Placard inside the Restoration Museum on Shenandoah Street Harpers Ferry WV (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Inside the Restoration Museum on Shenandoah Street in Harpers Ferry WV (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Fair warning – it is difficult to take a “quick” trip to the historic town of Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, because there is a lot to see and do.

Lewis and Clark came through here, John Brown’s unsuccessful attempt to arm slaves to revolt happened here, a now-closed historically black college hosted a key Niagara Movement meeting, and both the Appalachian Trail and the C&O Canal towpath converge here.

I’d like to mention one place that impressed me – the Restoration Museum (also called “Reading an old building”) on Shenandoah Street in the Lower Town section of Harpers Ferry. It’s the bottom part of a building that is set up as an archaeological exhibit, and does a wonderful job of explaining how archaeologists think about walls, doors, floors, and ceilings, and the stories they tell.

What struck me about the interesting information and analysis on placards all around the room is how much of a role that dumb luck plays in figuring out the history of a building.

Placards and interior of Restoration Museum lower town Harpers Ferry WV (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Placards and interior of the Restoration Museum in Lower Town Harpers Ferry WV (photo by Sheila Scarborough)

Archaeologists pour through blueprints, drawings, and documents to confirm their hunches, but then some weird door or something shows up in the dig and they have to figure out why it is there.

Sometimes their best educated guess is finally confirmed (or upended) because someone finds an historic photo from the right time-frame in a box somewhere, or there’s an anecdote in a newspaper or personal journal, and it helps pull the whole story together.

I have a hard time with spatial imagination and “seeing” things in 3D – being able to envision the layers of a place and how they’d look if moved around. This is why I hardly ever redecorate beyond whatever I do when I move into a house or apartment. I just can’t see it any differently than how I already have it set up.

The Restoration Museum held my attention for quite awhile, and made me vow to pay more attention to the next International Archaeology Day and see if there is a dig or event anywhere near me to learn more.

Here is a helpful blog post – 5 Things To Do On Your Harpers Ferry National Historical Park Day Trip – in case you’re able to take your own trip to this fascinating area.

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