April showers bring spring programs

If you haven’t done so already, be sure to participate in our poll (to the right of your screen) about the Pennsylvania History Bill of Rights.

Before we take a look at upcoming programs, I want to highlight a recent product placement coup by the Anthracite Heritage Museum. In the St. Patrick’s Day episode of NBC’s “The Office” (which aired on March 11), a gift bag with the museum’s logo appears twice (that I saw). This is the second time that the museum has showed up as part of the producers’ efforts to include glimpses of Scranton.

Spring is officially here, and even if there’s still the possibility of snow (yeesh) at some places on the Trails of History, we’re thinking about warmer weather and greener pastures. Site programming is starting to warm up too, so there’s even more to look forward to in April. A note about Easter (Sunday, April 4): some sites will be open, some will be closed. So (as we always say), please check ahead to see if the site you want to visit will be open when you plan to be there.

Anthracite Heritage Museum
Global Warming Conference: April 11 (offered in conjunction with PennFuture; register by April 8)

Daniel Boone Homestead
1st PA Regiment Flintlock Shoot: April 30

Ephrata Cloister
Community Day: April 30 (education program geared to schools and home-schools; contact site for more info or to register)

Graeme Park
School of the Soldier: April 9-11 (The 71st Pennsylvania Voluntary Infantry will stage a Civil War encampment on the grounds of Graeme Park)

Landis Valley Village and Farm Museum
Folk Art and Friendship Classes (Weathervane museum store): April 10 (paper stars), April 17 (papercutting—Scherenschnitte), April 24 (straw art)
Spring Benefit Auction: April 24

PHMC/Old Economy Village

Old Economy Village
Site opens for the season: April 16
Spring Garden Workshop: April 17 (register before April 10)

Pennsbury Manor
Volunteer Training: April 10 or April 12 (call to sign up)
Living History Theater, “Parenting the Colonial Teen”: April 11
Open hearth cooking demonstration, Spring in the 17th Century: April 18
Garden highlights: April 25

Pennsylvania Military Museum
Battery B Drill Weekend: April 17-18 (3rd Pennsylvania Volunteers Civil War reenactors will encamp on the museum grounds, present artillery demonstrations, and recruit new members)
Exhibit, “Memories of Service – PA National Guard Mementos from The Great War,” is scheduled to open in April

Somerset Historical Center
Basket Workshop: April 17 (participants will learn to make a round bottom fruit basket with bushel handles)
Coopering School: April 30-May 2 (class members will learn coopering skills as they make a sugar keeler—keelers are the wooden buckets used to gather maple sap)
Textile Exhibit, “A Treasury of Handwork,” continues through April 25

PHMC/State Museum of Pennsylvania

State Museum of Pennsylvania
Exhibit, “TUSKS” featuring the Marshall’s Creek mastodon skeleton, continues through May 2 (the mastodon will take a break and then reappear in a remodeled museum gallery later this year)

Pennsylvania's History Bill of Rights

Regular readers of Trailheads and followers of Pennsylvania's budget saga know that the Pennsylvania Trails of History (along with lots of other history organizations) have been dealing with severe reductions in state funding this fiscal year. The need for the services provided by our sites and by other staff of the PHMC has not subsided, however. At many museums across the state, visitation is up, as Pennsylvanians and heritage travelers from all over the country and the world continue to seek out meaningful and enjoyable experiences.

As a way to wrap our arms and brains around the needs of history "consumers," if you will, PHMC has articulated 6 provisions of the Pennsylvania History Bill of Rights.

PHMC/Ephrata Cloister

I. Pennsylvania's students understand history in the context of local, national, and world events.

PHMC/Erie Maritime Museum & Flagship Niagara

II. The Commonwealth maintains a competitive position as a premier tourism destination for heritage travelers.

1780 Act for the Gradual Abolition of Slavery/Pennsylvania State Archives

III. Citizens have access to the permanent records of government and the permanently valuable documents which tell the history of the Commonwealth.

PHMC/Anthracite Heritage Museum

IV. Current and future generations are assured that historical resources are preserved for their enjoyment and use.

PHMC/Landis Valley Village and Farm Museum

V. Museums, historical societies, and historic sites receive adequate public and private support to maintain high standards of stewardship and public access.

PHMC/Bureau for Historic Preservation

VI. Communities retain their historic character that is essential to attracting and retaining residents, businesses, and visitors.

On Charter Day, visitors to sites on the Trails of History were asked to tell us which 3 of the 6 were most important. In a future post, I'll report on the results, but I don't want to skew the returns--the poll to the right of your screen (just a bit below the big TRAILHEADS title) gives YOU a chance to weigh in now. The feedback we're getting will help as we focus our resources and find the best ways for all of us to move forward into the second decade (the ought-teens?) of the 21st century. Thank you, as always, for your interest and support.

Spring Forward and Celebrate Charter Day

Okay, so we lose an hour on March 14 when Daylight Savings Time kicks in. By the time the sites on the Trails of History open at noon for Charter Day, we should all be adjusted. So there’s no excuse not to get out there and celebrate Pennsylvania’s birthday, Trailheads. Almost all the sites on the Trails will be open FREE OF CHARGE (check here to make sure your favorite will be receiving visitors).

While you’re enjoying your time on the Trails of History on Charter Day, you’ll also have a chance to be part of a new initiative—the History Bill of Rights. As a way to convey the importance of keeping the Commonwealth’s heritage alive and well, we’ve put together six statements that we think reflect the rights of all of us to have access to our history. Trails of History sites will have these statements available for you to read and express your opinion on (look for a future Trailheads post that will allow you to do so as well and read some press coverage about the initiative here). You may also be asked for contact information so that we can keep you posted on programs, activities, and ways you can help us keep the importance of history on the radar screen when decisions are being made.

Many of the open sites have also planned special activities for the day (others will just be welcoming you to come on in FREE OF CHARGE—isn’t that enough?). At Pennsbury Manor, the home of William Penn (who received the Charter for Pennsylvania from Great Britain’s King Charles II in 1681), visitors can be present for the grand opening of a much-anticipated permanent exhibit, “Seed of a Nation.” Here at Trailheads, we’ve looked in on the exhibit installation a couple of times. Now you can see the final product in person or enjoy these photos, which should whet your appetite. Speaking of appetites, there will also be open hearth cooking (and other craft) demos, and Pennsbury asks you to bring a non-perishable food item for donation to the Penndel Food Pantry.

If traveling to Pennsbury doesn’t fit your plans for Charter Day, there are opportunities all over Pennsylvania. In addition to being open (did I mention) FREE OF CHARGE, you can find plenty of activities on the Trails on March 14 (more details at each website).

Anthracite Heritage Museum
Book-signing by local artist Gene Moyer; debut of new temporary exhibit on Welsh immigration.

Conrad Weiser Homestead
18th-century military reenactors representing Pennsylvania and French regiments; guided tours; and a display of 18th-century clothing.

Cornwall Iron Furnace
Tours of the furnace; soup, homemade bread, and desserts for sale to benefit the site’s programs.

Daniel Boone Homestead
Craft and open hearth cooking demonstrations; flintlock shoot; and tours of the homestead.

Lecture, "The Irish Presence in Eckley"; book-signing by author of "Call Me Kate: Meeting the Molly Maguires."

Ephrata Cloister
Ephrata Cloister Chorus performs several times during the afternoon; tours (and an opportunity to see first-hand the water-based disaster we chronicled here).

Graeme Park
Tours of the Keith House and light refreshments.

Joseph Priestley House
Celebrating Dr. Priestley’s birthday, as well as Pennsylvania’s, with science demos in the laboratory.

Landis Valley Village and Farm Museum
Craft and open hearth cooking demos; wagon rides; opening of new temporary exhibit on African American history.

State Museum of Pennsylvania
William Penn himself (sort of), a storyteller, THE Charter, the 1780 Act for the Gradual Abolition of Slavery, and a mastodon skeleton.

It Started with a Snowsuit

Thanks to Carrie Blough for the photos.

There’s still time to check out a new changing exhibit at the Somerset Historical Center. “Treasury of Handwork: Somerset County Textile Arts” explores 250 years of needlework, including crocheting, knitting, quilting, and embroidery. The exhibit is organized by the Historical and Genealogical Society of Somerset County, which, due to state budget reductions, has recently taken a greatly expanded role in the daily operations of the Center (on top of their long-standing commitment to programs and exhibits).

So, what does a snowsuit have to do with this? It was the donation of a c. 1930 hand-knit and hand-crocheted snowsuit with hat that inspired curator Carrie Blough to research and develop the exhibit. “It was done so beautifully and yet it was still utilitarian. I wanted a chance to display this type of work,” Blough told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review for an article in late January.

The exhibit features items selected from a large collection of County pieces to represent different aspects of textile arts, as well as different periods of history, spanning a range from the 1780s to the 1930s.

“Treasury of Handwork,” which closes April 25, will be followed by “Woven Wonders: Somerset County Coverlets,” scheduled to run from June 19 through October 12. Several textile-related workshops are also planned for 2010; check out the calendar of events for more details.