Ben Franklin: In Search of a Better World, May 4 - July 8, 2011

Franklin drawing electricity from the sky

The Ann Arbor District Library special exhibit, Benjamin Franklin: In Search of a Better World, celebrates Franklin's 300th birthday and allows the viewer to experience the life and adventures of an extraordinary man. Scientist, inventor, diplomat, humorist, philanthropist, and entrepreneur, Benjamin Franklin was one of the most influential and remarkable Americans of any generation. His name evokes many qualities - imagination and curiosity, hard work and ambition, wit and entrepreneurial ingenuity -- qualities that have contributed to the formation of an American identity and American values.

Benjamin Franklin: In Search of a Better World was organized by the Benjamin Franklin Tercentenary, Philadelphia, and the American Library Association Public Programs Office. The traveling exhibition for libraries has been made possible by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: great ideas brought to life.

The traveling exhibition is based on a major exhibition of the same name mounted by the Benjamin Franklin Tercentenary to commemorate the 300th anniversary of Franklin’s birth. The Benjamin Franklin Tercentenary is a nonprofit organization established through a major grant from the Pew Charitable Trusts to educate the public about Franklin’s enduring legacy.

Join us here as we celebrate Benjamin Franklin - the exhibit, the man, his ideas and his influence. Check out all our Ben Franklin events for a complete list of events and activities surrounding the exhibit.

The full exhibit text with image descriptions is available on-site in both Large Print and Braille formats. Use the links below to view or hear the full exhibit text in the following formats:

PDF Version Audio Version Text-Only Version

(Image: Franklin drawing electricity from the sky, ca. 1816. Benjamin West. Philadelphia Museum of Art, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Wharton Sinkler, 1958. Photo by Graydon Wood)

Ben Franklin and Liberty's Kids, on DVD

This youth animated adventure is set in the 1700s, and stars Ben Franklin and his teenage apprentices… Sarah, James, Henri, and Moses. Originally airing on PBS, Liberty's Kids tells of young people in dramas surrounding the major events in the Revolutionary War days, and aims to educate those aged 7 to 14.

Visit the show’s website, where you can play Liberty’s Kids related games, make your own newspaper, learn more about your favorite character, or watch an episode.

Some of the voice actors portraying famous historical figures include Liam Neeson, Norman Schwarzkopt, Annette Bening, Billy Crystal, Dustin Hoffman (as Benedict Arnold), Maria Shriver, Arnold Schwarzeneggar, Ben Stiller (as Thomas Jefferson), Sylvester Stallone, and Whoopi Goldberg. Now, that sounds interesting!

This is the last week for AADL's Ben Franklin: In Search of a Better World exhibit. Be sure to have a peek if you haven't already! It's located Downtown, on the 3rd floor, and in the Multi-Purpose Room. For the kids, stop in the youth department and check out our Ben Franklin Renaissance Kid wall! We've got some activity sheets for kids to work on to learn more about Ben Franklin.

Spy School: Continuing Education

Crafting, sending, and decoding your own spy letters can be a great way to practice writing, reading, and counting skills with an exciting twist! If you were interested by the recent Spy School and Revolutionary War Spycraft events, the exploration and learning can continue through these engaging resources:

First, check out the public lists Codes and Ciphers and Renaissance Kid - Spycraft!. On these lists, you will find a range of items available at AADL. There are books for youth and adults as well as videos for youth.

Next, head to the William L. Clements Library's online exhibit, Spy Letters of the American Revolution. Browse through real spy letters from the 1700s, and learn about the methods of invisible ink, codes, mask letters, and quill letters! Find out the stories of the people behind these fascinating letters, including men and women who spied for and against the American cause. Learn about the history and geography of this time period and the famous and lesser known heroes involved.

For some hands-on fun, practice your own spy letter skills with recipes for invisible ink, instructions for using a dictionary code similar to the code used by the Culper Gang, and a guide to make your own St. Cyr slide (and scroll up and down that page for many more types of codes!). Try sending a Morse code message with a flashlight in the middle of the night. There are forty more codes and spy activities to try in this book! And don't forget, inventing your own code after practicing some of these examples is a great way to stretch your brain and creativity!SpySchoolSpySchool

Ben Franklin: Self-Taught Multi-Linguist!

Ben on IpodBen on Ipod

One of the many fascinating facts I've learned about Ben Franklin is that he taught himself to read French, Spanish, Latin, and Italian. You can teach yourself a wide range of languages just like Ben. Maybe not just like Ben as he surely didn't have the kinds of social networking options that we have now! Byki offers a free mobile app for the iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, and Android where you can brush up on the language of your choice. There are also social networking components to assist in your language learning on Facebook, Twitter, and various blogs written by native speakers. For links to language learning materials, and books, movies, magazines, and CDs available in various languages through AADL click here!

Ben Brilliant: Science Experiments for Kids!

Ben Franklin was a legendary inventor whose imagination and hard work led him to conduct famous scientific experiments and invent many new devices.

Inspire the young scientist in your family with stories of Franklin's experiments and inventions with Gene Barretta's Now & Ben: The Modern Inventions Of Benjamin Franklin, Rosalyn Schanzer's How Ben Franklin Stole The Lightning, and Pamela Nettleton's Benjamin Franklin: Writer, Inventor, Statesman.

Then dig into some experimenting yourself! This website from the Franklin Institute has instructions for experiments with electricity, air, heat, and the glass armonica. If electricity sparks your imagination, there are plenty more experiments on this topic, including how to build your own Leyden jar!

Did you know that Ben Franklin was the first scientist to study the Gulf Stream, a powerful, warm current in the Atlantic Ocean. Take your own voyage on the Gulf Stream with these science and math activities!

If you're a teacher or parent seeking to incorporate educational lessons and experiments inspired by Ben Franklin's life, refer to the PBS Benjamin Franklin Teacher's Guide, a series of eight lesson plans aligned to National Standards.

BenFranklinScienceBenFranklinScience

Chess Strategies and Tips

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Come to this strategy session, led by chess expert, Jennifer Skidmore! Learn key tips to master the chess board, and then, play some chess!

This event compliments the Benjamin Franklin: In Search of a Better World exhibit (which will be on display at the Downtown Library until July 8. According to Ben Franklin, "The Game of Chess is not merely an idle amusement; several very valuable qualities of the mind, useful in the course of human life, are to be acquired and strengthened by it."

Thursday, June 23 | 7 - 8:30 PM | Downtown-Multi-Purpose Room | Grades 4-Adult

Heritage Quest: Benjamin Franklin as a Genealogist by John W. Jordan

Benjamin Franklin Family TreeBenjamin Franklin Family TreeIn 1899, John Woolf Jordan (historian and genealogy writer of the late 1800's and early 1900's) wrote an article for the Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography titled, “Franklin as a Genealogist”. Mr. Jordan obtained original letters and records and wrote about Benjamin Franklin’s genealogical quest. Benjamin Franklin investigated his family line and created what Mr. Jordan referred to as a pedigree (a family tree, a portion of Benjamin Franklin's pedigree is displayed in the blog photo). You too can see the original documents (some in Benjamin Franklin’s own hand) using the Heritage Quest research database.

The Heritage Quest database (available @ AADL) has documents imaged from the 1790 - 1930 U.S. federal censuses and images from over 20,000 book titles, including family and local histories. To access the Heritage Quest database from home, simply login to your online library account. You can search census data, books and local histories, revolutionary war pension and bounty-land-warrant application files, Freedman's Bank documents, and Serial Set documents. I searched for books about Ann Arbor and found several, including: Polk's Ann Arbor City Directory,1915 and the Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti and Washtenaw County Directory, 1888-9.

The Hatmaker’s Sign: A Story by Benjamin Franklin

The Hatmaker’s Sign is a picture book tells the tale of Ben Franklin consoling Thomas Jefferson during an editing debate that came about after he submitted his draft of the Declaration of Independence. Jefferson wrote this great document he was proud of and the Continental Congress offered many suggestions for improvement. He took this to heart, and Franklin tried to reassure Jefferson, which resulted in him telling a story of a hat maker getting a sign made for his new shop.

On his way to the sign maker the hat maker is stopped several times and offered advice on changing the sign. The moral of the story is that "No matter what you write, or how well you write it, if the public is going to read it, you can be sure they will want to change it." Ben Franklin, being the master story teller that he was, used the tale to console Jefferson during an important historical event.

For more Franklin facts, fun and events, see here.

Revolutionary War Spycraft: Codes and Deciphering

Don your spy mask and join us for Revolutionary War Spycraft: Codes and Deciphering! Learn how to create and decipher cryptic messages (like spies in the American Revolution) and compete to crack a secret code! Cheney Schopieray, manuscript expert from the University of Michigan Clements Library, will also shed light on the history of American and British spies at work during the lifetime of Ben Franklin. This program is geared toward participants grade 6 to adult. No registration required; all supplies provided.

When: Thursday, June 30th, 1:00pm to 3:00pm
Where: Malletts Creek Branch: Program RoomSecretCodeSecretCode

Ben Franklin on Video

The Ben Franklin exhibit continues!

Obviously, there are many documentaries on Ben Franklin. One from the History Channel not only features Ben, it also has a snippet from the series Save our History. Another from the History Channel includes a small printed study guide. Ben is even the main subject of one of the discs of the channel's The Founding of America series.

There are also some more interesting DVDs we have that include Ben. Liberty's Kids, a chidlren's TV series from 2002 has Ben as one of its main characters. There is also a short Disney production based on the book Ben and Me.

Two characters that have been named after the real Ben are Benjamin Franklin Pierce, from M*A*S*H, and Benjamin Franklin Gates, from National Treasure.

My personal favorite is either the "Ben Franklin" episode of The Office, or the musical film 1776, starring Howard Da Silva as our beloved Ben.

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