Happy New Year

Trailheads is taking a little break this week to celebrate the new year. Here's to a bright and exciting 2011. May your challenges be few but rewarding.

Oh, and don't forget that tomorrow is the deadline for the PHMC 2010 Photography Contest.

We're Sooooooo Bored!!

PHMC/Erie Maritime Museum and US Brig Niagara

Whatever winter holiday you celebrate (and whenever you celebrate it), chances are that you and/or some members of your family will be on vacation from school or work between December 25 and January 1. Maybe you have out-of-town guests visiting, too.

Does this sound familiar? “We're soooooo bored.” “Entertain me.” “[Whiiiiiiine].”

And that’s just the grown-ups.

If you’re looking for something to do with sugar-crazed children, cranky in-laws, or just yourself, check out the Trails of History. All PHMC historic sites and museums will be closed on December 25 and January 1. Other than that, site schedules vary (some are also closed Dec. 24 and 31, for example). Due to seasonal closings and reduced schedules, be sure to check with specific sites for details. In addition to regular offerings, a handful of sites will have special programs during that wonderful/stressful week of family and friend togetherness.

Ephrata Cloister
Dec. 27-30: Lantern Tours—presentations by Ephrata’s Junior Historians, working with staff and volunteers, bring dramatic focus to the history of the site. This year’s program, “The Bloody Theater or Martyr’s Mirror,” explores the creation and strange fate of the largest book printed in America before 1776 (it was printed at Ephrata). Admission is charged for this evening program and reservations are required (call the site at (717) 733-6600).

Erie Maritime Museum
Dec. 27-30: Marx Train Layout--in addition to the Museum's regular exhibits, the train layout put up for the museum's Christmas program will remain in place until New Year's. Volunteers will be running the trains, so stop by for a look.

Joseph Priestley House
Jan. 2: Twelfth Day program—Join in on a traditional English manor house celebration and wrap up the Christmas season. Regular admission charged. Tour Dr. Priestley’s home and see chemistry demonstrations in the Pond Building at 2 pm. (The site is otherwise closed to the public until March.)

Landis Valley Village and Farm Museum
Dec. 28-29: Winter Day Camp—crafts, games, and open hearth cooking help to liven up that week off from school between Christmas and New Year’s; sign up for either or both days (discounts available for members, multi-day registrations, or multiple children from the same family).

State Museum of Pennsylvania
Dec. 26, 29-30: Season of Light planetarium show—a look at how many of our modern traditions trace their roots to winter festivals of long ago. Fee charged in addition to museum admission; check website for scheduled showings.
Dec. 30: Noon Year’s Eve—this program provides young children and their families with a special New Year’s celebration of their own; playtime, crafts, snacks, and the Firefly drop at noon are part of the fun. Included in museum admission.

Washington Crossing Historic Park
Dec. 25: Christmas Day Crossing—the annual reenactment of the 1776 crossing of the Delaware River by George Washington and his troops prior to the Battle of Trenton.


Many thanks to Sue Beates, Daniel Weaver, and Barbara Zolli at Drake Well for the info and photos and Brenda Reigle for the title for this post.

PHMC/Drake Well Museum

It may look like just a bunch of boxes to some, but to us it looks like spanking new collections storage shelving for Drake Well Museum. Work on the expansion and renovation of the visitor center continues (we posted some progress photos here in August) and visions of moving back into the building are dancing in the heads of site staff.

PHMC/Drake Well Museum

The compact shelving hiding in the boxes in the top photo will glide on tracks to be installed in the new collections storage space shown above. The tracks allow for easy movement of the shelving units and make maximum use of the space. It’s actually pretty cool.

Okay, so I’m a geek. We’ll keep you posted as the building interiors (and the new exhibit!!) take shape.

Bits and Pieces

Don’t forget that January 1 is the deadline for entries to the 2010 PHMC Photography Contest.

Three days of brutal cold in my cubicle (hey look, a space heater), not to mention the official start of cookie season, can take a toll on the brain. So this week’s Trailheads is a selection of items, “ripped from the headlines,” that I hope you’ll find interesting and/or enjoyable.

But first, a request. A research and pr firm that does a lot of work with museums has been publishing some of their findings from a survey about childhood memories of museums. That has me thinking (when I’m not planning my annual eggnog indulgence or my umpteenth viewing of A Christmas Story). Since December is a time when many folks are celebrating family traditions and passing them along to the younger generation, how about sharing one of your early holiday (any winter holiday) memories? Of course, if you want to share an early museum memory, that’s cool, too. Click on the number next to the word “Comment” at the top of this post and follow the directions. Now back to our regularly scheduled programming.

PHMC/Cornwall Iron Furnace

The Friends of Cornwall Furnace have published a 2011 calendar featuring Robert Habersham Coleman and his legacy (Coleman was one of the owners of Cornwall Iron Furnace). Using rarely seen historic photos, the calendar provides glimpses of the Furnace operation’s history and one of Lebanon County’s most prominent families. The first run of 250 copies sold out, but more are being printed; proceeds support the historic furnace and its programs. An article in the Lebanon Daily News provides more info. It’s the perfect gift for history junkies, while supplies last.

The Pennsylvania Military Museum’s Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day program drew the attention of local press and others. A detailed article in the Centre Daily Times conveyed the essence of the program, which took place on the museum grounds, beneath two guns from the USS PENNSYLVANIA, a witness to the Dec. 7, 1941, attack.

The Scranton Times-Tribune reported on the Anthracite Heritage Museum’s German Christmas program, held on December 10. The 90-minute program featured music, food, and history; Facebook users can find photos of the event here.

As part of Old Economy Village’s Christmas programming, volunteers from area churches decorated parts of the historic site to reflect traditions from around the world. An article in yesterday’s Pittsburgh Tribune-Review provides a description and details of how some of the decorations were made.

And for your viewing pleasure, a clip from the dress rehearsal of the Christmas crossing at Washington Crossing Historic Park posted by Calkins Media Video on YouTube:

That’s all for now, Trailheads. Be sure to drink your Ovaltine.

Halloween Revisited

This week, we have a guest blogger--Robert Quarteroni from the Eckley Miners’ Village Museum Associates (not pictured here, or maybe he is).

“The Count” is a perennial favorite at the Halloween lantern tours
and has been entertaining visitors to Eckley for more than a decade

“On Halloween,” comedian Rodney Dangerfield once said, “parents sent out their kids looking like me.” No matter how true that statement, there are certainly a lot of strange-looking creatures and characters going bump in the night during the annual Halloween lantern tours at Eckley Miners’ Village.

The Grim Reaper, one of the tour guides, made sure everyone stayed in line

The spooky celebration of Halloween was held on three weekends this year at the living history museum that normally focuses on the daily life of the anthracite coal miner and his family. But there was nothing normal about these three October weekends and that allowed all the ghouls and goblins of the dark to establish residence in the Village. Every half hour or so a collection of happy-to-be-scared visitors were rounded up and led through the darkened streets of the Village, flashlights and lanterns in hand, to be treated to a wide variety of “spooktacular” entertainments.

Dr. Frankenstein is always an electrifying performer

Family-oriented chills and thrills were unearthed at spooky skits and entertainments ranging from the “Undead Wedding” and the “Arsenic and Old Lace Serial Killer” to “Dead Confederate Soldiers.” There was even a haunted head séance courtesy of the folks from the Hazleton Paranormal Society.

The performance by members of the Hazleton Paranormal Society was a head-and-shoulders favorite

All this was garnished with a cemetery, an undertaker and, of course, Frankenstein, the Grim Reaper and that perennial favorite, The Count, regaling onlookers with spooky tales. For the 1,800 folks who visited Eckley over the three weekends, it was a fun family way to spend our favorite spooky holiday. You just might say they had a devil of a time!

“The Undertakers” serenaded folks with some witchy music

'Tis the Season

I’m posting the December preview mid-week because there are so many events going on this weekend that I didn’t want to wait until Friday. All sites on the Trails of History will be closed December 25 and January 1 in observance of Christmas and New Year’s (except that Washington Crossing Historic Park is open Christmas Day for the annual crossing of the Delaware). Other seasonal and holiday schedule changes are in effect, too, so please check ahead to make sure the site you want to visit will be open when you plan to be there. And, of course, if the weather outside is frightful (need I remind you what December 2009 was like?) you should probably do a little checking then, as well.

Anthracite Heritage Museum
Dec. 12: German Christmas Program—90-minute program for all ages includes a toy demonstration, holiday music activities, German folklore, photo op with St. Nicholas and Ruprecht, holiday treats and more. Space is limited and registrations are required (deadline is Dec. 10).
Dec. 4: 15th Annual Christmas at Cornwall House Tour—a selection of private residences and businesses fill this year’s roster of historic buildings for the tour; purchase your ticket ($15 in advance, $20 day of tour) at the Cornwall Iron Furnace visitor center.

Daniel Boone Homestead
Dec. 5: A Homestead Christmas—open hearth cooking, 18th-century music and dancing, hands-on crafts for children, and refreshments will provide a lovely afternoon for visitors; visit the museum bookstore for unique gifts (all books are discounted 10% during the entire month of December).

PHMC/Eckley Miners' Village

Dec. 4: Children’s Program and Victorian Christmas Fundraiser—the Children’s Program features storyteller Kathy Long and a visit from St. Nicholas, plus an ornament-making activity and wagon rides around the Village. The Victorian Christmas Fundraiser includes traditional 19th-century decorations, a Victorian tea, and 19th-century-style ornaments for purchase (thanks to the work of Village volunteers).

Dec. 13-14: Christmas at the Cloister—a program of readings and music in the historic Saal (meetinghouse). Tickets are limited and must be purchased in advance; contact the site to check availability.
Dec. 27-30: Lantern Tours—experience the history of the Cloister through dramatic presentations by the site’s Junior Historians, junior and senior high school students who work with staff to make this annual program come to life. Reservations are required and can be made anytime after Dec. 1.

Erie Maritime Museum and US Brig Niagara
Dec. 10: Christmas Tree Ship—join in welcoming Santa to light the ship and then tour the museum, make crafts, and decorate cookies. Admission is free. Visitors are asked to bring new or gently used Christmas decorations for families in need; Family Services of NW PA will help with a drawing for 25 Christmas trees.

PHMC/Landis Valley Village and Farm Museum

Landis Valley Village and Farm Museum
Dec. 4: Make Your Own Tin Ornament—The Weathervane museum store hosts a workshop with Beth Feaser, one of Landis Valley’s tinsmiths; cost of workshop is $20, call (717) 569-9312 for details.
Dec. 4-5 and 11-12: Country Christmas Village—Pennsylvania German Christmas traditions (including a visit with Belsnickel), foodways, crafts, and decorations will be found throughout the village; Weathervane will host book signings both weekends.
Dec. 17: Holidays at Landis Valley: A Pennsylvania Dutch Christmas—this evening event features a bonfire, carols, hot cider, and cookies. The event is free; visitors are asked to bring non-perishable food items for the Lancaster Food Bank.
Dec. 18: Old Fashioned Children’s Christmas—a Charles Dickens schoolhouse lesson, crafts, and Victorian parlor games provide fun for the entire family.
Dec. 28-29: Winter Day Camp—crafts, games, and open hearth cooking help to liven up that week off from school between Christmas and New Year’s; sign up for either or both days (discounts available for members, multi-day registrations, or multiple children from the same family).

Dec. 5: Christmas Fundraiser Dinner—dine by lantern light in the historic Feast Hall, enjoying delicious food and beautiful music while helping to support the educational programs and special projects of the site.
Dec. 11: Christmas at the Village—experience a wide variety of Christmas traditions, foods, and crafts; take a carriage ride; enjoy hands-on activities in das Kinderhaus; and listen to performances by Old Economy’s orchestra and choir.

Pennsbury Manor
Dec. 4: Wreaths and Greens Workshop—make an evergreen wreath for your home (bring your own clippers) and learn how to care for evergreens in your yard and garden; registration is required.
Dec. 9 and 10: Holly Nights—a Pennsbury tradition for more than 25 years; experience the Manor by candlelight, sip mulled cider, listen to carolers strolling the grounds, watch a 17th-century play. Be sure to visit the website to download a coupon good for $1 off adult admission.

PHMC/Pennsylvania Military Museum

Pennsylvania Military Museum
Dec. 7: Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day Tribute—this event marks the 69th anniversary of the attack on the US Pacific Fleet by aircraft of the Imperial Japanese Navy. It takes place on the museum grounds, beneath the guns of the USS PENNSYLVANIA, which was in dry-dock at Pearl Harbor in December of 1941.

Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania
Dec. 4 and 11: Home for the Holidays—the first two Saturdays in December offer a nostalgic look at 100 years of holiday rail travel, along with seasonal music and hot chocolate. The Polar Express Parties are already filled, but there’s still plenty for families to enjoy.

State Museum of Pennsylvania
Dec. 18: International Kwanzaa Festival 2010—a celebration of the family, featuring dancers and drummers, authors and poets, food, music, and more. Admission is free; this program is presented by Nathaniel Gadsden’s Writers Wordshop in partnership with The State Museum, Women Connect Magazine, and Life Esteem, Inc.
Dec. 18-19, 22-23, 26, 29-30: Season of Light planetarium show—a look at how many of our modern traditions trace their roots to winter festivals of long ago. Fee charged in addition to museum admission; check website for scheduled showings.
Dec. 30: Noon Year’s Eve—this program provides young children and their families with a special New Year’s celebration of their own; playtime, crafts, snacks, and the Firefly drop at noon are part of the fun. Included in museum admission.

Washington Crossing Historic Park
Dec. 4: 2nd Annual Save the Crossing Fundraiser—event takes place at Crossing Vineyards and Winery; proceeds benefit the crossing reenactment program.
Dec. 12: Crossing Dress Rehearsal—watch reenactors practice for the Christmas Day event and enjoy craft and cooking demonstrations; fee charged.
Dec. 25: Christmas Day Crossing—the annual reenactment of the 1776 crossing of the Delaware River by George Washington and his troops prior to the Battle of Trenton.


Thank you to Brenda Reigle, Chester Kulesa, and Linda Bolla for their contributions to this week’s post.

Although I’m writing this on Tuesday afternoon, I am fairly sure that by the time it posts on Friday, I will have eaten a significant amount of turkey and “fixins,” watched parts of several indistinguishable (to me) football games, had some laughs with my niece and nephews, and raised a glass to my late father, who would have turned 79 this Thursday. My thankfulness for my husband, mom, brother, sister-in-law, and the three kiddos will, I hope, have been expressed, and I’ll have had time to catch up with the extended family members I see mostly on holidays. A pretty typical Thanksgiving. I hope that you had a peaceful, warm, and delicious day as well, and that you were able to spend time with those you love.

And since today is the shopping day of all time, don’t forget to include your favorite Trails of History museum store in your Black Friday rounds (site schedules vary widely this time of year, so please check ahead) or visit them tomorrow on Small Business Saturday. We thank you for your support.

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, here’s a Trailheads buffet of goodies—no calories, no fat, no dishes to wash. Enjoy.

The Lumber Heritage Region (which includes the Pennsylvania Lumber Museum) has just announced the results of their 2010 Photo Contest (one of the winning photos features the Lumber Museum’s Shay Locomotive). A slideshow of the top entries is available here.

PHMC/Anthracite Heritage Museum, photo by John Horgan, Jr.

Environmental art pioneer Patricia Johanson, working with Marywood University in Scranton, is creating Mary’s Garden, an art and environmental restoration project that will also be used as outdoor classrooms. Johanson conducted some of her research for the mine reclamation project at the Anthracite Heritage Museum; her online article on the project (which will appear in print in the next issue of Landscape Architect and Specifier News) includes several images from the museum’s John Horgan photography collection.

Anyone interested in researching (or simply learning more about) Elizabeth Graeme Fergusson may want to visit Graeme Park’s Facebook page, which recently posted a number of links to digitized versions of correspondence and commonplace books written by, to, or about her. For example, Dickinson College has digitized the 1787 Commonplace Book, written by Elizabeth for Annis Stockton.

Courtesy of Flagship Niagara League, photo by John Baker

Finally, congratulations go to our colleagues in Erie—the U.S. Brig Niagara has been awarded the 2010 Sail Training Program of the Year award by the American Sail Training Association (ASTA). Captain Wesley Heerssen has been honored for his dedication to preserving and teaching the art of sailing, something that everyone associated with the Niagara takes seriously. For more on this award, check out The Ship’s Log, written by Chief Mate Billy Sabatini, or Erie Blogs.

Some Items of Interest?

Welcome to Short Attention Span Theater, Trailheads edition. Thanks to Tom Bresenhan and Cindy Kirby-Reedy for their contributions to this week’s post.

On Sunday, Nov. 7, the Pond Building at the Joseph Priestley House was rededicated following an extensive refurbishment to make the building more accessible and useful for public programming. Originally built in 1926 to complement the Priestley House as a museum, the building is named for George Gilbert Pond, who purchased Joseph Priestley’s mansion in Northumberland at auction in 1919 to save it from demolition. A silent film of the 1926 dedication ceremony was shown (with live narration by PSU emeritus professor of chemistry Roy Olofson), and Joseph Priestley reenactor Ron Blatchley demonstrated several chemistry experiments. To read more about the Nov. 7 program and the history of the Priestley House as a museum, click here and here.

Photo courtesy of Friends of Joseph Priestley House
L to R: Roy Olofson, Professor Emeritus of Chemistry, Penn State Univ.; Ronald Blatchley, Retired Chemistry Teacher and Joseph Priestley Interpreter; Robert Minard, Retired Professor of Origin of Life Chemistry, Penn State Univ.; Tom Bresenhan, President of the Board, Friends of Joseph Priestley House; Stephen Miller, Director, Bureau of Historic Sites & Museums, PHMC; Stewart Stabley, American Chemical Society

From the “you never know what will happen when you nurture a kid’s love of history” department, Landis Valley Village and Farm Museum was recently invited to install a small (one secure case) exhibit at the Harrisburg International Airport. Stephanie Gehman, marketing manager for HIA, attended summer camp at Landis Valley as a youngster, later volunteered and served an internship in the museum’s collections department, and continues (along with her husband Hans) to help out at events. Some 3,500 people each day pass through the baggage claims area where the exhibit is located, so it’s an opportunity to make visitors and locals more aware of the museum.

PHMC/Landis Valley Village and Farm Museum/photo by Cindy Kirby-Reedy

Stephanie Fisher Gehman, HIA Marketing Manager, and Bruce Bomberger, Landis Valley's Curator, with a wooden drum that would have been part of a water-powered flour mill.

This weekend (11/21) the State Museum of Pennsylvania debuts a new temporary exhibit, “Wood on Glass: The Lumber Industry Photographs of William T. Clarke.” Clarke (1859-1930) spent a number of years in north-central Pennsylvania during the late 19th and early 20th centuries photographing people and places, documenting lumbering activities and their effects on the landscape. The exhibit, which will be up until May 2011 (and then will be available to travel), features prints from about 30 of the 450 known glass plate negatives remaining of Clarke’s work. Many of these come from the Pennsylvania State Archives holdings of the records of the Department of Forests and Waters (which no longer exists as such). The exhibit also includes artifacts from the State Museum and the Pennsylvania Lumber Museum. For more info on Clarke and his work, click here.

“First Step in the Felling of a Tree, Nine Mile, Potter County, Pennsylvania.” Undated.
From Original 5x7 Glass Negative by William T. Clarke, Pennsylvania State Archives, Dept. of Forests and Waters Photographs WTC 3820

Holiday Marketplace

If you’re in the Harrisburg area, come on down tomorrow (11/18) or Friday from 10 am to 3 pm to the atrium of the Commonwealth Keystone Building for the 5th annual Holiday Marketplace. Organized by the Pennsylvania Heritage Society and sponsored by PSECU, the marketplace features gifts and holiday selections from sites on the PHMC Trails of History and several partner agencies.

Purchasing handcrafted, unique or signature items from our museum stores is a great way to show your support for the Trails of History (of course, cash donations are a lovely gesture, too). The Holiday Marketplace brings together a fine collection of sites all in one place: Ephrata Cloister, Landis Valley Village and Farm Museum, The State Museum of Pennsylvania, Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, and Somerset Historical Center. You’ll also find representatives from the Pennsylvania Artisan Trails, State Parks, and the Capitol Preservation Committee. Tony’s Café at the Keystone will be on hand with free samples (not sure of what, but I’m sure it will be tasty) while supplies last. See you there!

Holiday Marketplace 2009/Photo by John Robinson

A Grateful Nation--Veterans Day 2010

I’m posting a day early this week, Trailheads, in order to convey my thanks to PHMC staff and volunteers, visitors, and supporters who are serving now, or have served in the past, as members of the U.S. Armed Forces. I also wish to express my gratitude to those of you who have family members serving—waiting anxiously at home while your loved ones are away is no small contribution.

According to the website of the state Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, there are some 1 million veterans in Pennsylvania. That’s about 8% of the state population. And that doesn’t include (at least I don’t think so) the number of Pennsylvanians currently on active duty—I’m sorry I wasn’t able to find that figure (if anyone out there knows it or knows where I can look it up, please leave a comment).

There many ways we honor Pennsylvania’s veterans and active duty military on the Trails of History—for starters, active military and their immediate families are admitted free of charge to all of our sites (or receive reduced admission to special events). Many of our sites recount the stories of people who entered military service during various points in our nation’s history. Most notably, these are stops on the Military History Trail, but others do so as well, during special events or exhibits.

Even Trailheads has gotten into the act, including a guest blog post last year about efforts at Erie Maritime Museum to recognize a Medal of Honor recipient.

Whether they have served in the military themselves, or have family members serving, many of our staff and volunteers say thank you to our Commonwealth's veterans through their work on a regular basis. And I am grateful for that.

Wednesday Tidbits November 10, 2010

If you drive along Route 6 in Potter County, between Galeton and Coudersport, you’ll notice something new across from Denton Hill ski area. Or actually, several somethings. There’s now a cheerful, more colorful entrance sign letting visitors know that they have arrived at the Pennsylvania Lumber Museum (which reopens for the season in April).

PHMC/Pennsylvania Lumber Museum

But in a bit of whimsy not often found on the Trails of History, you’ll also see something that we affectionately call “People on a Stick.” Designed to evoke workers from lumber history, the figures are also meant to help attract the attention of potential visitors (keep both hands on the wheel, please) approaching from Galeton, Wellsboro, and points east.

PHMC/Pennsylvania Lumber Museum

I’m told that a contest to help name the people on a stick is in the works—watch this space for more details. Happy Wednesday.

What You Want

If you want an extra hour of sleep this Sunday, be sure to set your clock back Saturday night, as Daylight Savings Time comes to an end.

Several weeks ago, I wrote a post about tours at historic sites and put up a poll asking you to vote on your preferred way to visit a historic house or historic site. The poll gave you one choice from among “guided tour,” “self-guided tour with brochure,” “self-guided audio tour,” or “other.” Granted, at many historic sites on the Trails of History and elsewhere, it’s not an either/or situation—often, a guided tour is required for some parts of the site and you’re self-guided for other parts. But for simplicity, I limited your choices. The poll is now closed, but I’ve left it up so you can see the results (to the right of your screen).

PHMC/Anthracite Heritage Museum

Well, “voter turnout” wasn’t high—43 votes in 2 weeks—so I’m leery of any percentages here. We can say that the people who responded to the poll were pretty evenly split between guided tours and self-guided with brochure, with far fewer votes for audio tours. (One respondent commented that she didn’t pick audio tours because she hasn’t experienced them at historic sites.)

There’s some data out there (not to mention a fair amount of anecdotal evidence) that suggests these responses (which I have to emphasize are VERY non-scientific) don’t reflect how general museum goers feel. That is, it appears that more visitors want to explore on their own and ditch the guided tour if they have a choice. They still seem to want options for getting more information, however, including brochures, audio tours, and interaction with knowledgeable staff.

PHMC/Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania

So, why the discrepancy in these responses? Hard to say, but I suspect that many Trailheads readers are hard-core history museum visitors. Personally, I still love a good guided tour, although I’m coming around to the idea of a good audio tour. I’ve experienced some high-quality audio, including the recent cell phone tours coming on line at Trails of History sites. The important thing, in my opinion, is that we be open to what our visitors want, work with the resources we have available, and continue to provide security and care for the historic buildings and collections we hold for the public. I’d be happy to hear some comments from readers about your further thoughts on this.

Say Yes to November

Trailheads video guide: back in June, Trailheads reported on an innovative partnership called the Great Lakes College Consortium, which put students on board US Brig Niagara for three weeks to learn about maritime history and the art of sailing a large wooden ship. One of the students created a video of the experience; you can check it out on YouTube.

Please note: The tour preference poll (to the right of your screen) closes tonight (10/29) at 11:59 pm, so make your Friday evening plans accordingly. Also, the deadline to submit nominations for new state historical markers is Jan 5, 2011 (click here for more info).

November brings seasonal changes to some site schedules, so please be sure that the site you want to visit will be open when you plan to be there. All sites on the Trails of History will be closed Nov. 25 for Thanksgiving, and most sites will be closed Nov. 11 for Veterans Day and Nov. 26 for the day after Thanksgiving (the Railroad Museum of PA will be open both 11/11 and 11/26). Despite having three holidays packed into the month, there’s a lot to do.

Brandywine Battlefield
Nov. 27: Patriots Day—visit a reenacted encampment of British troops during the winter of 1777

Conrad Weiser Homestead
Nov. 6: Remembrance Day—the 250th anniversary of Conrad Weiser’s death will be observed with a recreated 18th-century funeral procession that includes the Weiser Battalion of the PA Regiment
Nov. 20: Guided Evening Tours—hear the voices of the 18th century in several vignettes and enjoy period music by Robert Mouland

Cornwall Iron Furnace
Nov. 9: Lecture, “The History of Campbelltown”—the speaker is local historian and author Don Rhoads, Jr., who will share information about the town’s 250th anniversary celebration last year. This is the final lecture of the 2010 series.

PHMC/Daniel Boone Homestead

Daniel Boone Homestead
Nov. 7: Boone Birthday Program—celebrate the birthday of the famous frontiersman and learn about his birthplace

Now through Apr. 3, 2011: Watercolors and oil paintings from the museum's collection—works commissioned by Standard Oil Company in 1951—are on display at the Erie Art Museum as part of the exhibit, “Hidden in Plain Sight: Art Treasures from Regional Collections.”

Eckley Miners’ Village
Nov. 7: Lecture, “Lenni Lifeways”—speakers are Carla and Allan Messinger, consultants for the Native American Heritage programs of the Pennsylvania Humanities Council
Nov. 14: Lecture on 19th-century mourning practices—speakers are village volunteers Bob Vybrenner and Kate Conlin

Hope Lodge
Nov. 6-7: Whitemarsh Encampment—annual reenactment of the Continental Army’s encampment in November and early December of 1777, prior to their more well-known winter in Valley Forge

Joseph Priestley House
Nov. 7: Heritage Day—the highlight this year is the re-dedication of the George Pond Building, which has just been renovated; chemistry demonstrations by Dr. Priestley (aka Ron Blatchley) will be featured

Landis Valley Village and Farm Museum
Nov. 12: Hands-on History Day—children (of all ages) get to try their hand at autumn farm chores, PA German crafts, one-room schoolhouse lessons and much more; wagon rides are also available
Nov. 12-13: Weathervane Holiday Open House—the museum store will feature a celebration of PA German folk art with unique and unusual items; light refreshments will be served

PHMC/Old Economy Village

Old Economy Village
Nov. 27: Christmas with Belsnickel—children (ages 6-12) tour the Village, make a craft project, and visit with Belsnickel (a traditional German figure, similar to Santa Claus but not as jolly); pre-paid registrations are required

Pennsylvania Military Museum
Nov. 4-24: Exhibit, “Santa’s Draft Card”—Rev. Santa Claus of Saline County, Missouri, registered for the draft in WWII; a copy of his Selective Service System card is on exhibit for several weeks
Nov. 9: Lecture, “Fort Monroe: the Key to the South”—presented by the Central PA Civil War Roundtable; speaker is John Quarstein, director of the Virginia War Museum in Newport News

Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania
Nov. 5-7: Trains and Troops—reenactors will portray soldiers, civilians and railroaders from the Civil War to the present on 11/6 and 7; the Swing Dance the night of 11/6 brings the 1940s alive in Rolling Stock Hall; a special night photo shoot on 11/5 requires registration (due today, apologies for the short notice). Check the website for ticket options. During November and December, RMP is collecting new, unwrapped toys (Toys for Tots) and non-perishable food items (Central PA Food Bank).

Somerset Historical Center
Nov. 16 through April 9, 2011: Exhibit, “Wind Titans: A Pennsylvania Photo Essay”—photographs by State Museum staffer Don Giles provide a look at wind turbines, a new feature on the landscape in many parts of the Commonwealth, including Somerset County

Running Through History

Only 2 days left to respond to the tour preferences poll. C’mon, it’s good practice for voting next week!

What do you get when you combine oil industry heritage with a group of die-hard trail runners from all over the eastern U.S.? The Oil Creek 100 Trail Runs, that’s what you get. The OC100 took place around Titusville two weekends ago with over 200 runners in 3 distance categories—50K, 100K, and (pause for effect) 100 miles. That’s right, 100 miles. Overnight. Much of it on wooded hiking trails in Oil Creek State Park. Madness, I tell you—sheer madness.

Source: OC100.org

Okay, so maybe I’m more than a bit of a couch potato, but these folks are SERIOUS runners. Even the 50K runners do more than a marathon, which is why this is called Ultra Trail Running. Anyway, the reason this is a topic on Trailheads is that this year, for the 2nd annual OC100, the course included a one-mile loop through the grounds of Drake Well Museum. The museum kept the (very noisy) Olin Hit and Miss engine operating during the night to give the runners something to take their minds off the searing pain in their legs (one runner mentions it in her blog post about the race).


The tour preferences poll that went up last week will stay up for another week, so please take a few seconds to chime in (it’s on the right-hand side of your screen).

No particular focus this week, Trailheads, just some updates on programs coming up this weekend.

This is really last minute, but if you’re reading this in the morning (of Oct. 22) and you’re close to Erie, you can still catch “The War of 1812: Was It Necessary?” The symposium, offered by Erie’s Jefferson Educational Society at their center on State Street, includes Walter Rybka, director of the Erie Maritime Museum and senior captain of US Brig Niagara, as one of its speakers. The $20 registration fee is payable at the door; the program runs from 11:30 am to 1:30 pm.

PHMC/Ephrata Cloister

There’s still time to reserve a spot for tonight or tomorrow night (Oct. 22 & 23) at Ephrata Cloister's Mysterious, Melancholy, and Macabre, where you can catch up on all the chilling news from 1700s Lancaster County. Tours are offered at 7:30 and 9 pm; if weather permits, the program will be offered outdoors on the grounds by candlelight, so please dress accordingly. Call 717/733-6600 to reserve tickets ($10, members pay $8).

Halloween tours at Eckley Miners’ Village will continue for a second weekend tonight and tomorrow, with groups leaving the visitor center every 15 minutes starting at 6:30 pm (doors open at 6 pm). The 1.5 mile walk takes at least an hour, and visitors should dress for the weather and the rough pavement. Bring your own flashlight or purchase one at the visitor center when you buy your ticket.

View from Bowman's Hill Tower
PHMC/Washington Crossing Historic Park

Ghosts and Star Gazing, presented by Washington Crossing Historic Park, will take place tomorrow night (Oct. 23) at Bowman’s Hill Tower at 7 and 8:30 p.m. A reading of Edgar Allan Poe’s short story, “The Cask of Amontillado,” will be included, as will a rare nighttime tour of the tower (guided by an astronomer as well as a historian). Tickets ($10) can be reserved by email (23Towersteps@gmail.com) or phone (215/862-3166). The program is not recommended for young children.

Anthracite Heritage Museum will host Remember Johnny Mitchell Day this Sunday (Oct. 24). Mitchell was President of the United Mine Workers during the [anthracite] Coal Strike of 1902, which marked a turning point in U.S. labor relations (okay, I made that sound pretty academic, but don’t be put off—it’s a fun program). The program runs from Noon to 5 pm; admission is free!

What Do You Want?

Last month I attended a symposium for historic house museum staff and volunteers that was aimed at improving the visitor experience. The more we learn about how people feel about going to museums and historic sites, the more we know that a visit is a complicated transaction. It’s not just about what we present and how we present it (although that’s the part we tend to have the most control of, if you can call it control). During the 25-or-so years (ack!) that I’ve been working in the museum field, our understanding of the diversity of visitor needs, wants, and interests has steadily grown. Researchers have identified a range of learning styles, motivations, expectations, etc. that all play into the complex equation that is a satisfying visit.

Visitors to our sites on the Trails of History find a variety of options for learning about Pennsylvania’s heritage (which is usually at least a part of the reason for choosing us). Always looking for ways to enhance the experience of the people who come to see us, our staff periodically evaluate tours, programs, and events (both formally and informally) to make sure they are serving our audiences. And all of us are trying to keep up with social media and the rapid changes in technology to figure out how/if they make sense for history museums.

So, as a way to (I hope) get a conversation started, there’s a new poll (somewhere on the right side of your screen) asking for some basic info from you about your preferred way to tour a historic house, history museum, or historic site (please focus on history rather than other types of museums). I realize that there is often some overlap between the options listed in the poll, but it’s designed to let you choose only one. I’ll leave the poll in place for a couple of weeks. Please also feel free to submit comments (click on the number next to the word “Comment” at the top of this post).

Tall Ships Erie 2010

This just in: After six years of waiting, the State Archives research room will be closing for renovations on Monday, October 18, 2010. The last day of public access will be Saturday, October 16. We anticipate that the research room will reopen for public use on February 3, 2011.

Many thanks to guest blogger Linda Bolla for this week’s post. The photos are by Linda, John Baker, and Lance Barclay.

Taken from Niagara during the Parade of Sail

Tall Ships Erie (September 9 – 12, 2010) was a larger event than one can cover in a single blog posting, so I’ll focus on that part I know best, the educational programs offered on Friday and throughout the weekend.

Kevin Windsor tells some tall (ship) tales between gun drills

Friday, September 10, was the largest one-day educational undertaking in the history of Niagara and the Erie Maritime Museum. Organized by long-time volunteer and retired Erie educator Mary Jane Koenig and her committee, over 3,600 students were given a Tall Ships experience they’ll never forget. The fifty schools who participated came from all over the Western Pennsylvania counties, and included all types of institutions: public, private, charter, home school, and even cyber schools. All students went onboard at least two of the Tall Ships, and listened to dockside presentations on those they did not visit. Most teachers made a full day of it, touring the Museum, as well, to see sail handling and gun drill demonstrations done by Ship’s Company, Niagara’s Living History group. They could also take advantage of the Maritime Film Festival, featuring educational short films throughout the day, to get off their feet for a few minutes and regroup.

Captains of the Tall Ships, from l to r: Rachel Bohm (Unicorn), Hugo Bauer (Roald Amundsen), Robin Walbridge (Bounty),
Walter Rybka (Site Administrator and Senior Captain of Niagara) and Jan Miles (Pride of Baltimore II)

Later that day, almost 200 people attended the Flagship Niagara League’s annual commemoration of the Battle of Lake Erie, held on Presque Isle at the Perry Memorial Monument. The program included patriotic songs, performed by Lake Erie Sound Quartet, and remarks about the Battle by Erie Maritime Museum Site Administrator Walter Rybka. It was a most poignant moment in the service when several of the Tall Ships Captains placed a wreath honoring the men of both the American and British fleets on Misery Bay. Niagara spent the winter of 1813-14 at Misery Bay, and was later sunk there.

Sue Beates plays traditional tunes with the Good for Nuthin’ String Band

The Tall Ships Erie Festival included a number of local bands throughout the weekend, including traditional music by the Good For Nuthin’ String Band. PHMC employees might recognize Sue Beates, stepping out of a familiar role as Historian/Curator II at Drake Well Museum to play mandolin with the band. Many thanks to Sue and the band for contributing their time and talents.

And Things that Go "Bump" in the Night

Autumn is officially here, if it doesn't get washed away by the remnants of Hurricane Nicole. No matter, there are lots of fall and harvest programs on the Trails of History, not to mention some Halloween-inspired offerings. Most sites are closed on Oct. 11 for Columbus Day; the only exception I’m aware of is the Railroad Museum. So start digging out those sweaters and join us for a lively and lovely October.

Bushy Run Battlefield
Oct. 2: Annual Fall Nature Walk—join local naturalist George Heasley to explore Bushy Run’s woodlands and learn about western PA flora and fauna

Oct. 23: Haunted History Hayride—tour the battlefield in a hay wagon and find scary sights from Pontiac’s War. Reservations required.

Conrad Weiser Homestead
Oct. 17: Weiser Interpretive Sunday and Fall Park Walk (noon to 4 pm)

Cornwall Iron Furnace
Oct. 12: Lecture, “Clarence Schock Memorial Park at Governor Dick,” by Janie Gockley

Daniel Boone Homestead
Oct. 17: Heritage Day—this year, Heritage Day celebrates the 100th anniversary of the Boy Scouts of America, a group closely tied to the site; the First Pennsylvania Regiment will be on hand for a firelock shoot and 18th-century trades and crafts will be demonstrated

Oct. 31: Trick-or-treating at the Daniel Boone Homestead—a new program featuring traditional fall and Halloween activities; children are encouraged to come in costume and trick-or-treat at the historic buildings

PHMC/Eckley Miners' Village

Oct. 3: An Afternoon with Mother Jones—a dramatic presentation by Karen Esak exploring the life and work of 19th-century labor organizer Mary Harris, known to friends and foes as Mother Jones

Oct. 15-16, 22-23, 29-30: Halloween Tours—ghostly walking tours of the Village (bring your own flashlight or purchase a lantern at the museum). Rain dates are Oct. 17 and 24.

Ephrata Cloister
Oct. 8-9: Apple Dumplings and Musical Delights—proceeds from the sale of delicious apple dumplings support the return of historical artifacts to the Cloister; the Ephrata Cloister Chorus will perform several times in the historic Saal on Saturday afternoon

Oct. 22: Community Day—educational program featuring lots of hands-on activities, perfect for school and homeschool groups. Advance registration is strongly encouraged.

Oct. 22-23: Mysterious, Melancholy, and Macabre: Stories from Early Lancaster County—dramatizations of stories pulled from local 18th-century newspapers (murder, arson, lightning strikes, and rabies) and maybe a ghost or two. Weather permitting, the program will take place outside by candlelight; please dress accordingly.

Oct. 30: Lecture, “Victim of Honor: The Story of John Yeats Beall and the Northwestern Conspiracy,” James E. Duffey, speaker. Adjunct professor of Am Hist Kent State Univ, Stark Campus (Canton, OH) and author of Victim of Honor, which recounts the unsuccessful effort to free Confederate prisoners from Johnson’s Island (near Sandusky).

Graeme Park
Oct. 15 and 30: Paranormal Investigations—Friends of Graeme Park are working with National PA Paranormal Investigators (NPPI) for a series of programs. Reservations required.

Oct. 17: Fall Fun Festival—traditional fall activities for families (rain date 10/24)

Oct. 22-23, 29: Haunted Moonlight Tours—learn about the history of Graeme Park and tour the Keith House. Reservations required.

PHMC/Landis Valley Village and Farm Museum

Landis Valley Village and Farm Museum
Oct. 9-10: Harvest Days—51st annual program celebrating PA German life—food, crafts, wagon rides, pumpkin patch, music, and much more

Old Economy Village
Oct. 9: Penn Pilsner Oktoberfest—beer, German food, and entertainment, what’s not to like? Contact site for tickets.

Pennsbury Manor
Oct. 3: Historic Trades—the blacksmith and joyner will demonstrate their skills

Oct. 10: Living History Theater: The Sotcher Wedding—observe late 17th-century Quaker wedding customs and mingle with other guests as the Penns’ steward and head housekeeper are joined in marriage.

Oct. 17: Open Hearth Cooking: 17th-century Beverages—the cooks will be preparing William Penn’s drinking chocolate as well as posset, syllabub, and more.

Oct. 24: Cider Making—see how apple cider was pressed in the 17th century and sample fresh cider (sorry, only the unfermented variety)

Oct. 31: Living History Theater: Witch Trial—observe and participate in a recreation of the 1684 trial of Margaret Mattson, accused by her neighbors of witchcraft. There will also be family-friendly trick-or-treat and fall activities.

Oct. 9-10: Discover Your Heritage Days

Pennsylvania Military Museum
Oct. 5: Lecture, presented by Central PA Civil War Roundtable, “Shadows of War – Prelude to the First Memorial Day,” Dr. Janice S. McElhoe, speaker—Presentation describes events in Boalsburg before and during deployment of Company G of the 148th Pennsylvanians to the Civil War.

Oct. 25: Lecture, presented by Friends of PMM, “Enter and Die: Forty Years Later,” James Milliken, speaker—Milliken will talk about events chronicled in his book, Enter and Die, describing his experiences as an infantryman in Viet Nam.

PHMC/Railroad Museum of PA

Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania
Oct. 8-10: Model Railroading Days and Garden Railways Tour—model railroading activities for kids and grown-ups at the museum Friday-Sunday; Garden Railways Tour on Sunday afternoon features eight operating garden railways at private homes (a separate ticket is required and can be purchased at RMP, National Toy Train Museum, or Stauffers of Kissel Hill stores in central PA—or enter a contest to win tickets).

Somerset Historical Center
Oct. 30: Exhibit, “Woven Wonders: Somerset County Coverlets,” closes

State Museum of Pennsylvania
October: Archaeology Month—visit the archaeology dig at Fort Hunter, just north of Harrisburg. Weekdays from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm (weather permitting), State Museum archaeologists will be continuing their excavations and welcome the public to come see what’s up. For more info, visit This Week in PA Archaeology.

Four Hours Before the Mast

Earlier this week, U.S. Brig Niagara senior captain Walter Rybka assembled a meeting-weary group of colleagues on the dock behind the Erie Maritime Museum for some brief instructions. We were hosted by staff and board members of the Flagship Niagara League, who joined us for a late-afternoon sail on Lake Erie and a chance to shake off the dust of our day jobs.

Before we boarded the ship, Walter shared these words from Richard Henry Dana’s account of life as a sailor, Two Years Before the Mast: “There is not so helpless and pitiable an object in the world as a landsman beginning a sailor’s life.” No further comment is necessary, so I’ll just share some of my favorite photos of the evening. If you ever have the chance to take a day sail on Niagara and can work with the crew hauling on lines and learning a bit about how the ship functions, do it.

Still on dry land/photo courtesy Barbara Zolli

Learning the ropes

Getting our sea legs

Art shot of sunset on Lake Erie (am keeping the day job)

Making for port

A member of the professional crew, of course