American Precision Museum, Vermont

The American Precision Museum celebrates what came to be known in the nineteenth century as the “American system of manufacturing.” The “American system” made modern mass manufacturing possible by combining great refinements in the division of labor, growing precision in machine tooling, and the use of standardized parts. These three factors made it possible to produce manufactured items of high quality at a cost low enough to market to the mass public. The “American system” first developed during the 1840’s and 1850’s in New England with light metalworking industries, including firearms, clocks, watches, locks, and tools of various kinds. From there it spread to neighboring areas and other industries.

The American Precision Museum is housed in a historic building that was itself part of the new system, the Robbins and Lawrence Armory, a National Historic Landmark that was built in 1846. The armory is a fine example of nineteenth century American industrial architecture. The museum displays examples of mechanical and manufacturing technology from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, including some of the interchangeable parts were first produced at the Robbins and Lawrence Armory. The collections also include historic hand and machine tools, guns, sewing machines, typewriters, scale models, measuring devices, and consumer products. A library and resource center are available to students and scholars. The museum also sponsors a variety of activities, including an archaeological excavation at a nearby gristmill site, lectures, demonstrations, and walking tours.

The American Precision Museum is located at 196 Main Street in Windsor, Vermont 05089. Windsor is just off Interstate 91 about 20 miles south of White River Junction, Vermont.

American Jazz Museum, Kansas City, Missouri

In early twentieth-century Kansas City, segregation confined the African American community to a neighborhood around 18th and Vine, isolated from the white world. In this neighborhood, the black community cultivated two forms of jazz music, swing, which was born in Kansas City, and Bebop, which came from elsewhere but grew and developed in the city. Kansas City now celebrates its jazz heritage at the American Jazz Museum. The museum features permanent exhibits on jazz greats Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong, Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, and Charlie “Bird” Parker. The “Studio 18th and Vine” exhibit displays the components of a working music studio with five listening stations to each visitors about the instrumental sections of a jazz band. A resource center called “Jazz Central” houses a collection of research materials, Internet access to jazz-related Web sites, and more than 100 great jazz recordings. The museum’s “Blue Room” recreates the old nightclub of the same name, which was one of the hottest venues in the 18th and Vine District during the 1930’s and 1940’s. The Blue Room displays exhibits on the Kansas City jazz heritage by day, and serves four nights a week as a working jazz club featuring local and national jazz artists. The Charlie Parker Memorial Plaza, featuring a 17-foot bronze reflection of “Bird,” is located just west of the American Jazz Museum at 17th and Vine. Charles Christopher Parker was born in Kansas City, Kansas, August 29,1920, but he cultivated his craft in the Missouri city. The museum is housed with the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in 18th and Vine Complex, in the heart of Kansas City’s historic African American neighborhood.

Mitchell Prehistoric Indian Village, South Dakota

Mitchell Prehistoric Indian Village is on the site of several villages established by Native Americans around 1000 AD near what is now Mitchell, South Dakota. About a thousand people lived in the village in 70 huts constructed of timber frames and mud plaster. The site has been amazingly well preserved because the land has not been plowed in modern times, leaving the ground relatively untouched and full of artifacts. The museum consists of two facilities, the Boehnen Museum and the Archeodome. The Boehnen Museum houses the Patton Gallery, which exhibits an artifact display (including arrowheads and tools) and a replica of a prehistoric Indian Village lodge. The Archeodome is built over two earth lodges and serves as a year round archeological laboratory, allowing archaeologists unlimited access to the excavation site.