including dried flowers, burnt matchsticks, vintage candy wrappers, and other minutiae), so take your time and look around. And you can't miss the wonderful barber shop sign, painted by N.C. Wyeth.

Things to find throughout the museum:
  • the small piece of paper mentioned in the introduction
  • the photograph of Joe Jefferson and letter to Grover Cleveland mentioned in the introduction
  • a taxidermied (and quite antique) bobcat and hyena
  • a piece of the bandage used on Abraham Lincoln's head when he was shot
  • a photograph of a cat in a high chair
  • a tiny piece of tile from Eva Braun's bathroom
  • hand-drawn maps of the 1904 World's Fair
  • the sign from outside Washington's Headquarters (painted by N.C. Wyeth)
  • Valentines given to Sanderson by some of his students (be sure to read the comments)

Overall experience/For the kids: The main thing I liked about the museum, in addition to the bizarre and random nature of the collection overall, was that there is truly something for everyone. There are items that only teens and adults will think are interesting. I mean, how many 6-year-olds know or care who Eva Braun was? But I can bet that most school-age kids will get a charge out of quite a bit of Sanderson's immense and detailed collections, and at only $5 per person, you'll certainly get your money's worth with this visit.

Estimated time to see everything: One hour or so, unless you read every single label on every single item; then add at least another half-hour. You can visit the Brandywine first, take a break for lunch, then head over to the Sanderson. They're only about a block apart, but you'll want to to get back in the car and drive over; crossing Rt.1 on foot might be a little too treacherous, especially with young children.

Details on hours, admission, directions, and other info can be found at the museum's web site.

NEXT POST IN THE SERIES: The University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology

Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Great Monthly Museum Challenge: #1(a) The Brandywine River Museum

The Brandywine River Museum is an art museum located in an old mill, and you can see several of the original features inside. It has an open, rustic feel, and is the perfect setting for the three artists it features: N.C., Andrew, and Jamie Wyeth. They lived and worked in Chester County (actually, Jamie is still alive and working), and some of their works were inspired by and reflect places and people from the area. Parts of the county still look exactly like the landscapes and genre paintings that they created. And I love how, especially in the winter months, the outside, which can be seen from various floor-to-ceiling windows in the museum, is like an Andrew Wyeth painting, with its creek, rocks and gravel, broken branches, rusty train bridge, wooden hut, and stark but beautiful landscape all around. Here are some highlights from the various galleries:

First Floor Gallery
(on the day that I visited, there was a special exhibit of some of Andrew Wyeth's works in this gallery)
One of Andrew Wyeth's inspirations was 17th-century German painter and engraver/print maker Albrecht Durer, and once you see his works it becomes easy to find the similarities. Along with some of Wyeth's paintings that feature dogs -- both his dog, Nell, and those of his neighbors -- there are various sketches and small studies that he did before even taking paint to canvas. Even a great artist doesn't always get things right on the first try. In the sketches and studies, he tried the dogs in various poses, and played with scale and composition. Some of the studies were just of a single nose or a paw.

Other things to look for in this gallery: the five shape families in the painting Ides of March; how the dogs' faces and postures in Raccoon and the various other dog paintings display the feelings that Wyeth was trying to express (and trying to elicit from us).

Second Floor: Landscape Gallery My favorite exercise in this gallery was to look at all of the frames and see how they affected the paintings that they surrounded.The traditional method of framing oil paintings was to use an elaborately-carved gold frame, and these can still be seen on many works, especially those that were framed prior to the 1900s. The frames were often more costly than the paintings themselves (and were a sign of the collector's wealth and status). But a frame like that isn't always the best choice. For instance, I love the simple framing on Thomas Doughty's Gilpin's Mill on the Brandywine. It makes you feel like you're looking out of your window onto the scene below. I also really loved Howard Pyle's illustration entitled "She Saw Herself for What He Had Said, and Swooned." I don't know anything about the 1909 novel for which it was created, The Castle on the Dunes, but the painting sure makes me want to read it. You don't see much maidenly swooning these days. Ditto Pyle's "They Stood Staring at the Violent Sky."
Other things to look for in this gallery: the use of light and shadow (known as chiaroscuro) in Mary Blood Mellen's Moonlight Fishing Scene, Halfway Rock; the brush work in George L. Noyes' Impressionist-inspired Annisquam Landscape; the use of point-of-view (the direction of our gaze) in the powerful Canadian Trapper by Frank Schoonover, pictured above; Horace Pippin's Birmingham Meeting House; Winslow Homer's Civil War magazine illustrations; The Immigrants by Ellen Pyle; Howard Pyle's black and white oil paintings (and the many beautiful shades of gray that he was able to achieve); Ruin by Dorothy P. Lathrop; and The Woman in Business by Alice Barber Stephens.

Second Floor: Portrait and Still Life Galleries
I find myself drawn to portraits because I think the human face is endlessly fascinating. I also want to know about the person pictured. Well, the story behind the portrait of Martha Harford Hare, painted by Benjamin West in 1775, brings her vividly to life. Her son emigrated from England to America. He liked it so much that he decided to stay, and he married an American woman of whom Martha did not approve. Now, in those days, there were no phones or email or airplanes, so, other than letter-writing, there was no way for Martha to express her disapproval directly. So she had the following portrait (pictured on page 5 of the link) painted and sent it to her son as a "gift." Now, of course Martha would have no way of knowing for certain if her son actually hung it in his home. But he did keep it. How would you like that face staring at you while you are your breakfast? Mothers, man. Am I right? ;-)

Other things to look for in this gallery: Virtuoso by Garry Erbe; the use of trompe l'oeil ("fool the eye") in Which Is Which? by Jefferson David Chalfant.

Third Floor: N.C. Wyeth Gallery
Hands-down my favorite Wyeth. There are a few stand-alone paintings, but most paintings were intended to end up as illustrations for classic works, specifically classics for older children. N.C. Wyeth saw painting and illustration as two different things, but he didn't see illustration as a lesser form of visual art, and I couldn't agree more. He knew how to paint in various media and with various techniques as well as the other artists of his day, as you can see from some of the paintings in the gallery, but he chose to focus on illustrations and it is for those that he is most famous. He was taught by master illustrator Howard Pyle, and later went on to teach other art students, among them his children, four of which (Andrew, Henriette, Carolyn, and Ann) went on to become artists themselves. It's really difficult for me to pick favorites in this gallery, but I will focus on two. "I said goodbye to Mother and the Cove", a scene from Treasure Island, is a simple landscape with just a house and two figures, and this simplicity perfectly captures a feeling of both isolation and desolation. Jim's face is in shadow. He is heading off, out of the known (the light) and into the unknown.
Also mesmerizing is the original painting for the endpapers of The Last of the Mohicans. Wyeth was sometimes dissatisfied with the reproduction techniques of the day, and this is one instance where the printed illustration does not do full justice to the subtlety of the original. The fog, the use of light, and the reflections on the water really need to be seen in the original, large-scale work.

Other things to look for in this gallery: The Wreck of the Covenant and In a Dream I Met General Washington.

Third Floor: Andrew Wyeth Gallery
Andrew Wyeth is most famous for painting the classic Christina's World, which, unfortunately, is not owned by the Brandywine. But here you can see the equally famous Snow Hill (pictured below) and the finished work Raccoon, as well as Dryad, Across the Valley, and my favorite, Woodshed.
Snow Hill, Andrew Wyeth, 1989

Woodshed, Andrew Wyeth, 1944

Other things to look for in this gallery: the use of both lights and light in Renfield Study; the brushwork in his untitled piece from 1961.

Third Floor: Jamie and the other Wyeths
For me, this gallery is all about two Jamie Wyeth works and the stories behind them. I won't share the stories here because they need to be read while viewing the original paintings in all of their size and glory. But, trust me, go see them. You won't be disappointed.
Angus, Jamie Wyeth, 1974
Portrait of a Pig, Jamie Wyeth, 1970

Other things to look for in this gallery: the series of Rudolph Nureyev portraits by Jamie; two Carolyn Wyeth paintings that bring to mind the qualities and techniques of Surrealist artists like Magritte and de Chirico.

Overall experience: This is one of my favorite museums in the area, and I have visited numerous times. It's a Chester County treasure that I hope everyone gets a chance to see.

Estimated time to see everything: About two hours.

For the kids: There are interesting things to be seen and enjoyed year-round by school-age children, but at the end of the year the museum also features exhibits of animal ornaments, doll houses, and model railroads that will be of interest to younger viewers as well. I highly recommend picking up the Family Guide in the museum store before you visit the galleries. At only $1.95, it is a fabulous bargain and will keep kids busy looking for details scattered through the collection, plus give them things to draw, color, and think about even after your visit is over. I have a copy if you would like to see it.

Details on hours, admission, directions, special exhibits, and other info can be found at the museum's web site, and a wonderful selection of works can be seen here.

NEXT POST IN THE SERIES: The Christian C. Sanderson Museum

Our Very Own "The Bus for Us" Bus!

How exciting to have our very own school bus visit the library today to celebrate this year's "PA One Book Every Young Child" selection, The Bus for Us by Suzanne Bloom!!  Enthusiastic young patrons boarded the school bus and learned about school bus safety from our friendly bus driver and sang (what else!?) "The Wheels on the Bus."

In keeping with the transportation vibe, all are welcome to join us tomorrow morning at 11:15am in the large upstairs meeting room for a fire safety presentation and demonstration by our local firefighters.  After the presentation, we can tour their fire truck outside the library!

To learn more about PA One Book Every Young Child and to get some great tips on how to promote early literacy please visit

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Pre/K Story Time Books (4.23.13)

It was all about fashion today....

The Philharmonic Gets Dressed
story by Karla Kuskin
illustrations by Marc Simont

Delightful and unique. A modern classic.

A flannel board activity to go along with: 

Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons
story by Eric Litwin
illustrations by James Dean

The flannel board activity was created by Miss Angie. I knew her Pinterest addiction would finally work to my advantage! Thanks, Miss, Angie. :-)

There's also a song. It is one of the most insidious earworms ever.

Button Up! Wrinkled Rhymes
poems by Alice Shertle
illustrations by Petra Mathers
jE 811.54 S

Because it's national Poetry Month. And because poems about underwear are always funny. Always.

Big Pig's Hat
story by Willy Smax
illustrations by Keren Ludlow

Possibly my favorite read-aloud ever. A sly lesson about bullies and jumping to conclusions hidden in a rip-roaringly silly western with wonderful cartoon-like pics from Ludlow. The fact that this is out of print makes me wonder what is wrong with the world.

If you have children between the ages of 4 and 6, please join us next Tuesday from 2:00-2:45 pm. There is no charge, and registration is not required.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Pre/K Story Time Books (4.16.13)

Today we learned some valuable life lessons from Aesop, including:
  • A little common sense is often of more value than much cunning
  • Perseverance is surer than swiftness
  • No one is too weak to do good
  • Much wants more and loses all
  • He who listens to flattery is not wise, for it has no good purpose
and, my favorite,
  • Persuasion is better than force
The Very Best of Aesop's Fables
adapted by Margaret Clark
illustrated by Charlotte Voake
j 398.2 AESOP

Mouse & Lion
adapted by Rand Burkert
illustrated by Nancy Ekholm Burkert
jE 398.2 AESOP

The Contest Between the Sun and the Wind
adapted by Heather Forest
illustrated by Susan Gaber
jE 398.2 AESOP

We also colored pictures of some of fox's mishaps from the fables, and ate delicious grapes (that were easily reachable and not the least bit sour; sorry, fox).

If you have children between the ages of 4 and 6, please join us next Tuesday from 2:00-2:45 pm. There is no charge, and registration is not required.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Pre/K Story Time Books (4.9.13)

We took advantage of the lovely weather and had an indoor/outdoor, nature-based story time today. All of the books are based on events that the actual Henry David Thoreau (NOT a bear in reality because, as one of the kids pointed out, "bears don't build cabins")  recorded in his books and diaries about life on Walden Pond in Massachusetts. All were written and illustrated by D. B. Johnson and can be found under jE JOH.


Our Waldenesque adventure was rounded off by a nature walk through the trail in the park to see if we could find anything that Thoreau might have noticed if he were walking with us. Here are pictures of the actual cabin Thoreau built. Notice how small it is:

If you have children between the ages of 4 and 6, please join us next Tuesday from 2:00-2:45 pm. There is no charge, and registration is not required. Just stop by the children's desk by 1:45 pm to pick up an admission ticket.

Science in the Summer!

It's that time of year again - time to start thinking about Science in the Summer!

Sponsored by GlaxoSmithKline, this free program introduces students entering grades 2-6 to the wonders of science. This year’s topic at Tredyffrin Public Library is Physical Science (magnetism and electricity), and the course takes place July 8-11.

Registration begins Thursday, May 2 at 9:30am and is first-come first-serve to Chester County residents.
Here's what you need to know about registering your child for Science in the Summer:

There are four sessions at Tredyffrin Public Library - two for Level 1 (entering grades 2-3), and two for Level 2 (entering grades 4-6).

 AM – Level 1 – 9:45 to 10:45 am, Level 2 – 11:00 to 12:00 pm

 PM – Level 1 – 12:45 to 1:45 pm, Level 2 – 2:00 to 3:00 pm

Each session holds 16 children. Your child must be able to attend all four days of the class.

You must register your child in person. Since a parent or other legal guardian must sign off on the application at the time of registration, the library cannot process applications over the phone.

If you have any additional questions, please contact the children's department at 610-688-7092, ext. 210 or email Angela Newman at

Photo by jimmiehomeschoolmom via Flickr

Thursday, April 4, 2013

The Bus for Us Events

at Tredyffrin Public Library
Since 2006, Pennsylvania ( has featured “One Book” to highlight the importance of early literacy development in preschoolers.  Tredyffrin Public Library joins this effort to support early literacy through emphasis on the importance of reading early and often to children as well as engaging children in conversation and other activities around books. This year’s selection, The Bus for Us, by Suzanne Bloom captures the imagination through a combination of text and artwork with an engaging transportation theme.
Please join us for the following The Bus for Us events:
*Monday, April 22nd 10:30am Family Story Time (5 years old and under)
Join us in the upstairs large meeting room for stories and special “traveling trunk” games and activities relating to The Bus for Us.
*Tuesday, April 23rd 10:30am Toddler Story Time (16 months to 3 years old)
*Thursday, April 25th 10:30am School Bus Visit!!!  (All ages welcome)
Join us outside in the lower parking lot (weather permitting) for a tour of a real school bus!  A real Tredyffrin school bus will be “the bus for us” while we enjoy the tour, songs, and stories.  Depending on the number of attendees, we may need to board and tour the bus in shifts starting at 10:30am and concluding at 11:30am.
*Friday, April 26th :
9:30am   ABC/123 Storytime (3 to 5 years old)
10:30am   Toddler Story Time (16 months to 3 years old)
11:15am   Radnor Firefighters and Fire Truck Visit!!! (All ages welcome)
Join us in the large upstairs meeting room to meet the Radnor Firefighters who will “show and tell” their gear, discuss fire safety and prevention, and explain what to do if there is a fire.  Weather permitting, we will tour a fire truck in the main parking lot of the library after the program!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Pre/K Story Time Books (4.2.13)

We got down and dirty with the following books about playing outside and getting messy (and how much fun it is to get dirty....and then to get clean...and then to get dirty again...):


Harry the Dirty Dog
story by Gene Zion
illustrations by Margaret Bloy Graham

A classic. Don't miss it.

Oink, Oink Benny
story by Barbro Lindgren
illustrations by Olaf Landstrom

I cannot say enough about how adorable this book is, ESPECIALLY the illustrations

And we learned about the suffixes "er" and "est" by coloring progressively messier versions of Harry:

If you have children between the ages of 4 and 6, please join us next Tuesday from 2:00-2:45 pm. No charge, no pre-registration required. Just stop by the children's desk by 1:45 pm to pick up an admission ticket.