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past News – 2007

Benjamin Franklin House Christmas Event

Kids christmas event

Ben's old home was filled with joy during the 2007 Family Holiday Day in December.  With their parents, young people listened to tales of Christmas in the 18th century, made festive decorations, and enjoyed seasonal treats!

Benjamin Franklin House highlighted in speech to the World Affairs Council

Recently Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, Kurt Volker, called at Benjamin Franklin House.  He felt so inspired by his visit to 36 Craven Street, that when he returned to the United States, he highlighted the House in remarks before the World Affairs Council:

'Two weeks ago, I happened to be in London and visited the Franklin House - as I understand it, the only standing structure where Ben Franklin actually lived. He went to London to seek to build better understanding between the crown and the colonies, and to prevent war. In a sense, this building was America's first Embassy.

And it is a place Philadelphians would be proud of, because it captures Ben Franklin's personal history, his whimsy, his diplomatic contributions, and his passion for scientific discovery, with a few hands-on things for kids. They are still building up the programs at the Franklin House and seeking to create a permanent endowment, under the leadership of an extraordinarily dynamic director. Given the special connection of Franklin in Philadelphia, I would encourage the World Affairs Council to take a special interest in the Franklin House in London.

I know I'm here to talk about American foreign policy, and our work together with Europe, but Philadelphia, and Franklin, are really an excellent place to start. Because values are at the heart of what we are as a nation, and are, therefore, at the heart of our foreign policy.

Democracy is a gift not only meant for Americans, but for mankind. This is a point the Founding Fathers were very clear on. Rights are a part of human existence, and cannot be suppressed without harmful consequences. Governments that do not respect their own people will not be respectful and responsible partners in the international system. '

Benjamin Franklin House Symposium

We were honoured to have Sir Harry Kroto, a Nobel Prize winning scientist, feature in this year’s Benjamin Franklin House Symposium, held in association with the Eccles Centre for American Studies at the British Library, on 7 August.

Sir Harry was knighted in 1996 for his contributions to chemistry – with colleagues he discovered C60 Buckminsterfullerene, a new form of carbon.  Franklin would have liked the association with such a kindred spirit.  As he has noted, “I have ended up a supporter of ideologies which advocate the right of the individual to speak, think and write in freedom and safety (surely the bedrock of a civilised society).” 

He took as his theme Science, Society and Sustainability: what science is, how people, the media, politicians and others perceive science and scientists and some of the problems non-scientists have in understanding science, engineering and technology.

He began by sharing how he fell in love with science when he discovered the essence of the discipline is the "quest for beautiful patterns."  He highlighted areas he sees as essential for future research including highly sustainable technologies like solar electricity and genetic developments like seedlings that can fix their own nitrogen.  In response to a question on whether nanotechnology bodes good or ill for society, he argued that science is never intrinsically bad, "it's the use that men put to it."

He is passionate about furthering scientific understanding and established The Vega Scientific Trust and Global Educational Outreach (GEO) to allow young researchers to explain their science to young people around the world through the Internet.  Says Sir Harry, “we are pioneering new ways of using the Internet to get the next generation of children to work together to address some of humanity’s most pressing problems. After all if the future is in anyone’s hands it’s in theirs.”

Glass Armonica to Feature on BBC

During his nearly sixteen years at 36 Craven Street, Benjamin Franklin, among other innovations, created his glass armonica.  He set out to improve the technique of playing of music on partially full wine glasses by grinding glass bowls to different octaves.  He then placed them one in side the other, fixed them with a rod, and set them on a treadle to make them spin. Mozart and Beethoven are among those who composed for this fascinating instrument noted for its clear, haunting tones.

It apparently went out of fashion in the 19th century because the players who needed wet hands to play the glass armonica, often licked them, and were said to go mad (as the octave strips were marked with lead paint)!

While always a favorite with the musical cognoscenti, in recent years it has undergone a popular resurgence as will be detailed on the BBC’s Radio 4 show (Broadcasting on 30 October at 08:30 GMT and 3 November at 10:30 GMT, see Radio 4 online for further details. Radio presenter Paul Evans interviewed our three armonica-playing friends: Thomas Bloch, Alastair Malloy and Cecilia Brauer.

At Benjamin Franklin House scores of children discover about Franklin’s process of invention and try their hand at playing the modern version of the armonica in situ in our Student Science Centre.  Click here for more information.

Benjamin Franklin House gets Online Blog

Click here to view and add to our blog!

Relying on Drama rather than Artifacts: It 'works' for the Institute of Archaeology

This quarter’s issue of London Archaeologist heralds the ‘Dramatic History at Benjamin Franklin House.’ Author Clive Orton wondered whether he would be moved by the House's presentation of history as a dramatic tapestry without a concentration on artefacts but pronounced that the Benjamin Franklin House Historical Experience 'worked' for him.  At the close of the show, he notes he knew ‘a great deal more about the life and times of Benjamin Franklin than…before, and that [Franklin’s] benign presence in the house was almost palpable.’  Read the whole article here (© London Archaeologist)

Harvard Scholar Recommends Benjamin Franklin House

Professor Joyce Chaplin was charmed by 36 Craven Street during her recent visit. Please click here to read more.

Installation at St Bartholomew the Great Church Inspired by Franklin

Multidisciplinary artist Mark Maxwell has recently installed in St Bartholomew’s church a piece based on Franklin’s work with electricity.  The setting is apt given Franklin’s connection to the impressive church, originally founded as an Augustinian Priory in 1123.According to St. Bartholomew's Administrator Paula Flynn, church records show that on Franklin's first stint in London as a 19 year old (when he came to learn more about the printing trade), he worked with master printer Samuel Palmer in the workshop which then occupied the Lady Chapel of St Bartholomew the Great.

Maxwell's mixed-media installation is comprised of candle wax and muslin interspersed video pieces.  Maxwell says Benjamin Franklin House was his ‘first port of call’ when researching Franklin’s life in London.  He found ‘working in one of the places that he resided’ inspiring.

The installation runs through 9 September at The Priory Church of Saint Bartholomew the Great, West Smithfield in the City of London EC1A.  The exhibition can be seen Monday - Friday 9 a.m. - 5 p.m; Saturday 10.30 a.m. - 4 p.m; and Sunday 1 p.m. - 4 p.m. 

4th of July at Benjamin Franklin House

Cakes in Franklin's Parlour

Benjamin Franklin House opened its doors for a special celebration on the 4th of July 2007, when we welcomed friends to the House for some Independence Day cake and bubbly.

2007 Benjamin Franklin House Science Day

On 27 April, Benjamin Franklin House held its annual Science Day at the Royal Society featuring three inner city London schools: Streatham and Clapham School, Cayley Primary School, and Kobi Nazrul Primary School. The Royal Society, a premier UK scientific academy where Benjamin Franklin was an early member, is housed in a historic building with state of the art facilities (much like Benjamin Franklin house located nearby) which delighted the young participants. They were inspired by the original portraits of famous scientists like Isaac Newton!

More than 120 pupils took part in the fun and informative sessions which highlighted some of Franklin’s most important investigations. Franklin had a deep interest in the practical application of scientific knowledge and our special guest, scientist Dr Bryson Gore, captured the children’s attention with experiments that popped, illuminated, and crackled, showing how the great man’s 18th century explorations have led to some of today’s most important technologies. As Benjamin Franklin House Education Manager, Ana Doria Buchan notes, “Franklin liked to ask questions and in his search for potential answers, he broke new ground. This spirit of enquiry, an approach central to the UK National Curriculum, enthused both the children and their teachers alike!”

Volunteers helped make the 2007 Benjamin Franklin House Science Day a success and plans are underway for the Benjamin Franklin Science Fair with local schools in June.

2007 Benjamin Franklin House Science Fair

Students from schools in the London boroughs of Newham, Southwark and Croydon will take part in the annual Benjamin Franklin House Science Fair at the Royal Society of Medicine on 25 June.

The children will be grappling with a timely question – which Franklin posed in the 18th century: How can we get more energy from less fuel? Franklin’s response led him to attempt design of more fuel-efficient stoves. His, and others that came later, are known as Franklin stoves. The children will apply their ingenuity in developing a 21st century response. They will also have the choice of a weather-related question as this subject also fascinated Franklin and played a part in his experiments with lightning and in his invention of the lightning rod.

All participants will be prize winners but the overall winner will be judged by visiting scientists on the day. The Benjamin Franklin House Science Fair satisfies our mission to engage young people in science through hands-on investigations and to conduct outreach from 36 Craven Street to the wider community.

2007 National Archaeology Week

Benjamin Franklin House will be participating in this year’s National Archaeology Week (NAW). The fit is perfect given the House’s architectural significance and archaeological importance (with more than 1000 bones found during basement conservation, remnants of an anatomy school run by the son-in-law of Franklin’s landlady). For nine days in July, children from across the UK will take part in excavations, guided tours, exhibitions, lectures, craft workshops and more.

We will open our doors to NAW participants on Tuesday, 17 July, allowing young visitors to discover more about the history of 36 Craven Street. We will be offering special activities that demonstrate how found objects give clues to the past, while emphasising such skills as research observation/recording/interpretation and team work.

Benjamin Franklin House Potential Film Location

Location Works has selected Benjamin Franklin House as one of its 'hot' properties. They call 36 Craven Street a "superb Georgian town house... with many original features." Location Works finds locations of all descriptions for the film, television and photographic industries and is the largest and busiest company of its kind in Britain. They have recently organised locations for Jimmy Choo, Marie Claire, Vogue and Sainsbury's among others.

Click here to see our listing as well as some fantastic images of the interior and exterior of the House.

Benjamin Franklin House friend and author James Srodes' biography, "Franklin: The Essential Founding Father," was honoured by the City of Philadelphia during the 300th anniversary of their hometown hero. The Free Library circulated more than 3,500 free copies of a special edition of the book to schools and the system's more than sixty branch libraries.

In addition Srodes led Franklin discussions and seminars at local branches, public schools and area colleges during a six month programme. He also led the official Franklin Tercentenary Commisson's city-wide Autobiography project which called on city residents to submit three hundred word autobiographies, many of which were then posted throughout the city.

In recent months he and Peter Earnest, head of the International Spy Museum and a former CIA officer, have toured the country giving talks on "Benjamin Franklin, Master Spy," as part of the Tercentenary Commission's travelling museum show. In November 2002, Srodes was one of the speakers at the Royal Society's annual Franklin symposium.

Purchase Franklin: The Essential Founding Father.

Happy 301st Ben! Happy Birthday Benjamin Franklin House!
17 January 2007

Today is the 301st anniversary of Benjamin Franklin's birthday and today Benjamin Franklin House has been open to the public for one year!

Click here for the complete story.

Benjamin Franklin House Education Officer Releases Primitive Surgery - An Overview

Surgery, the branch of medicine focused on treating disease or deformity of the body by operative procedures, is as old as mankind and can be found to some extent in all cultures. Primitive surgery, however, was typically a last rather than a first resort.

In "Primitive Surgery," Ana Doria Buchan reviews the ideas behind and methods of primitive surgery which have played a central role in health and healing through the ages.

Ana is Benjamin Franklin House's Education Officer. She undertakes science demonstrations for primary school children in the House's Student Science Centre and also offers schools and universities workshops on bones and ancient diseases as they relate to the Craven Street bones. Ana has published on human evolution and written articles on African archaeology for the publication "Lost Cities."

You may purchase Primitive Surgery from the publisher, Hadrian Books.

A Web of Relationships

Michael De Guzman, Benjamin Franklin House's Development Manager and resident artist until early 2007, installed a temporary sculpture comprised of over 20,000 rubber bands in Franklin's Parlour! The complex web alluded to Franklin's entanglement in 18th century diplomatic relations. It is the first in a series of temporary artistic installations to be featured at the House. Watch for future previews.

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