The Old Barracks Association, which operates the Old Barracks Museum in Trenton, NJ, received a $5,000 grant from the New Jersey Council for Humanities for COVID-19 relief. The funding was allocated to NJCH through the National Endowment for the Humanities as part of the CARES Act. The General Operating Support will help ensure that the Old Barracks Museum remains operational during the COVID-19 pandemic.
While the Old Barracks Museum is now reopen as of July 2, the Trenton landmark closed its doors on March 14 as a precautionary measure to help control the spread of COVID-19. During the closure, the museum brought its programming to a virtual platform. The “Ask the Barracks” program was announced on Monday, March 30. Due to the closures of schools and other precautionary measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, thousands of students had to miss their scheduled field trips to the Old Barracks Museum in the spring. The program invited students to email questions about life in New Jersey during the American Revolution. Many questions have been answered via video and are available online at www.barracks.org/askthebarracks.
Additionally, a new online exhibit titled “When Women Vote: The Old Barracks and the Anti-Suffrage Movement” was launched. This online exhibit is available alongside “Necessary and Proper for the Public Good” and “Collection Highlights.” Virtual programming has been available on the Old Barracks Museum’s Facebook page, including shoemaking demonstrations, a history of the Quartering Act, and an explanation of the clothing of middle-class women in the late 18th century.
The gates at The Old Barracks Museum reopened to visitors on Thursday, July 2. Tickets must be pre-purchased online at www.barracks.org at least one day prior to visiting. Masks are required to be worn by visitors, staff, and volunteers at all times. Visitation is limited to 1 group of no more than 10 people at a time to comply with the State of New Jersey’s mandate on capacity reductions. The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday. Visitation policy and hours are subject to change; please visit www.barracks.org for the most current guidelines.
The Old Barracks Museum welcomes visitors to see this historic building, which dates back to 1758 when it was used as winter quarters during the French and Indian War. During the American Revolution, it stood witness to the Battle of Trenton and served as a military hospital to provide smallpox inoculations. Visitors will meet with 18th century tradespeople who showcase the skills required for army life as well as tour the gallery on the history of New Jersey in the French and Indian War, see the bunks where soldiers slept, tour the Officers’ House, see a medical room, and experience the thrill of a musket firing.
Although most visitors associate the building with the Battle of Trenton, the site is no stranger to the history of disease control. Following the famous battle on December 26, 1776, General George Washington designated the barracks as a military field hospital to specialize in the inoculation of soldiers with smallpox. This method of disease control was controversial for its time and pre-dated the discovery of the vaccine. Visitors will learn about this during their tour.
The financial impact of the closure of the museum has been devastating to the Old Barracks Association, the private non-profit organization that manages the historic site. Grant support from organizations such as the New Jersey Council for Humanities and private donations made by the public have been crucial to the continuation of programming during this crisis. If you would like to make a donation to help ensure the Old Barracks Museum’s future as a historical landmark in New Jersey, please visit barracks.org/donate. To learn more about the New Jersey Council for Humanities, please visit www.njhumanities.org.