If you walk into the Princeton University Art Museum, climb the stairs to the second floor, and look across the gallery, you’ll find yourself standing across from George Washington himself. “George Washington at the Battle of Princeton, 1784” depicts a life-sized portrait of America’s first president during the Revolutionary War, gazing out from a scene set at Nassau Hall. What is most interesting about this painting, however, is the story of its birth. The beautiful gold frame around it once hung in Nassau Hall, where it housed a portrait of King George II. During the Battle of Princeton, a cannonball fired at Nassau Hall tore through the building and, symbolically, went directly through the portrait of King George, leaving the frame untouched. Following the battle, the trustees of Princeton University commissioned a new portrait, this time of George Washington. For years, this painting hung in Nassau Hall before its relocation to the campus’s art museum.
These are the stories I love to share with others. For the past two years, I have volunteered as a tour guide here, giving tours to visitors and other Princeton students. Before my sophomore year, I had never set foot inside the museum, despite the fact that it is truly an incredible resource to have on campus. I think it is incredible that, as a biology major, I have been welcomed freely into the art museum family, and that I have been trained and trusted to talk about the collections there. It’s been so much fun to learn more about the art and to share that knowledge, and I know that my Princeton experience has been richer because of it.