From the stone-walled kitchen to storerooms on the upper floors to the parlor that served as a makeshift battle hospital, the Whitall House at in National Park radiates Revolutionary history.
Now, it’ll have someone dedicated to bringing that story alive, as Jennifer Lawrence Janofsky was installed Monday as the first Megan Giordano Fellow as part of a partnership between Gloucester County and Rowan University.
For the next 14 months, she will run a program that aims to bring interns from Rowan University to the Whitall House to help with marketing, event and programs coordination and other tasks.
“A short-term goal would be, I think, to increase visibility,” said Janofsky.
Some of her other goals are to reconstruct some of the programs that are offered at the Whitall House and—with the help of volunteers who serve as docents—potentially shift tour hours to bring more people into the historic home, built by a Quaker family in the mid-1700s.
Janofsky, who teaches public history at Villanova University and will also teach the same course at Rowan University this fall, and has also served as a consultant for Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia since 2001, said she applied for the fellowship because she was looking to work at a small historical site.
She was one of several high-quality candidates, according to Rowan professor William Carrigan, who first proposed the fellowship. He said her credentials are well-suited to the program.
“She brings a wealth of knowledge to that role, and a wealth of experience,” said Carrigan.
The fellowship, which will be funded through $15,000 from Rowan and $30,000 from the county, is named after Megan M. Giordano of Gibbstown, the late curator of the Whitall House, who died last May, leaving a void at the historic site.
Freeholder Director Robert M. Damminger, who praised Giordano’s work as curator, said he looks forward to seeing what Janofsky will be able to do in continuing the mission of historic preservation.
“It is amazing, there is so much history in Gloucester County, including this site,” said Damminger.
Monday was Janofsky’s first day as fellow of the program, which she spent learning her way through the house and coming up with a list of short-term and long-term goals for the entirety of her fellowship.
“There is so much work to be done at this point,” said Janofsky.
Currently, she has one intern in place for the summer, but hopes to place more interns from Rowan University, including students from the school’s marketing program, in the hopes of bringing more attention to the home.
Janofsky said her vision is to entice some of the hundreds of people who walk and jog around the battlefield, or relax and watch planes descend across the river into Philadelphia International Airport, into the home itself, to experience the history embedded in its plaster walls.
It’s a win-win for the community, who will get to experience what the Whitall House has to offer, and the students and herself, who will be challenged to make that history accessible.
“This is a real innovative program, what they’re doing,” said Janofsky. “It is a unique relationship to have faculty actually working at this work site.”