Not Unlucky At All

Check the October program page for info on upcoming events!

So, this is the first Friday the 13th we've had since January - some years we have more, but this year, just the two. And not another one until April. So, could be worse, I guess. Easy for me to say.

Fall programming is continuing apace and sites are sharing photos and info, so I've selected some to pass along.

Bushy Run path Fall 2017
Bushy Run Battlefield (via Facebook)
Bushy Run Battlefield's museum facilitator reports: "Our Fall Nature Walk [Sept. 30] was a large success with about 30 adults and children joining our volunteers Bob Learzaf and Dave Browning for a walk through the woods and trails. Bob and Dave took them on a two-hour walk and identified many of the native plants we have at Bushy Run." The sold-out Fall Tea last weekend featured a talk on colonial herbal practices by Lori Lazar of Hedge Witch Apothecary (photos on FB). And due to high demand, the Haunted History Hayride on Oct. 21 has already sold out for this year. Although the site closes Oct. 29 for regular visitation (reopening in the spring), there are still two special events on the schedule (check Facebook page for details).

Bill Stumpf Pithole Lantern tours 2017
Deeter and Griffin Pithole Lantern Tours 2017
The indomitable Bill Stumpf (top) as Charles Leonard, Lee Deeter and Gavin Griffin (bottom) as teamsters at Historic Pithole City's Lantern Tours (photos from Drake Well Museum)
I also heard from Sarah Goodman and Sheri Hamilton at Drake Well Museum with an update on last weekend's Lantern Tour event at Historic Pithole City. Sarah reports that more than "500 visitors encountered different petroleum history characters and listened to their colorful stories about Historic Pithole City. The evening was amazing with the Harvest Moon rising over the grounds and illuminating the spirits. Visitors also enjoyed listening to period music and seasonal refreshments while awaiting their tour." Sheri added: "Everyone enjoyed themselves, even the staff!" Congrats on another great program.

Logging camp at PA Lumber Museum
Wildflowers and fall foliage at PA Lumber Museum (via Facebook)
The Fall Antiques and Collectibles Show at the Pennsylvania Lumber Museum last weekend drew enthusiastic shoppers as well as folks who wanted to see the sawmill in action and explore the history of logging and forestry. The museum and grounds are also a wonderful venue for taking in the colors of autumn. (More photos on the museum's Facebook page.) This Sunday, the PA Lumber Museum Associates (PALMA) will hold their annual meeting and enjoy a program looking back at the history of the museum.

Looking ahead...

PHMC and the Pennsylvania Historical Association have announced application details for the Scholars in Residence Program, which provides support for full-time research and study in the manuscript and state record collections maintained by the Pennsylvania State Archives. Residency programs are open to anyone researching Pennsylvania history, including academic scholars, public sector professionals, independent scholars, graduate students, educators, writers, filmmakers and others. Residencies may be scheduled for up to four weeks between June 15, 2018, and August 15, 2018. Stipends will be awarded. Please visit the PA State Archives Scholars in Residence page for complete details on how to apply. The deadline for applications is Feb. 15, with notifications going out in April.

This weekend marks the beginning of a 4-part "Vietnam Lecture Series" at the Pennsylvania Military Museum. Speakers will include historians and veterans, providing a variety of perspectives on the Vietnam War. All lectures take place from 2 to 4 pm in the museum auditorium. There is no charge for the lectures, although regular admission rates apply to visit the exhibits.

Now That You Mention It

The October program page has info on upcoming events on the Trails of History (this weekend's highlights below). Please note that most sites will be closed on Monday, Oct. 9, for Columbus Day, but Drake Well Museum and Park, Fort Pitt Museum, and the Railroad Museum of PA will be open (to the best of my knowledge, it's always a good idea to check ahead to make sure).

If you missed last Friday's guest post from Rachel Yerger about a collection of military medals from World War I, you can still find it here, "The Extraordinary Heroism of Ordinary People."


I spend a fair amount of time keeping up with the social media posts that Trails of History sites put out so that I know what they're doing and can help spread the word. But I also try to pay attention to the times when other people's social media accounts mention a Trails of History site. This past week or so, I noticed several mentions (I'm sure there were more) so I'm sharing.

Historic Hope Lodge
Historic Hope Lodge, Montgomery County (from Facebook)
The "Historic Trades & Skills of Colonial Williamsburg" page on Facebook posts all kinds of stuff about the various shops throughout the historic area. Lately the Joinery folks have been posting photos of noteworthy colonial era historic houses that are not part of Colonial Williamsburg. In late September, they included our own Hope Lodge, showcasing its Georgian symmetry, the history of ownership, and its side-by-side interpretation of the 18th century and the 20th Century Colonial Revival era.

The current issue of Mountain Home magazine includes an article on the Pennsylvania Lumber Museum as a wedding and meeting venue. The writer interviewed staff of the museum as well as the first couple to hold a wedding there, in August 2015, shortly after the renovated museum visitor center was dedicated. One of the goals of the renovation and expansion was to create more space for community meetings and events in an area where rental facilities are fairly scarce.

Earlier this week, PennLive posted a story highlighting "35 of the Best PA Small Towns." The blurb for Coudersport, Potter County, included mention of the PA Lumber Museum (which sits between Galeton and Coudersport on Route 6), and the note about Somerset included the Somerset Historical Center. Thanks, PennLive, for recognizing the importance of local museums to making small towns distinctive and visit-worthy.

This weekend (including today)...
Drake Well Museum and Park
Oct. 7: Lantern Tours at Pithole—explore the remains of a 19th-century oil boomtown and learn about the colorful characters who lived there during its brief existence (see article in the Titusville Herald). This is an all-weather event and takes place primarily outdoors, so please dress accordingly. Tickets are $10, and space is limited (more info and online ticketing). Tours set out from the visitor center at 10-minute intervals from 6:30 to 9:30 pm; as of yesterday, the 6:30, 7, 7:30, and 8 pm tour times are sold out. Advance ticket sales will be cut off at 3 pm today (10/6).

Ephrata Cloister
Oct. 6-7: Apple Dumpling Sales—enjoy a delicious PA Dutch tradition and support the Back to the Cloister Fund (which helps to return original furnishings and objects to the site). Dumplings, from Aschenbach's Bakery, are $4 each and are referred to as "meal-sized." There is no admission charge to buy apple dumplings (regular admission applies if you want to tour the site). Free local delivery can be arranged for advance orders of 20 or more; call 717/733-6600. Fri., 9:30 am-4 pm, Sat., 9:30 am until sold out.
Oct. 8: Day of Music—the Ephrata Cloister Chorus will perform in the Saal at 2, 3, and 4 pm. Included in regular admission, site is open noon-5 pm (guided tours will be available).

Landis Valley Village and Farm Museum
Oct. 7-8: Harvest Days—a classic special event and a great way to celebrate the coming of fall. Loads of demonstrations and activities for the whole family in a beautiful setting. New this year, a maze cut into a field of sorghum (see video). (Details in this article from LancasterOnline.com.) Admission: adults, $12; seniors, $10; age 6-11, $8; free parking. 11 am-5 pm.

Old Economy Village
Oct. 7-8: Erntedankfest - A Harvest Festival—celebrate the fall harvest as artisans throughout the village cook, bake, and demonstrate their craft skills. Music, food, and family activities make this a great tradition. Included in regular admission. Sat., 10 am-5 pm; Sun., noon-5 pm.

Pennsbury Manor
October 8: Sunday programming—this week, Living History Theater presents the wedding of John Sotcher and Mary Lofty, William Penn’s steward and housekeeper, following 17th-century Quaker customs. Included in regular admission. 1-4 pm.

Pennsylvania Lumber Museum
Oct 7-8: Annual Fall Antique and Collectible Show—this event features dozens of vendors and supports the programs of the Lumber Museum. Other activities include sawmill operation (Saturday only), birch still and blacksmithing demos, and food for purchase in the community room. $5 admission ($3 for kids) includes the show and all museum exhibits and activities. 10 am-5 pm.

Pennsylvania Military Museum
Oct. 7: Keeping It Clean: A History of Arms & Cleaning Techniques—learn about the history of a variety of military weapons, their use, and appropriate care. Donation requested. Noon-3 pm.

State Museum of Pennsylvania
Oct. 6: Last Day - Archaeology at Fort Hunterthis season's excavations by State Museum archaeology team wrap up today. You can drop by between 10 am and 3 pm to see what's up.
Oct. 6: StoryTime—today's program, designed for kids age 3-5 with an adult, takes place in Ecology Hall to learn about squirrels. The book is Frisky Brisky Hippity Hop, by Alexina B. White. Included in general admission. 10-11 am.

Get your Questions Ready: Join us for Ask An Archivist Day

Join us on Wednesday, October 4 for Ask An Archivist 


Archivists, by nature and profession, are some of the most patient people on the planet.  They're accustomed to being peppered with questions from researchers and visitors determined to track down everything from land records to genealogical histories.  

On Wednesday, you will have the undivided attention of four archivists from the Pennsylvania State Archives.  Kurt Bell, Rich Saylor, Aaron McWilliams and Josh Stahlman will take part in Ask An Archivist Day.

Sponsored by the Society of American Archivists, Ask An Archivist offers the public the opportunity to connect directly to archivists in their community — and around the country — through asking questions, gathering information, or just satisfying curiosity.

#AskAnArchivist Day is open to everyone - all you need is a Twitter account. To participate, just tweet a question to @PHMC and include the hashtag #AskAnArchivist in your tweet. Our archivists will see your question instantly. 

Here’s our schedule for Ask An Archivist Day:

Kurt Bell

10 a.m. to 10:45 a.m.: Kurt Bell will start us off with his vast knowledge of the history of railroading in Pennsylvania, specifically the records held by the Pennsylvania State Archives and the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania.  

Rich Saylor

11 a.m. to 11:45 a.m.: Join Pennsylvania State Archives' Rich Saylor for a World War I-themed Twitter Q&A. Earlier this year, Rich debuted an exhibit at The State Museum of Pennsylvania which spotlights an historic collection of World War I-era postersPennsylvania At War: World War I Posters from the Pennsylvania State Archives commemorates the anniversary of the U.S. involvement in World War I . Rich will also take questions relating to Pennsylvania military records from other historical eras preserved by the Archives.  

Aaron McWilliams
1 p.m to 1:45 p.m.: Aaron McWilliams will kick off our afternoon segment of Ask An Archivist. McWilliams will answer your questions regarding genealogy and family histories.  To date, more than 14 million records preserved by the Pennsylvania State Archives have been digitized by Ancestry.com and are available to commonwealth residents, free of charge.  These documents include birth and death certificates and marriage records.  Some of the more unusual documents include a 1909 birth certificate from a Pottstown resident named "Batman."  Ask Aaron about the celebrities, such as Katy Segal and Steve Buscemi, who visited the Archives.

Josh Stahlman


3 p.m. to 3:45 p.m.: Rounding out Ask An Archivist Day will be Josh Stahlman.  Ask Josh for tips and techniques regarding disaster planning and response.  





The Extraordinary Heroism of Ordinary People

Today’s post, based on a collection at the PA Military Museum (PMM), is from guest blogger Rachel Yerger, one of the Collections Advancement Project curators in the PHMC’s Bureau of Historic Sites and Museums. Rachel’s other posts for Trailheads include the story of a collection of WWI letters also held at PMM.

As a curator, one of my responsibilities is to catalog donated objects. This often requires research into the objects, as well as the person to whom they belonged. A few years ago, I was lucky enough to work on an impressive collection of World War I military medals belonging to 2nd Lt. Tali Esen Waters. Since we are in the middle of WWI centennial commemorations, I thought now would be the perfect time to share this man’s story of service and heroism.

Photos of 107th Field Artillery DSC recipients
Members of 107th Field Artillery who received the Distinguished Service Cross
Tali Esen Waters is in the top right corner (excuse the wonky AKF photo of page 652, Pennsylvania in the World War)
Tali Esen (sometimes written as Taliesen) Waters was born in Nanticoke, Pennsylvania, on March 19, 1894, and was the youngest son of two Welsh immigrants. At the time of his enlistment on August 15, 1916, his occupation is shown as “medical student.” Tali, as he was affectionately known, served as a private in the Hospital Corps of the PA National Guard’s 9th Regiment. He served with the Pennsylvania National Guard on the Mexican Border from September 1916 through March 1917, and when the United States entered World War I, Waters re-enlisted with the 28th Division.

Tali Esen Waters Distinguished Service Cross WWI
Distinguished Service Cross awarded to Tali Esen Waters (MM2013.13.1A)

As a 2nd Lieutenant deployed with the 107th Field Artillery Unit, Waters earned five battle stars and multiple service awards. He earned the Distinguished Service Cross (photo above) while in action on September 6, 1918, near Baslieux-lès-Fismes, France. The Distinguished Service Cross (DSC) is the second highest award given by the US Army and is awarded for “extraordinary heroism.” According to military records, “Lieutenant Waters voluntarily went to the assistance of a large number of wounded soldiers, who were in an exposed position awaiting aid, and continued for several hours to dress their wounds throughout a severe bombardment of gas and high-explosive shells, while hostile airplanes flew low and swept with machine-gun fire the line of litters bearing the wounded. After administering aid to 36 wounded men, Lieutenant Waters helped carry them to a place of safety.” The DSC is usually awarded for combat service; this is a rare occasion of a DSC awarded for humanitarian actions. (For more information, see "The 107th Field Artillery" in Pennsylvania in the World War: An Illustrated History of the Twenty-eighth Division, Vol. 2, 1921.)

Croix de Guerre awarded to Tali Esen Waters
French Croix de Guerre (MM2013.13.2)

Less than a year later, on January 24, 1919, 2nd Lt. Waters would prove himself yet again, this time taking charge of a first aid station 1,000 meters from the German trenches and providing essential medical aid to 46 soldiers, all while under extreme enemy fire. For this act of heroism, Waters was awarded the French Croix de Guerre with a gilt star (photo above).

Inter-Allied Games Badge
Inter-Allied Games Badge (MM2013.13.5)

Waters also earned a Silver Star, a United States Victory Medal (service medal), and a New Jersey Medal for Distinguished Service (he moved to New Jersey after the war). He also received a badge (photo above) for his role as a medical assistant at the Inter-Allied Games, an international military athletic event held in 1919 at the newly built Pershing Stadium just outside Paris. Participating athletes were active duty military personnel and those who had served in the armed forces during the First World War. (For more information see Joseph Mills Hanson and George Wythe’s Inter-Allied Games, 1919.)

Purple Heart awarded to Tali Esen Waters
Purple Heart (MM2013.13.4A)

In 1932, the War Department reinstated the Purple Heart and authorized its presentation to WWI veterans who had received General Pershing’s certificate for meritorious service or those who had been wounded in action. Tali Esen Waters’s Purple Heart is now part of the PMM collection. (For more on the history of the Purple Heart medal, see Fred Borch’s article, "A Heart of Purple: The Story of America's Oldest Military Decoration and Some of its Recipients," in the Winter 2012 issue of Prologue Magazine from the National Archives.)

Without a doubt, the war had taken a toll on Waters’s medical ambitions. He and his wife, Isabelle, moved to West Orange, New Jersey, where they lived a quiet and happy life; Tali managed a carpet factory in New York City. It was in West Orange where Tali and Isabelle would befriend the Heselton family. The Heselton and Waters households became so close that upon Tali’s death in 1959, Isabelle gave the Heseltons his military medals. The Heseltons, honoring Tali Esen Waters’s contributions and sacrifices, donated the medal collection to the Pennsylvania Military Museum in 2013. These medals, along with other World War I artifacts and stories preserved at the museum, provide us a with a glimpse into the sacrifices ordinary Pennsylvanian men and women made during The Great War.

Are You Ready?

The September program page has info on events through the end of the month. The October page will be up sometime next week for those of you who want to plan ahead.

Ready or not, the autumnal equinox happens today, Sept. 22, marking the beginning of fall in the northern hemisphere and spring in the southern hemisphere. While the warm temps we've had for the past week or so in PA make it still feel like summer, we are seeing signs of fall foliage. Reports are that the colors will be vibrant this year, which makes me happy. Fall is, I think, my favorite season and a mere glimpse of orange, red, and yellow leaves on a hillside can elevate my mood. For my fellow leaf nerds enthusiasts, in addition to following the PA Lumber Museum to see their posts (like the one above) you can check out the PA Dept. of Conservation and Natural Resources. They monitor the state of foliage color in the, uh, state and post reports on their website (report for Sept. 21-27).

Speaking of readiness, did you know that September is National Preparedness Month? I did not. This month has certainly tested the preparedness of many people and communities. Sites and museums on the Trails of History have been working to update and maintain their disaster preparedness plans as a matter of good practice, as have our counterparts around the country. To help families with their own preparedness, ReadyPA offers suggestions and guidance on what to include in your personal plans.

In other news...
Google Alerts pointed me to a post on the Misericordia University (MU) website earlier this week. The article noted that senior history major Amber Kelley will present a paper at the upcoming Pennsylvania Historical Association annual meeting in Scranton. Kelley's paper is entitled "American Lithuanian Immigrants' Response to Soviet Union's Attack on Their Cultural Identity." As reported on Trailheads in July Amber interned this summer at the Anthracite Heritage Museum, working with curator John Fielding on a variety of projects, which she chronicled on MU's local history blog. MU's website explains that "AHM has a practice of suggesting its interns consider larger research projects related to their collections. Under [MU history professor Dr. Jennifer] Black's direction, Kelley expanded her summer work and developed the cultural identity research project." Congrats to Amber Kelley, Dr. Black, and the staff at AHM.

Atlas Obscura is a wonderful resource for learning about places all over the globe; they frequently feature museums and historic sites that you may not have heard of or visited. A recent post featured the Germantown Colony and Museum in Minden, Louisiana. Turns out the group that settled there in 1835 was originally part of the Harmony Society, whose last home is preserved as Old Economy Village, part of the Trails of History. About a third of the Harmony Society members left Economy in 1832, following the Count de Leon (who claimed to be the Messiah and to have discovered the secret of turning base metals into gold). They initially settled nearby (founding the town now known as Monaca). Some of that group accompanied Leon when he moved on to Louisiana (read the rest).

Detail of porch column repair at Landis Valley
Porch column stabilization in process (via Landis Valley Village & Farm Museum Facebook page)
PHMC's Preservation Construction Field Services staff Rob Coates and Dylan Shanta have been making repairs to the porch of the Landis Valley Hotel. The work involves stabilizing the porch columns (see detail above) and replacing some of the boards. Preservation of historic structures, keeping them available for the public, and sharing the stories of the people who built and used them is an ongoing process that requires resources, dedicated staff, passionate volunteers, and creativity.

Coming up this weekend...
Cornwall Iron Furnace
Sept. 23: Cast Iron Cooking Demonstration—learn about cast iron cooking pots and see them in use. The cooking aromas and demo are free. Regular admission fees apply for tours of the Furnace (see where cast iron comes from). Demonstration 11 am-3 pm; museum is open 9 am-5 pm.

Fort Pitt Museum
Sept. 23: Pittsburgh History Paddle—start with a brief tour of the museum's indoor exhibits, then set off on a kayak tour of landmarks related to Fort Pitt and the Point. Previous paddling experience is required, and you must register through Venture Outdoors. 9 am-1 pm.

Hope Lodge
Sept. 24: Whitemarsh Township History Tour—Hope Lodge will be one of the stops on this bus tour of local history. Tours begin and end at St. Thomas Church, Flourtown (details and info on how to register).

Old Economy Village
Sept. 23: Special programming—this week, Natural History. Included in regular admission, so please start at the Visitor Center. 11 am-4 pm.

Pennsbury Manor
Sept. 22: Pairings at Pennsbury—ten courses of delicious food from local restaurants and chefs will be paired with local wines, beers, ciders, and spirits for a lovely evening on the grounds. Tickets are $50 per person; check the event page on the website for more info. 6-9 pm.
Sept. 24: Special programming—this week, Beer Brewing Sunday will find the brewers working on a traditional fall beer PLUS you can learn about the past, present, and future of cider. Included in regular admission. 1-4 pm.

Pennsylvania Military Museum
Sept. 23-24: Then & Now Military Timeline Program—explore a range of military uniforms and equipment from the 18th century to the present. Battle dress uniform show and weapons demos at 1 pm each day. 10 am-4 pm.

Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania
Sept. 23: Smithsonian Magazine Museum Day—visit the Museum Day website to download your ticket, then present it at the Railroad Museum (or other participating museum) for two free admissions. Museum open 9 am-5 pm.

Quite a week

The September program page has info on events coming up this weekend through the end of the month. There have been some updates to the page since it was initially posted, and I've highlighted some events below.

Frank Gillespie blacksmithing at Railroad Museum of PA
Frank Gillespie demonstrated railroad-related blacksmithing at Railroad Heritage Days last weekend (photo from Railroad Museum of PA's Facebook page)
Last Friday in Austin, TX, two Trails of History sites were honored with Leadership in History Awards from the American Association for State and Local History (AASLH). AASLH honored The State Museum of PA for its exhibit on the history of the Pennsylvania Turnpike and the Somerset Historical Center for its recent publication, Shade Furnace: An Early 19th-Century Iron Making Community in Somerset County, Pennsylvania. Congratulations!

A reenactment of the Battle of Brandywine is on tap for this weekend at Sandy Hollow, Birmingham Township (more details on the web). The folks at Brandywine Battlefield Park have been involved with a host of other organizations to plan this event in honor of the 240th anniversary of the battle that took place on September 11, 1777. On the actual anniversary, a cast of historical characters tweeted throughout the day to provide multiple perspectives in real time (well, real time 240 years later). I wasn't able to follow the whole day, but checked in from time to time. I thought it was pretty compelling and very interesting. It garnered some good attention from other Twitter accounts as well, which expanded the reach of the project. Search #BoB1777 on Twitter to see the tweets.

Last week, Philadelphia's CBS affiliate, CBS3, had an exclusive report revealing the names of Pennsbury Manor's recently adopted lambs. Reporter Vittoria Woodill met Lavender and Sage and spoke with staff and volunteers about the site and the animal program. You can watch the report below or find it at CBS Philly's website.



This weekend on the Trails of History...

Brandywine Battlefield
Sept. 16-17: On Hallowed Ground—to commemorate the 240th anniversary of the Battle of Brandywine, Birmingham Township is presenting a two-day reenactment event. Please note that the event takes place at Sandy Hollow, not at our Trails of History site (loads of details are available on the event website).

Conrad Weiser Homestead
Sept. 16-17: Change in weekend schedule—the site will be closed on Sat., Sept. 16, but open on Sun., Sept. 17, noon-4 pm.

Drake Well Museum and Park
Sept. 16: Fall Gas Up—the museum hosts the Pioneer Steam and Gas Engine Society's display of antique gas engines, oil field and farm equipment, and more. 9 am-3 pm.

Graeme Park
Sept. 15: An Evening with the Graemes—enjoy an evening of 18th-century entertainment, including dancing, card games, skits, and refreshments. Children age 13 and older are welcome to attend. Tickets are $12 and may be purchased on Eventbrite. Period attire is welcome but not required. 7-9 pm.
Sept. 17: Living History Sunday—today's event explores slavery in colonial Pennsylvania and at Graeme Park. The Keith and Graeme families were slave holders, as were many of their contemporaries. Noon-3 pm.

Hope Lodge
Sept. 17: Site open—enjoy the grounds and take a guided tour of the mansion. Admission charged. 1-4 pm (tours at 1:00 and 2:30 pm).

Landis Valley Village and Farm Museum
Sept. 16: Wool Frolic—celebrate the fiber arts and the people, plants, and animals that make them possible. Enjoy activities for the kids and shop for deals on yarn, patterns, and paraphernalia. Admission charged. 10 am-4 pm.

Old Economy Village
Sept. 16: Saturday programming—this week's offering is Decorative Arts. Included in regular admission, so please start at the Visitor Center. 11 am-4 pm.

Pennsbury Manor
Sept. 17: Sunday programming—this week, Open Hearth Cooking features the bake oven. Included in regular admission. 1-4 pm.

Pennsylvania Lumber Museum
Sept. 17: 3rd Sunday Program—this month's program is "The CCC in World War II." Mike Schultz, author of From the Forest to the Battlefield: Forty Civilian Conservation Corps Members Awarded the Medal of Honor during World War II, will discuss ways service in the CCC prepared enrollees for wartime military service. He will be joined by John Eastlake, retired DCNR forester and fellow CCC historian. 1-3 pm.

State Museum of Pennsylvania
Sept. 15 and 17: Fort Hunter Excavations—this month's 3rd in the Burg will take place at Fort Hunter Sept. 15 from 4 to 6 pm, and archaeologists will be on hand Sept. 17 for Fort Hunter Day.

Dig up your questions for Ask A Curator

The September program page shows lots of great stuff happening on the PHMC's Trails of History this weekend and the rest of the month.

From 10:30 a.m. to noon on Wednesday Sept.13, take part in Ask A Curator Day by tweeting your questions to Johnson @PHMC via Twitter. Make sure to include the #AskACurator hashtag. 
From Howard Carter to William F. Albright, archaeologists and the captivating artifacts they uncover have fascinated the public for years. Often, people conjure up romanticized images of fedora hat-wearing archaeologists who grip fiery torches as they explore shadowy tombs. Tombs and torches really don’t define modern archaeologists; however, many do wear hats…just not fedoras. Not convinced? Here’s your chance to quiz an expert. Next week, dig deep into the working lives of Pennsylvania archaeologists via Janet R. Johnson, a curator with The State Museum of Pennsylvania’s Section of Archaeology.

Johnson, who curates and manages roughly eight million artifacts uncovered throughout the Commonwealth representing 14,000 years of occupation, has volunteered to take part in Ask A Curator Day from 10:30 a.m. to noon on Wednesday, Sept. 13 on Twitter via @PHMC. To date, more than 1,400 museums from 57 countries have signed up for Ask A Curator Day (#AskACurator), a world-wide social media event that engages the public and connects them with museum curators.


Janet R. Johnson
Essentially, Ask A Curator is a Twitter-based Q & A that serves as a venue where curators can chat with the public about nearly anything that piques their curiosity. Questions may range from the silly (“Are all archaeologists afraid of snakes?") to the more serious (“How do you know where to dig?”). From 10:30 a.m. to noon on Sept.13, take part in Ask A Curator Day by tweeting your questions to Johnson @PHMC via Twitter. Make sure to include the #AskACurator hashtag.

On Sept. 13, you can also share with us your photos and videos. Often, people relate stories about how and where they found a specific rock or artifact. Curators want to learn those histories and, in the process, might be able to offer a few previously unknown facts and interpretations.

This month, Johnson and her crew from The State Museum are excavating the Fort Hunter Mansion & Park near Harrisburg. The overall goal is to locate the remains of a French and Indian War-era supply fort occupied between 1757 and 1763.

The public is welcome to visit and archaeologists will be on site weekdays between 9:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. until Friday, Oct. 6. In addition, the site will be open on Sunday, Sept. 17, for Fort Hunter Day.

This year, archaeologists from The State Museum will focus on two areas of Fort Hunter. The first is an area west of the milk house that was encountered in 2008 and again in 2016. It consists of two layers of artifacts dating to the late 18th and/or early 19thcenturies, based on previously uncovered ceramics.

Another area archaeologists will investigate is a rock foundation that has been interpreted as the octagonal smokehouse described in the 1820s in a farming magazine.

For more details on this year's Fort Hunter excavations or other news, please follow PHMC's "This Week in Pennsylvania Archaeology" blog.

Goodbye August, Hello September

The September program page has the info you need to plan your weekend. If you'll be on the Trails of History on Monday, please check the list of sites scheduled to be open for Labor Day.

Bushy Run Tree Fall 2016
We're not quite to fall yet, but we'll be there soon (Fall 2016 tree at Bushy Run Battlefield)

There's been lots of activity at Pennsbury Manor recently, judging from their Facebook page. They adopted two lambs and are currently accepting votes via Facebook on names for the pair (either "Sage and Lavender" or "Admiral and Lady"). They are also raising funds online to help pay for veterinary care for the lambs and other animals at Pennsbury (you can help by visiting their Crowdrise page). I also saw on Facebook that Pennsbury, in conjunction with its brewing program, offered a workshop last Sunday on making your own bitters (see photo below). The workshop sold out, but more are planned. Pennsbury's volunteer newsletter noted that the site has partnered with Waste Management to create a garden outside the gate to support several species of pollinators. Citizen scientists from the Pennsbury staff and volunteer corps are participating in an effort to monitor the monarch butterflies, bees, and other species over the summer; the efforts will continue through late October.

Bitters workshop at Pennsbury Aug 27 2017
"Bitters, Blubs, and Brews" workshop at Pennsbury Manor Aug. 27 (via Facebook)

In other programming highlights, Eckley Miners' Village drew a crowd of 480 people on a Friday for a free day earlier this month. Thanks to funding from the Buncher Foundation they were able to offer transportation to the site from Hazleton in addition to waiving ticket fees that day. You can read more about it in an article from the Standard Speaker.

Drake Well Museum added a geology and paleontology component to their annual Drake Day celebration, marking the anniversary of Col. Drake's successful oil well. They shared photos on Facebook (including the one below).

Drake Day with dinosaur Aug 2017
Is that a dinosaur at Drake Well? (via Facebook)

Ephrata Cloister is looking for singers interested in adding their voices to the Ephrata Cloister Chorus, now in its 58th year. Founded in 1959, the chorus has performed selections from the 1,000 hymns and chorales composed by Conrad Beissel and others in the Ephrata community during the 1700s. In concerts across the eastern U.S. and in Europe, the group has also presented a variety of other classical and contemporary songs, including music from other early American religious communities and traditions. New singers of all vocal parts are invited to attend rehearsal on Sept. 5 or Sept. 12 to meet the director, Martin Hinkley, and get a sampling of this season's musical selections. If you'd like to take part, please call Ephrata Cloister at 717/733-6600 for additional information.

A few other items of interest...

Last Eclipse Post Until 2024

The August program page has info on events this weekend and next week (highlights below). The September page is available if you want to plan ahead (there's also a list of sites scheduled to open on Labor Day).

Eclipse at Landis Valley
An intrepid photographer at Landis Valley managed to get this shot of the eclipse thru cloud cover (via Facebook)
So, eclipse fever is fading, but I think most of us will agree that it lived up to the hype. That's saying something in our full-of-hype lives. I was intrigued by the posts I saw on Facebook and Twitter with historical accounts of eclipses past and fascinated by the photos from friends and strangers along the path of totality or the path of partiality. It was fun to build my own pinhole projector out of a cereal box (thanks NASA and State Museum Planetarium for the instructions). It worked fairly well, too, with a little trial and error. It was even more fun to look through the eclipse glasses that the boss bought to share with staff. We passed them around among our office staff and then other agency staff and even just other folks out on the Keystone Building and Museum plaza. A shared experience and then back to work.

If you still have eclipse glasses and won't be using them again in the near future, Gizmodo reports that you can donate them to Astronomers Without Borders for reuse by kids in developing countries to view eclipses in 2019. Or you can donate money for them to buy new glasses, but they're using this opportunity to create a stockpile (read more about it).

Here are a couple more eclipse-related photos you may not have seen (or scroll down to see Trails of History events coming up this weekend).

Eclipse through leaves in Erie by L Bolla
Partial eclipse casts crescent shadows in Erie (photo by Linda Bolla)
Fun fact: Erie will be in the path of totality for the next solar eclipse visible in the US, in April 2024!

Crescent shadows in Keystone atrium AKFox
The floor of the Commonwealth Keystone Building atrium at max coverage (photo by AKF)

This weekend...
Drake Well Museum
Aug. 26: Something More Saturday—Today's event is "Drake Day - Let's Rock," commemorating the birth of the modern oil industry. Learn about fossils and rocks from paleontologists and geologists; you can even try the climbing wall. Admission charged. Noon-4 pm. (PLEASE NOTE: Historic Pithole will be closed on Saturday so that volunteers can be at Drake Well for Drake Day; Pithole will be open on Sunday.)

Old Economy Village
Aug. 26: Spotlight Saturday—glimpse life and work in the 19th century through demonstrations and tours - this week is woodworking and children's games. Included in regular admission, so please start at the Visitor Center. 11 am-4 pm (site open 10 am-5 pm).

Pennsbury Manor
Aug. 27: Meet Our Lambs—Pennsbury adopted two lambs earlier this month and they are now ready for their debut. You can admire their adorableness and vote on names for them (more info on Facebook). Plus lots of other stuff to see and do, as always. Included in regular admission. 12:30-5 pm.
Aug. 27: Bitters, Blubs & Brewing—visit with the gardeners and stop by the brew house to see what's up. Visitors age 21 and older who pre-register and pay the $20 fee can learn to make their own bitters Call 215/946-0400 to register. 2-4 pm.

State Museum of Pennsylvania
Aug. 25: Free Summer Friday and Learn at Lunchtime—general admission is free, 9 am to 5 pm (regular fees apply for the Planetarium). Curiosity Connection will have free timed tickets available. Today's Learn at Lunchtime is a special tour of the "Pennsylvania at War" exhibit, 12:15-12:45 pm.

Totality, Dude

The August program page has info on events coming up this weekend and the rest of the month. There's always history to learn and learn from on the Trails of History. In my opinion.

Solar eclipse January 1908 via Wikimedia Commons
Solar eclipse Jan. 3, 1908 by Tomruen - Lick Observatory, from Flint Island, Kiribati, Public Domain, Link
So, okay, we in Pennsylvania will see only a partial solar eclipse. Safe travels and good times to those of you venturing into the path of totality. I'm sure it's going to be a zoo, but a rare opportunity in the U.S. Be nice to the people whose states and towns you're visiting and clean up after yourselves. No one wants to see news photos of Woodstock-esque trash piles. Not sure why I'm lecturing on this - trying to do my part for peace, love, and understanding, I guess.

My news feeds have been full of eclipse stuff...

The State Museum Planetarium has been sharing lots of info about the upcoming eclipse. There's still time to catch "2017 Eclipse Across America" today and this weekend for a great explanation of eclipses. Because PA will see a partial eclipse (75-80%) we won't be able to look directly at the sun at any time without protection. If you don't have a pair of eclipse glasses or a specially equipped viewer of some sort, the museum shared NASA's instructions for making a pinhole projector using a cereal box. I may have to try that this weekend if my husband finishes off the Froot Loops (UPDATE: he already has).

UPDATE: Planetarium director Linda Powell was on abc27 Friday morning to talk about the eclipse (watch it here).

On a related safety note, PennDOT reminds us that it can be unsafe and may be unlawful to just stop alongside a roadway to watch the eclipse.


Washington Crossing Historic Park has posted info for those who might want to view the eclipse from Bowman's Hill Tower.

There are lots of posts from all over with historical info about eclipses and how people have studied and reacted to them through time:
Let us know in the comments if you have other eclipse-related posts to share!

And for those of you who remember the 1980s, I leave you with this. Bonnie Tyler will, if all goes according to plan, perform "Total Eclipse of the Heart" during the eclipse on board a cruise ship in the Caribbean. Enjoy the earworm.

On and Off the Trails Again

Please visit the August programs page to find info about events on the Trails of History.

There is no discernible theme to this week's post (shocking), so don't try to find one. On the other hand - if you do try, and you do find one, feel free to let me know in the comments! Otherwise, enjoy the stroll and enjoy the weekend.

Last week, Joseph Priestley House hosted their annual Oxygen Day event commemorating Dr. Priestley's scientific work on the isolation of the gas we call oxygen (he called it "dephlogysticated air"). In addition, the Friends of Joseph Priestley House invited descendants of Joseph and Mary Priestley to visit, providing behind the scenes tour of the home and Priestley-related sights in and around Northumberland (read more on the JPH website). Reporter Suzanne Goldklang of WNEP-TV covered the event and spoke with some of the descendants, including a teenage boy whose family recently discovered their connection to the Priestley family. (If the embedded video below does not play, you can find it on WNEP's website.)



Hearth cooking class at Graeme Park
Graeme Park shared this photo of Erin Agnew and participants in hearth cooking class on Sunday, Aug. 6 (via Facebook)
The first of four hearth cooking classes, "Let Food Be Thy Medicine," was offered at Graeme Park this past Sunday (to see other photos visit Graeme Park's Facebook page). It's not too late to sign up for the remaining three (discounts offered for members and for multiple classes). Online registration is available.

Reenactors Battle of Bushy Run
Col. Henry Bouquet (right) talks with colonials (photo Bushy Run Battlefield)
Bushy Run Battlefield commemorated the Battle of Bushy Run (Aug. 5-6, 1763) last weekend with their annual two-day reenactment. So that visitors can get the full scope of the history in one day, they always reenact the action of August 5 on Saturday morning and August 6 in the afternoon (then repeat on Sunday). An epic effort by Bushy Run board, staff, and volunteers along with all the reenactors who take part presenting British, colonial, and Native American forces. Museum facilitator Colleen Madore shared some photos with me (one of them is above) and there are more photos and video on Bushy Run's Facebook page.

Boot Camp for Kids at PA Military Museum
This year's participants in Boot Camp for Kids, PA Military Museum (via Facebook)
Last weekend was also the annual Boot Camp for Kids event at the Pennsylvania Military Museum, which provides boys and girls ages 8 to 13 with a taste of military training, teamwork, and rations, under the instruction of staff and volunteers with prior military experience. More photos are available on PMM's Facebook page. (I'm not sure I shared a link to images from last month's VIETNAM Revisited living history program, which you can also find on Facebook.)

Bundling flax at Landis Valley
First step in linen production: pull up the flax plants (via Landis Valley Facebook page
Landis Valley Village and Farm Museum shared some photos of Heirloom Seed Project staff and volunteers pulling and bundling flax plants that are now ready to be turned into linen at Colonial Williamsburg (close ups of the bundles on FB).

If you get a chance, catch "2017 Eclipse Across America" at the State Museum Planetarium between now and August 20 for a good overview of how eclipses work and what to expect from the one coming up on Aug. 21. If you haven't already gotten eclipse viewing glasses from a reputable dealer, you may have to improvise (here in PA, we'll get a 75-80% partial eclipse, which requires eye protection the entire duration).

A few links from off the trails...