Museum Memories

The May program page has info for this weekend and the remainder of the month. Please check it out if you're looking for something to do.

Everyday is "something" day on the Internet, usually many different "somethings." Tuesday, May 16, was Museum Memories Day (#MusMem). I tweeted that my earliest museum memories were of the Pink Palace Museum in Memphis (now part of a larger museum system in the city where I was born and where music pioneer W.C. Handy gave birth to the blues). I have many happy memories of my mother walking my brother and me there to see things that were familiar (we always followed the same route through the museum, as I recall), including the hollowed out log that had holes in it for you to stick your hand in and feel the taxidermied, I want to say, skunk (or weasel? or badger?). But there were changing exhibits, too - I remember a pair of red shoes from the Wizard of Oz (not the same pair the Smithsonian is conserving?). It was also a place that at an alarmingly early age (7, I think) I walked by myself to meet friends from school to wander around the museum and grounds. I felt at home there. It was my place. And although I have not been there in more than 40 years, I have no doubt that it helped to shape my sense of self, not to mention my career choice.

I have many other museum memories - museum visiting is both a cause and an effect of working in the museum field. Tons of visits to museums and historic sites with family and friends, rarely a vacation that doesn't include one or more. Some visits are milestones in my relationship with my husband ("marching bellhops" to see if he's reading). I won't bore you with all of them here. But all of this to say that sometimes a theme is in my head as I read through social media posts and newsletters from sites on the Trails of History. That was the case this week, so here are some of the things that stuck out at me.

Ephrata Student Historians 2009
Ephrata Cloister Student Historians 2009 (photo E Bertheaud)
Two items in the April issue of the Ephrata Cloister Associates newsletter spoke to the idea of museum memories and the lasting effects museums can have on our lives (even the lives of people who don't choose museum work as a career - shocking, I know). First item: Volunteers Randy and Jolene Newcomer celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary while helping visitors enjoy the buildings and exhibits on Charter Day (March 12). The two met while in high school when they were both Student Historians at Ephrata. That's a long-term commitment to history! Second item: While on their honeymoon in October 1983, Neil and Liz Cotter toured Ephrata Cloister. Their guide was a local student, volunteering on weekends while attending nearby Millersville University. Thirty-three years later, they visited again and were greeted by that same young man (I can say that because I am older than he), now Ephrata's museum educator and a seasoned interpretation professional. The Cotters recognized Michael Showalter as having been their guide and when they returned home, they sent along a picture of him that they had taken on their previous visit. (And Michael now leads the Student Historians program, so we've come full circle back to the first item.)

Inspired by my newsletter reading, I went looking for memories of our sites that visitors had shared on social media. Needless to say, there were many. I picked a couple to share:


And a third post that I'll use to remind you that from Memorial Day to Labor Day, PA Trails of History sites will be participating in the Blue Star Museums program, which provides free admission to active duty military personnel and their families. PHMC sites offer this all year round; participating in the Blue Star Museums program helps us get the word out to eligible families. In March of this year, Willy Paulino wrote a review on the Anthracite Heritage Museum's Facebook page noting that as a military spouse, he was able to take his kids to visit for free. "Great way to give back! Thank you guys for your support!" Thank you to the Paulinos and all the military families who serve our country.

And thank you to the museums and historic sites, on and off the PA Trails of History, who help people every day to create their own lasting museum memories.

7 Trails of History Photos You Might Have Missed

The May programs page has info on events this weekend and beyond.

Landis Valley Museum greenhouse
Greenhouse at Landis Valley Village and Farm Museum in advance of this weekend's Herb and Garden Faire (via Facebook)

Sue Bowman's April 28 article on LancasterFarming.com, "Iron Stoves Were Hot Items: Historian Traces Stove Plate Style," provided a recap of Richard Martin's April 11 lecture, "Warm Your Hands Here," part of Cornwall Iron Furnace's monthly lecture series. It's an interesting read on the evolution of iron stoves and an overview of southeastern PA iron furnaces, of which Cornwall is a notable example. Visit Cornwall's website for a schedule of upcoming lectures and programs.


Curiosity corner at Anthracite spring garden tea
One of the activities at the Anthracite Heritage Museum's recent spring tea was a table of historical objects attendees were asked to identify (more photos of the tea on Facebook).


Earth Day tree planting at Eckley Miners' Village
For Earth Day 2017, as they have done for several years, Eckley Miners' Village teamed with Keystone Job Corps Center to plant a tree outside the visitor center. Construction students prepared the site, planted the tree, and toured the village to learn about the lives of coal miners (via Facebook).


Reenactors at Conrad Weiser Homestead
Reenactors at last weekend's Military Timeline at Conrad Weiser Homestead pose with the newly conserved statue honoring men of the Tulpehocken Valley who fought in World War I (via Facebook).


Sheep-shaped cookies at Pennsbury Manor
As a tasty complement to their annual sheep-shearing event, Pennsbury Manor featured sheep-shaped cookies from Cramer's Bakery in their museum store (via Facebook).


Community Day at PA Lumber Museum
Visitors to last weekend's Community Day event at the PA Lumber Museum talked with representatives of numerous local organizations and agencies and braved rainy weather to tour the outdoor portions of the site (via Facebook).


Old Economy Village unveiled its newly expanded blacksmith shop last weekend with an unusual ribbon cutting ceremony...

U.S. World War I Centennial Continues and Other News

The May program page has info on upcoming events on the PHMC's Trails of History.

Updates on World War I Centennial on the Trails of History

Among the events happening this weekend is a military history timeline at Conrad Weiser Homestead, with reenactors representing PA German units who fought in US conflicts from the French and Indian War up through WWI. A highlight of the event will be the "American doughboy" statue honoring men of the Tulpehocken Valley who served during WWI. Over the years, the statue had become dirty, and the surface was invaded by algae. Professional conservators from the firm of B.R. Howard and Associates (under contract to PHMC) cleaned the statue and treated it with a biocide to kill the algae. Now it looks much better, more like its original appearance, and just in time for the centennial of U.S. entry into World War I.

Weiser doughboy statue during cleaning BRHoward
Weiser doughboy statue after cleaning BR Howard
(Top) Doughboy statue during cleaning
(Bottom) Statue after cleaning and treatment with biocide (photos B.R. Howard & Associates)


I remember one of my grandmothers, who was born in 1907, talking about knitting socks for the soldiers in WWI. Knitting for the soldiers has been an important part of home front activities in many American wars. It strikes me as a highly personal connection between the knitters and the recipients, who may know each other well or who may never ever meet in person. Kudos to Somerset Historical Center for a hands-on lesson about the home front.

Community Connections

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a historic site with beautiful grounds must be in want of throngs of prom-goers lining up to take photos (sorry, Jane). This spring, Ephrata Cloister embraced that truth and decided to reach out more systematically to local high schools. They've scheduled the photo opportunities, staffed information tables to promote programs and membership, and provided complimentary snacks and refreshments. The first weekend drew about 375 people (including prom-goers and families). The primary purpose of this effort was to be a good neighbor, but there have been benefits as well in the form of museum store sales and greater community awareness and appreciation of the site, its beauty, and its history.

On May 2, members of the Pennsylvania Cultural Response Team (PCRT) were at the Pennsylvania State Archives for a hands-on disaster recovery exercise. Along with Archives staff, the team of emergency management and cultural professionals simulated a flood response involving archival and library materials. The PCRT members have been trained in recovery and preservation techniques so that they can assist anywhere in the state when cultural and heritage collections are affected by flooding, fire, or other disasters. They shared some video of Tuesday's drill on Facebook (see below). Staff from the State Archives will also be assisting communities in June with their popular "Archives Without Tears" workshop designed for anyone who is responsible for archival and/or historical records (program brochure and registration info.)



The Pennsylvania Lumber Museum recently posted a thank you to several Galeton businesses who sponsored a visit to the museum by the Gale-Pride after school program.

Drake Well Museum and Park has received funding from the Oil Regional Alliance Educational Mini-Grants Program and the Bridge Builders Community Foundation to fund their new "Transportation Scholarship" program. The funding will subsidize transportation costs for some 800 6th graders in 10 public schools within the Oil Regional National Heritage Area so that they can participate in the Museum's School Tour program.

Last week, in the midst of getting the ship ready for the sailing season, the crew of U.S. Brig Niagara helped with waterfront cleanup in the area around the Erie Maritime Museum and shared some photos on Facebook.

Niagara crew helped with waterfront cleanup April 2017
Niagara crew with their clean-up haul (via Facebook)