From archaeology to butterflies

Museum of American History
Two children dig for century-old artifacts during student archaeology classes at the Museum of American History in Deptford in the summer of 2021.

Kids can pass summer with July programs in the county

Gloucester County residents whose kids have time on their hands this summer can take advantage of several educational programs for youth that begin Thursday at the Museum of American History in Deptford.

One of them is a series of classes on archaeology at local sites hosted by museum curator and founder Jeffrey Norcross, who has done fieldwork at more than 120 historical sites.

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“The excavation at the Andaloro Farmstead is both exploratory and educational,” he said. “The students will be looking for evidence of farm life from 100 years ago. It’s one thing to read about history, it’s another to find it yourself.

“As for handling artifacts, it’s one thing to see an historical artifact, it’s another to hold and touch the three-dimensional object,” Norcross added. “It brings it to life and makes it real, if you will.”

He noted that students have uncovered hundreds of artifacts that include utensils and ceramics, building and agricultural hardware.

“The most interesting objects might be a harrow disc and iron sprockets used in agriculture,” Norcross said, “and an iron harness buckle from a workhorse.”

As for what motivates him to teach, “I had the good fortune to study under Dorothy Nelson, an archaeologist and curator of the Thunderbird Museum in Moorestown, and Horace Richards, a paleontologist from the Academy of Natural Science in Philadelphia,” Norcross recalled.

“This made quite an impression on me as a young man, and I would like to pass that feeling along to young people today.”

The Museum of American History’s permanent exhibits include artifacts from the pre-Columbian through the Colonial eras, the American farmstead, antique hand tools and equipment, Pine Barrens’ artifacts and a fossil exhibit.

Archaeology classes will be held each week this month beginning Thursday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. For cost, information or to schedule a class call (856) 812-1121 or email

Meanwhile volunteers at the Red Bank Battlefield Park are gearing up for a butterfly festival on Saturday and Sunday, July 15 and 16. Attendees will learn the importance of bee pollinators and how to attract them to backyards. There will be tours of the museum’s butterfly house, free classes, a bug parade and other family activities.

Also on the schedule is a free movie in the park night at dusk on Friday, July 21; rain date is Saturday, July 22. The film will be Tom & Jerry, which is based on original cartoon characters developed by William Hanna.

For information about events at the park, call (856) 307-6456.

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