Share the #SpiritofTravel on Social Media during National Travel and Tourism Week

Share the #SpiritofTravel on Social Media during National Travel and Tourism Week

Right now, your travel plans may be paused, rescheduled or sadly cancelled due to COVID-19. But, that does not mean you cannot experience travel virtually and start planning your experiences this week during U.S. Travel’s National Travel and Tourism Week. This week honors the spirit of travel in recognition of the industry’s strength, selfessness and resiliency.

This week is also about all travelers. You may be one who enjoys a European vacation, or you may be someone who likes to explore the small towns in your own state. Whether you are a world traveler or a weekend getaway close-to-home type, the #SpiritofTravel is in all of us.

National Travel and Tourism Week is May 3-9, and Discovery Park of America is participating in bringing you the spirit of travel. We have a moment each day in which you can join the conversation on social media using #nttw20 and #SpiritOfTravel on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. All this week, we will be highlighting what our followers enjoy the most when they travel to Discovery Park. There will also be some giveaways throughout the week, and we will wrap up National Travel and Tourism Week with a video where we asked several Discovery Park employees, “What does travel mean to you?”

To keep up with the week, be sure to follow Discovery Park of America on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

  • Sun., May 3: Learn about National Travel and Tourism Week in this blog!
  • Mon., May 4: Share your favorite exhibits and artifacts at Discovery Park of America.
    • We will be sharing pictures on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with photos of exhibits, galleries and artifacts that guests have shared with us!
  • Tues., May 5: Virtual Road Trip
    • Tennessee will be on the #VirtualRoadTrip with @USTravel on Twitter at 1:30 p.m. CDT. Watch for some fun facts about @DiscoveryParkUC and travel during this time!
  • Wed., May 6: Tourism Partnership Spotlights
  • Thurs., May 7: It’s giveaway time! Tune in on Facebook and Instagram to see what you can win! Hint: it involves some free passes and swag from Discovery Park!
  • Fri., May 8: #FlashbackFriday is one of our favorite social media trends. We will share some throwback pictures of what Discovery Park looked like before it was even open. If you have any pictures or stories about the beginnings of Discovery Park, but sure to share them with us.
  • Sat., May 9: We conclude #nttw20 by announcing the winners of the giveaways as well as sharing our video of “What does travel mean to you?” Let us know what travel means to you in the comments of the video, too!

Discovery Park of America is a destination for travelers of all ages. Even though attractions across the world are closed or limiting their number of visitors, we can come together during this week and share the #SpiritofTravel virtually until it is time to explore again.

Discovery Park will be opening our 50-acre heritage park on June 1, 2020 for guests to enjoy. Click here to learn more details about Discovery Park’s reopening plans, cleaning processes and more.

Ronald Reagan: The 40th President of the United States of America

Ronald Reagan: The 40th President of the United States of America

Hollywood actor, union leader, governor and oldest president at the time of his election are only a few of the hats that Ronald Reagan wore throughout his 93 years of life. You can find Reagan standing comfortably, casually holding his signature cowboy hat behind him, alongside the other four statues overlooking Freedom Square.

Reagan’s approval ratings rivaled that of one of his political inspirations, Franklin D. Roosevelt. Coming from humble origins in northern Illinois, Reagan worked his way from radio announcer to Hollywood’s big screens. He served as a stateside Army Captain while also participating in the Screen Actors Guild, eventually becoming a long running president of the organization.

As president, Reagan dealt with high-stakes issues such as an assassination attempt, the Cold war and the 1980 Iran-Iraq war. His financial initiatives, such as supply-side economics that reduced taxes and government spending, were named “Reaganomics” and exist as key debate points in politics to this day.

Reagan’s career was recent enough that many who visit the park will remember his influence on their own lifetimes, but for those too young to remember, his statue will serve as an opportunity to inspire a new generation to see beyond.

For more “Did You Know” articles, check out our latest blog posts.

Also, be sure to watch our “Moments of Discovery” on our Facebook page and YouTube channel.

Q & A with John Watkins, Garden Guru at Discovery Park

Q & A with John Watkins, Garden Guru at Discovery Park

Growing up, I always had a fascination with Greek mythology. Even though I couldn’t pronounce half of the names in those old tales, I thought it was kind of neat how the ancient Greeks came up with some pretty elaborate stories to explain things they couldn’t understand. (Kind of the same way that I used to try and explain algebra to my boys when they were young.) The Greeks had some especially interesting ideas about how plants came into being and thus many plants to this day bear the names from these tales. So in order to get the real low-down, I thought I might sit down and have a little conversation with our own resident Greek Titan here at Discovery Park, Prometheus.

John: “Prometheus, thanks so much for taking a little time out of your busy schedule to talk with us. I know you’re really chained to your work, but I was wondering if you could give us a little more insight into how some our modern day plants came into being?”

Prometheus: “I always welcome the opportunity to enlighten humans about our ancient history. Besides, it might be a pleasant distraction from this eagle that is constantly trying to pull my liver out!”

John: “Yeah, sorry about that. Let’s start with one of my favorite spring flowers, the Hyacinth.”

Prometheus: “Ah yes, that’s a good one alright. As you probably know, Hyacinthus is the Latin name for your modern hyacinth. In my time, Hyacinthus was a popular lad who included as his friends such notables as Apollo and Zephyrus the West Wind. One day, Hyacinthus and Apollo were out flinging the old Frisbee around (or discus as we called it). Apollo yelled to Hyacinthus, “Goest thou deep”, and then he let the discus fly. Hyacinthus told Apollo, “Holdest my ale”, and ran to make a magnificent one-handed grab. But Zephyrus (who was jealous because he wasn’t invited to play), blew up a mighty wind and caused the discus to go off course. The discus struck Hyacinthus in the head and killed him right on the spot. Now Apollo was so upset that he made a little flower out of the spilled blood. I even heard that Apollo’s tears stained the newly formed flower’s petals. And that’s where you get your present day Hyacinth. If you want to take a little friendly advice from old Prometheus, don’t play Ultimate Frisbee on a windy day unless you invite all your friends.”

John: “Those definitely sound like words to live by. Thanks again for taking the time to share with us and I certainly hope we can continue our discussion in the future!”

Discovery Park of America CEO Shares Reopening Plans

The south side of Discovery Park’s heritage park includes a man-made river flowing through the landscaped property along with a 120-year-old church, waterfalls and bridges.

Dear Friend of Discovery Park,

While Discovery Park of America will remain closed to the public through May 2020, the museum and heritage park is planning to reopen the outside areas for members only on Sat., May 30 and Sun., May 31, 2020 following strict social distancing guidelines.

The 50-acre heritage park will then open to the general public beginning June 1, 2020, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and be closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays for deep cleaning. Discovery Center, the museum at Discovery Park, will remain closed at this time. While most of the outside areas will be open to the public beginning June 1, the Children’s Discovery Garden Playground will be closed until further notice. The entrance to Discovery Park will be through the outside North Gate.

A task force made up of managers of various departments at Discovery Park has been working extensively on guidelines for employees and guests to the park that incorporate the “Tennessee Pledge” guidance from Gov. Bill Lee’s Tennessee Economic Recovery Group.

We’ve also been working directly with Tennessee Department of Tourist Development’s commissioner Mark Ezell who is also chairing the Tennessee Economic Recovery Group.

Employees of Discovery Park will be following new procedures that include temperature checks, masks and a strict social distancing policy. Guests will also be given guidelines that will allow them to enjoy the park while ensuring their health and safety. A complete list of the new guidelines for guests can be found on Discovery Park’s website.

Since Discovery Park of America first closed on March 17, 2020 because of the threat brought on by the worldwide COVID-19 outbreak, our goal has been the safety and welfare of our community, guests and staff. Our plan for reopening continues that commitment by incorporating a nurse on duty when we are open, extensive deep-cleaning procedures and ongoing evaluation and implementation of best practices as we make this incredible outdoor space available to guests once again.

The Discovery Park task force will continue to monitor the data and review state and federal guidelines to determine if changes to the reopening schedule are required and to set an opening date for the museum.

All of us at Discovery Park look forward to safely hosting you here soon.

Sincerely,

Scott Williams
President and CEO
Discovery Park of America

Like health care providers and first responders around the world, our friends at Baptist Memorial Hospital – Union City are hard at work providing the best care possible for you and our community. Here you’ll find some helpful information on COVID-19 from them along with other links to organizations that could be helpful in times of need.

 

 

 

The Saber-Toothed Cat

The Saber-Toothed Cat

How might you answer the question, “where did saber-toothed cats live?” In the treeless tundra of modern Canada? In the jungles of South America? If you were to answer with either of these statements, you would be correct. Saber-toothed cats were not one species, or even a group of closely related species, but many different organisms that shared a similar appearance. One such species, the South-American Thylacosmilus, is believed to have been a marsupial! Without a doubt, the most famous creature to have earned the title of saber-toothed cat is Smilodon.

Smilodon had a diverse range of habitats, from subtropical to subarctic, but the largest collection of saber-toothed cat fossils, and those most referenced in science, were not recovered from an icy pit or a rainforest floor; they were recovered from Hancock Park in urban Los Angeles, California.

The La Brea Tar Pits were pivotal in the formation of Hancock Park when W.W. Orcutt, a petroleum geologist, noted the presence of prehistoric fossils in the natural asphalt pits on the Hancock Ranch in Los Angeles in 1901. Since then, hundreds of saber-toothed cats, as well as mammoths, dire wolves, ground sloths, and dozens of other mammal species from the Pleistocene Epoch have been recovered from the pits. The Smilodon specimens were so well preserved and so abundant that in 1973, the California state legislature adopted the Smilodon as the California State Fossil.

The specimen in the Natural History Gallery here at Discovery Park of America was cast from one of these very specimens and stands as a local access point to this incredibly piece of America’s paleontological heritage.

For more “Did You Know” articles, check out our latest blog posts.

Also, be sure to watch our “Moments of Discovery” on our Facebook page and YouTube channel.

The Pickelhaube

The Pickelhaube

Did you know?

The distinctive spiked infantry helmet on display at Discovery Park is called the “Pickelhaube,” and the design is still in use today!

The word “pickelhaube” might sound confusing at first, bringing to mind food instead of pointed objects, but other English words like “peak,” “pick,” “spike,” “pickaxe,” or the “pike,” a historic polearm consisting of a wooden shaft up to 25 feet long topped with a steel spearhead, all refer to pointed things. In German, “pickel” has several translations, including “point,” “pick,” and “pickaxe,” and “haube” means “hood,” or “cap.”

The headgear is heavily associated with the military tradition of the Kingdom of Prussia, a nation of moderate size whose formidable army allowed it to become a great power in Europe and take the dominant position among the German states which joined together in 1871. When the German Empire was formed, their constitution codified that whoever was King of Prussia was also Emperor of Germany.

Though the pickelhaube’s point may have been useful in deflecting saber blows on the battlefields of the 1800’s, the helmet proved problematic in World War I, with the shiny spike protruding from trenches and drawing fire. Needing better-protecting and easier-to-produce headgear, and facing leather shortages, Germany replaced the pickelhaube.

Though the German Empire collapsed in 1918, other nations wished to emulate the Prussian army and its successes, so the pickelhaube is still traditionally worn, sometimes with elaborate horsehair ornamentation, by parading soldiers and honor guards even today.

In our Military Gallery, visitors can view an authentic pickelhaube made in 1915. It is standard-issue and was made from leather by “Rudolf Witmer & Co,” with a metal spike on top, and a metal plate in front displaying the crowned eagle found on the Prussian flag.

For more “Did You Know” articles, check out our latest blog posts.

Also, be sure to watch our “Moments of Discovery” on our Facebook page and YouTube channel.

Basket Weaving

Basket Weaving: A 10,000-Year-Old Craft

Did you know?

Humans have been weaving baskets for at least 10,000 years, and the basic principles used by the first weavers are still in practice today. As the craftsmen working in Discovery Park of America’s Settlement will tell you – “over and under, over and under, and then over and under again.” A number of more advanced techniques have been developed over the millennia, of course, including several Appalachian and Midwestern traditions that pioneers of this region were among the first to employ in the 19th century.

The primary material used by pioneers in this area for basket weaving was the bark of hickory, willow and white oak trees, which can be removed from the trunk, cut into strips and woven into baskets. This is accomplished using drawknives, like the four on display in the Settlement’s Tool Barn. This was a long process and the entire process, from falling a tree to completing a basket, could take weeks or even months. This made baskets a precious commodity in the 19th century and a pioneering family would have treated them with great care.

Handmade baskets can be found in the Regional History Gallery in Discovery Center, but the David Crockett Cabin in The Settlement offers the unique opportunity to watch the magic happen. Discovery Park’s basket-weaving demonstrator, Carol Whitmore, has been weaving baskets for over 30 years and has worked in historical interpretation and museums even longer. Carol can be found working in the Craftsmen Room of the David Crockett Cabin alongside a collection of her work.

For more “Did You Know” articles, check out our latest blog posts.

Also, be sure to watch our “Moments of Discovery” on our Facebook page and YouTube channel.

Ironclads of the Civil War

Ironclads of the Civil War

Did you know?

The mid-19th century saw the development of more sophisticated, longer range guns and artillery. The wooden ships used by most navies at the time were ill-equipped to deal with firepower like this. The naval warfare environment was changing rapidly, and so innovation was needed. This innovation came in the form of the ironclad warship.

The first ironclads, developed in Europe by the French, were merely the standard ship design of the time with added metal plates on the side to protect against deadlier artillery. These designs jumped the Atlantic Ocean to see use in the American Civil War, where they were refined and changed to accommodate the shallower western riverfronts where many naval battles took place. Steamboats outfitted with metal plates saw use in battle, and the Union forces eventually developed the gunship that is now synonymous with the word “ironclad.”

These steam-powered ships sat somewhat low in the water and were nearly completely covered with heavy plating, making them quite impervious to standard gunfire, artillery, and even cannon fire. Fleets utilizing the ironclad could finally go toe-to-toe with armored forts, and in March of 1862, at the Battle of Hampton Roads in Virginia, the world saw its first naval engagement between opposing ironclad forces. The USS Monitor and the CSS Virginia (formerly the steam frigate USS Merrimack) dueled until the Virginia retreated, neither side able to inflict serious damage to the other.

Naval warfare had changed forever, and the ironclads of the Civil War would evolve into the gunboats and battleships we know today. Be sure to check out our cross-section of a Union ironclad located in our Military Gallery next time you visit Discovery Park of America.

For more “Did You Know” articles, check out our latest blog posts.

Also, be sure to watch our “Moments of Discovery” on our Facebook page and YouTube channel.

1800s Lye Soap Recipe Calls for One Pig and One Hickory Tree

1800s Lye Soap Recipe Calls for One Pig and One Hickory Tree

Did you know?

In the 21st century, “soap” has a broad definition. It could refer to the basic hygienic materials we each consume via our local grocery stores, or it could refer to more luxurious cosmetic goods found in shopping malls and high-end shops, like our favorite Buff City Soap. Soap could be in the form of hand soap, body wash, shampoo, laundry detergent, car-wash soap, dish-washing detergent, or countless other industrial forms.

But in the mid-1800s in West Tennessee, there were no grocery stores or shopping malls or Buff City Soap stores. Obion County was on the edge of civilization, which meant that if the pioneers of that time needed a certain item, they would have to make it themselves. This meant that “soap” was typically a rudimentary homecraft made of materials already on hand. Oddly enough, for an overwhelming majority of pioneers, all that was needed to make soap was a pig and a hickory tree.

Due to the ease of preserving meat in colder temperatures, the optimal time for butchering livestock was in December and January, so soap-making typically occurred in the winter. After a hog had been slaughtered and its palatable parts removed, much of what was left was fatty tissue. This soft tissue could then be boiled down into a substance that we are familiar with – lard! Lard is the pork product used in the production of lye soap.

Another benefit of making soap in the winter is that fresh ashes were often available from a wood stove. If the wood burned was that of a hardwood, like oak or hickory, then the ashes would be placed in an ash hopper, like the one on the porch of the Farmhouse at Discovery Park. The hopper would then be filled with water. As the water percolates through the ashes, it becomes saturated with a soluble compound called sodium hydroxide, and then drips from the channel at the bottom of the hopper and into a collection pail.

Another word for sodium hydroxide is lye – hence lye soap! Lye is extremely basic in solution and can cause serious damage to the skin and eyes. Pioneers were aware of the danger and took what precautions were possible at the time. One way they would confirm that the basicity of the solution was in the optimal range was by floating an egg in the lye water. If the egg sank, it was not basic enough. If the egg floated easily, it was too basic. If the egg bobbed up and down near the surface of the water, it was acceptable. The density and basicity of the solution could be adjusted by adding plain water or allowing water to evaporate.

After acceptable lye has been derived from the ashes, it is mixed with warm lard and stirred continuously for roughly an hour. Only then can it be poured into a mold and allowed to harden for 6 weeks. Chemicals in the lard neutralize the harmful effects of the lye over that time, and sodium carbonate begins to form. This compound is commonly soda ash or washing soda and is the primary constituent of most laundry detergents. After the curing time of 6 weeks has passed, the soap can be cut into bars and safely used on bare skin.

Bars of lye soap can be found throughout the Settlement; notably in the Farmhouse, David Crockett Cabin, and even the Escape Room. Lye soap is often manufactured in the David Crockett Cabin by Discovery Park of America’s historical interpreter, Mike Ramsey, who can also be seen making candles, woven goods and even brooms. To see this process for yourself, visit Discovery Park of America in Union City, Tenn.

For more “Did You Know” articles, check out our latest blog posts.

Also, be sure to watch our “Moments of Discovery” on our Facebook page and YouTube channel.

What Do Turtle Shells and WWI and WWII Helmets Have In Common?

What Do Turtle Shells and WWI and WWII Helmets Have In Common?

Did you know?

We have more than one kind of helmet in the Military Gallery, just as there is more than one “design” of turtle shell, depending on whether they are terrestrial or aquatic. There are also two types of army helmets, based on whether they were designed for the first or second of the world wars.

In World War I, the helmets were wide like saucers to provide as much cover from above as possible, and only went across the top of the head. They were somewhat shallow, only covering the crown, and this was because in WWI, during trench warfare, artillery shells and explosions from overhead were the deadliest hazard faced by a soldier. Troops would be concealed by the trench except for their heads, so protecting very well from the top was extremely important.

In World War II, trenches and emplacements definitely did exist, but fighting in trenches wasn’t characteristic of this war. In a conflict that ranged amid deserts, forests, frozen fields, humid jungles, beaches, and even the desert, troops moved often many miles throughout their experience in the war instead of only moving a few hundred yards for months or even years. This meant an attack could come from almost any direction, and protecting only the top of the head was not good enough, so a WWII helmet is deeper, allowing covering much more of the head.

By looking at the shape of the America helmets, it is clear which of the world wars it was used during because the helmet will either be shallow or deep.

Not only are there two shapes of helmets for WWI and WWII, there are also two shapes among turtle shells. An aquatic turtle, spending lots of time in the water, will dive down or swim away in order to escape a predator, and its shell is thin to give it as much streamlining and speed in the water as possible. This means that an aquatic turtle shell is shallow and will not allow it to withdraw its entire body into the shell.

However, a terrestrial turtle does not need to have a thin shell to help it swim. A terrestrial turtle shell is much larger and deeper, with a significantly higher top. This allows a terrestrial turtle to withdraw its entire body into its shell, which hinges closed like a box. This shell will be bulkier, higher and more voluminous than the aquatic turtle shell.

In other words, the aquatic turtle shell greatly resembles the World War I helmet, and the terrestrial turtle shell instead resembles the World War II helmet. The former two are slim, flattened, and shallow, and the latter two are deep, bowl-shaped and more rounded.

Therefore, the WWI helmet resembles the aquatic turtle shell, and the WWII helmet resembles the terrestrial turtle shell. See our turtles in our Regional Gallery, then head over to our Military Gallery to see the two helmets.

For more “Did You Know” articles, check out our latest blog posts.

Also, be sure to watch our “Moments of Discovery” on our Facebook page and YouTube channel.

Our Mission Continues Through Technology and Social Media

Discovery Park grounds director, John Watkins, filming a video from the 50-acre park to share on social media.

The Show Must Go On!

A group of students participating in the next production of Discovery Park of America’s Historical Theater Academy has now experienced firsthand the old adage “the show must go on.”

The Historical Theater Academy is made possible in part by a financial gift from Warner Law Firm and Third & Church of Union City and a grant contract with the state of Tennessee. This unique program designed for students in grades six through twelve takes place at Discovery Park twice each year. Participants receive instruction in multiple aspects of theater and historical research then stage a performance of the original work they create. Rather than cancel the current class, the planning, research and writing phase has been moved online. Their work will be performed later in the year.

“Working on a play without being together in one room has its challenges,” said Andrew Gibson, Discovery Park assistant director of education. “But when you have a group of creative students who are as passionate about theater as these are, nothing will stop them from meeting, not even a world pandemic.”

The Mission Continues on Social Media

Our mission is to inspire children and adults to see beyond. While that has primarily been done with programs, exhibits and hands-on experiences, we closed to the public on March 17, 2020 because of the threat to guests and staff from the coronavirus.

Our staff members have also been using technology to communicate with members and others who follow us on social media. Early in the pandemic, we worked with Baptist Memorial Hospital–Union City to share COVID-19 information on our blog and e-mail list. Lindsay Frilling, CEO of the Obion County Chamber of Commerce, joined Scott Williams, Discovery Park CEO, for a video posted to YouTube and Facebook with information for both small business owners and residents in the area.

Under ordinary circumstances, this time of the year our education specialists and docents would be sharing lessons and details about the exhibits and activities at our 100,000-sqaure-foot museum and 50-acre heritage park with thousands of families that would be visiting for spring break. Much of that interaction has now moved to social media in the form of daily posts of photos of artifacts, videos of the staff sharing lessons in the galleries and frequent blog posts with a deeper dive into many of the areas guests would ordinarily get to experience in person. Check out Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube to see what you will discover.

Spring Blooms

While many of our staff members are working from home, a few continue to work to keep everything in perfect order for when guests can visit again. One such staff member is John Watkins, Discovery Park’s grounds director. The 50-acre heritage park includes a man-made river flowing through the extensively landscaped property, along with waterfalls, bridges and art installations. On Fri., April 10, Watkins took advantage of the beautiful spring day to film several videos that will be shared on Facebook.

“One of the most beautiful times of the year at Discovery Park is when the dogwood trees begin to bloom in the spring and the lawns begin greening up,” said Watkins. “I’m grateful to get to share a little of this with those who are having to stay at home.”

Future Plans

Although they are working from home, a task force of Discovery Park’s managers and directors has already begun frequent meetings on Zoom planning for the day the museum and park can once again open to the public. Plastic shields are currently being installed at the ticket counter and in Sabin’s Café, and new policies and procedures will be put into place to make certain guests will be able to visit safely when the time comes.

“Based on what we’re hearing from experts in the tour and travel industry, eventually people are going to be looking for relief from being indoors for so long,” said Scott Williams, Discovery Park CEO. “Our task force is planning for ways we can safely activate our 50 acres to provide a wide-open space that will enable us to meet that need and implement our mission while ensuring everyone’s safety.”

Find more of our content on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube. Also, be sure to check out our blog and our podcast.

Prometheus, A Great Titan of Greek Mythology

Prometheus, A Great Titan of Greek Mythology

Did you know?

Five statues overlook Freedom Square, with the centerpiece of this collection being a Titan of Greek mythology: Prometheus. While the other four statues stand proudly, Prometheus is forced to one knee by shackles, defiantly raising a torch to the sky.

Why is he in shackles on one knee, raising this torch to the sky? First, let’s learn a little about Prometheus. His name can be translated to ‘forethought’, and he’s commonly associated with intelligence, self-sacrifice and inexhaustible empathy. Prometheus went against the wishes of Zeus, king of the Greek gods, by providing fire to humankind, an act which allowed humanity to develop rapidly. His punishment for this deed is immortalized in our statue: Prometheus was bound to a mountain where an eagle would eat his regenerating liver for the rest of eternity. A grueling punishment indeed.

The torch which Prometheus holds represents his unbreakable resilience in the face of oppression, and his determination to bring knowledge to humanity. The story of Prometheus perfectly illustrates how the empathy of one can influence the lives of many, inspiring them to see beyond.

To find out who the other four statues represent, be sure to look for another blog in the future.

For more “Did You Know” articles, check out our latest blog posts.

Also, be sure to watch our “Moments of Discovery” on our Facebook page and YouTube channel.