Two Grants for the Isaac Pearson House, Hamilton Township NJ

Township of Hamilton NJ

We were delighted to learn that our Incubation grant application for the Isaac Pearson House from the New Jersey Council on the Humanities was successful this summer. This grant, along with a grant for an Assessment of Heritage Tourism Potential from the New Jersey Historic Trust, will allow us to start work this Fall. Our Incubation Grant was described as follows.

The 1773 Isaac Pearson Mansion House and Park was saved from destruction from highways and development in the 1970s. Planning for its restoration and reuse as an experiential learning center/makerspace for colonial era trades/crafts and as a regional visitor center for the Crossroads of the American Revolution National Heritage Area has just begun. However, the restoration will not be completed until 2023. Our project will research and prototype humanities-based educational programming at the site now, as it undergoes years of archeology, conservation of materials, and restoration. We want to answer this question: “How can we attract, engage, and build loyalty from two key audiences: Gen X and Gen Y adults; and African American adults with school children, through humanities-based programming?”

We are focusing on these two audiences because Isaac Pearson’s Will shows he owned at least eight slaves when he died, and we want to be at the forefront of thoughtful, hands-on educational programming for contemporary African American families at this historic site. We have also selected Gen X and Y audiences because we want to understand them by asking them directly about their programming interests.

The humanities scholar (that is us!) will 1) prepare an annotated bibliography of studies and best practices for historic site interpretation and diverse audience engagement 2) host two focus groups (8­12 people each) from the key audiences we want to attract by asking them about experiences they wish to undertake at the site, and 3) prototype and evaluate at least four humanities related educational programs/experiences based on focus group results.

We will evaluate each educational program through surveys and a report. We expect through the focus groups that their programming interests will permit us to experiment with both digital platforms and in-person experiences which will directly benefit our future visitors. This project is a step to focus our educational programming on the changing demographics of our community. Learn more about the Isaac Pearson House here.