A Mid-August Roundup

Looking for something to do this weekend? A link to the August program listings is in the right hand navigation, under "About Us" (or you can click on "August program listings" in this sentence).

Log Farm and Garden, Aug. 7, 2014, via Landis Valley's Facebook page
Thank you to Caroline Briselli for last Friday's post about her internship in Collections Management and to Jake Coen for his Wednesday post about interning in the Pennsylvania State Archives. For more info on summer internships on the Trails of History, check out Chronicle Ephrata or the Pennsylvania Historic Preservation blog.

While pulling together some links for coverage of the Pennsylvania Military Museum's Boot Camp for Kids earlier this month (photos are on Facebook), I noticed that one young man, 12-year-old Jake Tanner, was quoted in both a Centre Daily Times article and on the "We Are Central PA" website. He is apparently a repeat participant and provides a great (unrehearsed, we swear) testimonial for the program. He's quoted on the website as saying, "It's really fun because you get to interact with real veterans, too." The CDT article includes this: "You support the museum. That's probably most important because it does a lot for the community and lets us be in this event. I think it's a way to give back to teach us stuff like this." Jake, you warm my heart.

The Pennsylvania Lumber Museum is mentioned in a PennLive article about scenic views throughout Pennsylvania. The article includes the museum as an attraction nearby the ruins of Austin Dam, in Potter County.

Today (Aug. 15) is the last day to register for discounted admission and model railroading clinics planned for the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania's Model Railroading Day on Sept. 6. Space is limited. National Model Railroad Association, Susquehanna Division, is handling registrations.

The organizers of the Drake Well Marathon are hoping to provide a larger crowd this year to cheer on the runners and encourage them on their 26-mile trek from Drake Well Museum through Titusville to the finish line. If you can head out this Sunday, you can help make Titusville a bigger event for the marathoners and encourage more to participate next year. And speaking of Drake Well, this item reaches way back into June (I finally waded through my Google Alerts). Congratulations are due to Melissa Mann, site administrator, who was recognized with the Samuel T. Pees Keeper of the Flame award by the Petroleum History Institute for her work at Drake Well and, previously, with Oil 150 and the Oil Region Alliance.

Congratulations to the Erie Maritime Museum and US Brig Niagara! The Flagship Niagara League's participation in Erie Gives Day on Tuesday garnered more than $12,500 to support the ship and its programs (and that's before their share of the matching funds). Voting for Erie's Choice Museum is open until August 31, and Erie Maritime Museum is one of the nominees. Vote early, vote often!

Interns onboard for archival road trip

Today's guest blogger is Jake Coen, who has spent this summer as a PHMC Keystone Intern assigned to the Pennsylvania State Archives. A lifelong Harrisburg resident, Jake will return this fall to Providence College, in Rhode Island, where he majors in history. Thanks, Jake.

Pennsylvania State Archives Tower, Harrisburg
       On July 28, the interns at the Pennsylvania State Archives took a field trip to Carlisle to visit three other document and artifact repositories.  While the State Archives contains artifacts ranging from railroad engineering drawings to a few locks of Thomas Jefferson’s hair, the visit to Carlisle proved to be an eye-opening experience. 
      The first stop on the Carlisle trip was to the Army Heritage and Education Center.  This massive federal complex boasts a museum of American military history, a series of outdoor interactive exhibits and reconstructions, an impressive archive and artifact repository and two state-of-the-art conservation labs.  Needless to say, it was a very impressive experience!  Interns were treated to a private tour of the museum that pointed out not only the major artifacts on display and interactive experience, but also drew attention to the planning and construction of exhibits.  After a walk through the conservation labs and artifact repository, the head of the archives gave the interns a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see (and touch!) some priceless documents, including a letter written by Robert E. Lee during his retreat from Gettysburg and the transcript from the telephone room at Pearl Harbor on the day of the Japanese bombardment. 
       Across town, the Dickinson College archives and special collection opened its doors for the Keystone Interns to explore its collection of rare books, school records, historical documents of local importance and some private papers of some of the college’s most notable alumni, including President James Buchanan.  In addition, the interns enjoyed several special exhibits assembled by Dickinson College interns.  These exhibits used items from the special collection, notably a selection of artifacts and oddities collected from around the world by Dickinson alumni, and an impressive collection of tools used by Joseph Priestley, the 18th-century scientist responsible for the discovery of oxygen. [Editor's note: Dr. Priestley's American home and laboratory in Northumberland is part of the Pennsylvania Trails of History.]
    The last stop was the Cumberland County Historical Society, a privately owned and operated museum, library and archive.  During a private tour around the museum and collections, the interns discussed the challenges and rewards of maintaining a private archive and museum as well as some of the technological and outreach-based programs used by the society to preserve its records and to reach a wider audience. 
      While it may seem like one museum or one archive may have it all when it comes to a certain topic or field of interest, the State Archives intern field trip to Carlisle demonstrates that this is simply not true.  Each repository and museum offers its own unique and exciting collections that are arranged and cared for in a variety of ways.  Whether holding soldiers’ journals, a collection of 16th-century books, or a variety of maps and charts of a particular region, the three archives visited by the interns presented a different set of records that, when looked at as a whole, complemented each other to form a much fuller picture than any single institution could do on its own.

A Summer in Collections Management

The listing for August events on the Pennsylvania Trails of History is in last week's post.

PHMC Keystone Intern Caroline Briselli is a rising sophomore at the Pennsylvania State University, majoring in history with a minor in business in the liberal arts. In this week’s guest post, she shares with us her experience working in the State Museum of Pennsylvania’s Collections Management office. Thank you, Caroline, and best of luck for the next steps in your career.

What’s the role of the collections management office? What does a registrar do? How do museums acquire artifacts? If someone had asked me those questions a few months ago, I couldn’t have given them anything more than a blank stare. Today, after spending thirteen weeks interning at the State Museum of Pennsylvania, I can answer all those questions, and more. The experiences I have gained this summer, and the opportunities I have had access to are incredibly valuable and very unique to this program.

Red, white, and blue cotton dress worn in Highspire, PA, parade, 1918
via PA Trails of History Facebook page
One of my favorite parts of the internship is helping with the inventory project. The State Museum recently embarked on a complete inventory of their collection – every artifact, from the heaviest pieces of furniture to the most delicate porcelain doll, is getting counted. While it may seem overwhelming, this project is essential to gain a better understanding of our collection and what’s in it. [Editor’s note: PHMC has been sharing info on social media (including Trailheads) about rarely seen artifacts encountered during the inventory project.] I worked side-by-side with a curator to inventory almost 2,000 artifacts in the Community and Domestic Life collection and came across everything from silverware to textile stamps to candlestick molds to still-full bottles of Pennsylvania liquor. Every drawer, box, and shelf had a unique artifact with a story!

I also catalogued a collection of Christmas artifacts – ornaments, Christmas tree lights, stockings and even a Santa Claus puzzle. I measured, photographed and described each artifact, then entered the information into CuadraSTAR, the collections management database used by the PHMC. Cataloguing is the process of creating a record for an object, which allows the collections management office to keep track of information about artifacts, such as their appearance, their condition and their provenance.

The collections management office not only handles the collections of the State Museum, but also those of the PHMC’s historic sites. One of these sites, similarly to the State Museum, had recently undergone a complete inventory, so I helped with the second step of the process, inventory justification. Using the catalog information, as well as accession records, I worked to make sure that everything on-site was in its place, and looked for anything that had been lost or misplaced. It was always very rewarding when a stray artifact could be reunited with its catalog number!

I visited several of the PHMC's historic sites. One of my favorite trips was with my supervisor, Mary Jane Miller, the collections manager. We attended a collections committee meeting, where I learned about the process by which the PHMC acquires – “accessions” – and removes – “deaccessions” – artifacts in the collection. This summer, I also learned more about the role of the registrar, who works to keep track of accessions, deaccessions, and loans, both from our museum to other museums and from other museums to us.

Over the past several weeks, I have gained experience that will help me as I pursue a career in the museum field. The role of the collections management office is to keep track of all the artifacts in a museum, and I’m fortunate to have worked in the office that provides this crucial service to the PHMC. I’ve learned how to inventory, how to justify an inventory, how to catalogue artifacts and how to use a collections management database. Outside of collections management, I’ve sat in on webinars about the future of museums, shadowed the museum education department, visited historic sites, and attended a nomination meeting for the National Register of Historic Places.

2014 Keystone Interns during visit to the Railroad Museum of PA
I would encourage anyone interested in the field of history to apply for the Keystone Internship program. PHMC, has so much to offer students in the way of experience and networking. Our intern coordinator, Amy Jukus, organized events that help the interns make connections with museum professionals who can provide advice about career paths, education, and the field. Interns have the opportunity for professional development and career exploration, and PHMC staff members are always willing to let interns shadow them.

I have had a great summer interning at the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, and I would like to thank everyone on staff for supporting the interns – especially Mary Jane Miller, Maureen Lane, and Amy Jukus!