Virtually visiting America’s Cultural Institutions in the time of COVID

Today’s post is by John LeGloahec, Archives Specialist in the Electronics Records Division at the National Archives in College Park, MD.

This post is part of an ongoing series featuring records from the National Register of Historic Places and National Historic Landmarks Program Records, 2013 – 2017 (National Archives ID 20812721), a series within Record Group 79: Records of the National Park Service. 

Ford’s Theatre in Lincoln’s time. Washington, DC (National Archives ID 518224).

We are in a new reality – living in a world of a global pandemic. Vacation plans postponed, school online for many students, working in offices a distant memory. This series of posts has allowed people the opportunity to visit virtually some of the great things about America. I recently read an article in Time Magazine titled, “The Uncertain Future of Places That Preserve America’s Past.” I wanted to give you the opportunity to “see” and perhaps “support” some of America’s smaller institutions that are struggling in this time of the global health crisis through the Records of the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP).  

Maybe you want to visit Ford’s Theatre (National Archives ID 117692142) in Washington, DC, pictured above as it looked in the time of President Lincoln. In addition to Ford’s being a National Park Site, it is also a working theatre, where plays are performed year round, and soon, actors will ply the boards of this famous theater. If you’ve got a thing for Abraham Lincoln, you can search using his name in the NRHP records to discover memorials, historic sites, and statuary around the country dedicated to our sixteenth president.

Monument to Abraham Lincoln (National Archives ID 529406).

There are a number of small historical societies and “lone arrangers” that are struggling with the global pandemic. Maybe you’d like to visit and support Salem, Massachusetts, the site of the infamous witch trials in the late 1600s. There are a number of properties in the NRHP concerning the Salem Witch Trials for you to explore.

Witch House at 310 Essex Street in Salem, Massachusetts. Built before 1675. Home of Jonathan Corwin, one of the judges of the witchcraft court. J. K. Hillers, July 1935. (National Archives ID 135803137).

Perhaps you would like to take a socially distanced vacation to the robber baron seaside homes of Newport, Rhode Island, like The Breakers/Cornelius Vanderbilt II House (National Archives ID 41375090). The Preservation Society of Newport County has been forced to reduce staff in the pandemic, but they have said there is no better place to practice social distancing than in the mansions of Newport.

Newport Cliff Walk (National Archives ID 12585682).

If you would like to show your support for any number of African American cultural institutions around the country, there are a lot of them that are in the National Register. You can certainly find many interesting sites in the footsteps of Harriet Tubman by using the search term Underground Railroad.

Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway – An Autumn-draped Tuckahoe Crossing, Maryland (National Archives ID 7719106).

Perhaps you could brush up on the history of the Civil War in America, or you could get some outside time by touring the Civil War Monuments (National Archives ID 117692047) of Washington, DC. For sites of 20th century interest, you may want to visit the Birmingham, Alabama Civil Rights Historic District (National Archives ID 77835231)

Photograph of White House Meeting with Civil Rights Leaders. June 22, 1963 (National Archives ID 194190).

If you’d like to get yourself ready for Election Day in November and you’d like to mark the anniversary of women being granted the right to vote, you could support and visit the Women’s Rights Historic Sites (National Archives ID 75314656) in New York State or any number of women’s suffrage sites that may be found in the National Register files.

Suffragette banner. One of the banners, the women who picketed the White House . . . (National Archives ID 533769).

We can all do something to help out others in this time of need. Virtual visiting is just one way to help. If you would like more information on how museums are faring during the COVID-19 pandemic, you can read more at the National Survey of COVID-19 Impact on United States Museums.


Click on any of the hyperlinked National Archives ID numbers above to open the fully digitized records in the National Archives Catalog. The digitized files of the NRHP are detailed and include additional documents, photographs, architectural drawings, and maps.

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