Can't Believe It's June

So here we are at Memorial Day weekend. You know what that means, Trailheads—time for the June program preview. Let’s just cut to the chase....

Brandywine Battlefield
June 21-25: Summer Camp week 1 (camps continue weekly—except June 28-July 2—through mid-August)

Conrad Weiser Homestead
June 6: Weiser Interpretive Sunday

Cornwall Iron Furnace
June 27: Mrs. Buckingham’s Lawn Party

PHMC/Eckley Miners' Village

Eckley Miners’ Village
June 13: Exhibit of photographs by VISTA volunteer Christopher Deemer opens with reception to benefit Eckley (exhibit continues throughout the summer)
June 19-20: Patch Town Days

Erie Maritime Museum and Flagship Niagara
June 5: Maritime Family Fun Day
June 19: Three Lights Tour (bus tour highlighting Erie’s 3 lighthouses plus the Fresnel lens on exhibit at the museum—reserve seats in advance)
June 22-23: Archives without Tears (workshop presented by Pennsylvania State Archives; registration required)

Fort Pitt Museum
June 4-13: Reenactors and various activities during Three Rivers Arts Festival

Graeme Park
June 5, 12, 19, 26: Farm and Flea Market
June 20: Father’s Day Lunch

Hope Lodge
June 16: Ambler Symphony concert on the lawn

Landis Valley Museum
June 14-18: 54th Annual Summer Institute (registration required)
June 22: Hands On History Day

Old Economy Village
June 12: Penn Pilsner “Oktoberfest” in June

Pennsbury Manor
June 6: Historic Trades
June 13: Living History Theater—Phineas Pemberton’s Funeral
June 20: Open hearth cooking demonstration—June’s Bounty in the 17th Century
June 27: Garden Highlights

Pennsylvania Military Museum
June 14: Flag Day Service and U.S. Flag Retirement Ceremony, 28th Division Shrine

PHMC/Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania

Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania
June 4-6: Pennsy Days (night photo shoot on June 4 requires registration)
June 12: MA and PA Day (Maryland & Pennsylvania Railroad)
June 30-July 5: Reading Railroad Days (night photo shoot on July 2 requires registration)

Scranton Iron Furnaces
June 19: Arts on Fire industrial arts festival

Somerset Historical Center
June 12: Genealogy workshop (registration deadline is June 1)
June 19: Exhibit, "Woven Wonders: Somerset County Coverlets," opens (runs through Oct. 12)

State Museum of Pennsylvania
June 20: 1780 Act for the Gradual Abolition of Slavery exhibit closes
June 27: Art of the State exhibit opens (runs through Sept. 12)

Herb and Garden Faire

My ambitions as a gardener have always been very modest (and my abilities usually fall short), but I love gardens, garden stores, and nurseries. So I was a happy girl attending Landis Valley Village and Farm Museum’s Herb and Garden Faire for the first time (although it was the 23rd annual) on Friday, May 7. It was a brilliant spring day, and I had lots of company. In fact, by 9:30 a.m. the regular parking lot was full and they were parking cars wherever they could find space.

My first stop was the Heirloom Seed Project Marketplace, which featured more varieties of herbs, tomatoes, flowering plants, and veggies than I could count. The Heirloom Seed Project began in the mid-1980s with a focus on preserving seeds from traditional varieties of plants and making them available to modern gardeners who want to experience history first-hand. Museum staff and volunteers work hard to make sure they have a good supply of seeds and plants ready for Faire attendees to take home to their gardens.

(Sorry it's a little blurry...)

More than 80 outside vendors filled the site with plants, flowers, herbal foods and lotions, garden décor, and lots of other good stuff. There was music by Seasons, plus food and beverages by Hess’s Barbeque Catering, the Landis Valley Mennonite Church, and Express Café (not to mention ice cream, cold drinks, and soft pretzels at the Weathervane museum store). I didn’t get a chance to try the food (except for some yummy herbal breads I bought to take to a dinner party) because my time was limited but I will definitely plan ahead for next year.

If you visited the Faire this year (or have in past years) please leave a comment about your favorite part. Mark your calendars for next year—May 6 and 7, 2011—and check out Landis Valley’s website for more programs coming up this summer and fall.

Valuing Volunteers

Just a couple of quick notes: The Friends of Joseph Priestley House were recently honored with the Dan Baylor Award for Entrepreneurial Spirit by the Susquehanna River Valley Visitor Bureau. Anthracite Heritage Museum is looking for wedding photos from folks who got married in Pennsylvania's anthracite region; visit them on Facebook for more info.

The following is part one in a three-part tribute to PHMC’s Volunteer of the Year honorees.

Independent Sector, which monitors issues of interest to non-profit organizations, has released its latest figures for the monetary value of volunteer time. Based on the (national) average hourly wage for non-management, non-agricultural workers (plus 12% for benefits), the value of one hour of volunteer time in 2009 was $20.85, up from $20.25 in 2008. At PHMC sites and museums, the value of volunteer time in 2009 was immeasurable, as we looked for more and more help from our support groups and advocates.

On May 8, at the State Museum of Pennsylvania, we had the chance to say thank you to a wonderful bunch of volunteers who had been selected for special recognition for their (priceless) work in 2009 and beyond. Over the next month or so, Trailheads will introduce you to these folks and share a bit about their efforts on behalf of the Trails of History and the people who travel them. It is impossible to do justice to the accomplishments and contributions of our honorees in a short space, but we’ll try to give you a glimpse of their work and to express our sincere gratitude for all they do.

Jack Frazier, a retired teacher with 38 years of experience, helps students visiting the Anthracite Heritage Museum learn about coal miners and their families, making the experience both fun and educational.

At Brandywine Battlefield, Rex Hughes has worked to bring about changes in the museum store and website and has used social media to draw increased attention and focus to the site and its activities.

With more than 25 new and veteran volunteers stepping up to help keep Bushy Run Battlefield open to the public despite severe state budget cuts, the Battlefield named its entire volunteer corps as Volunteer of the Year.

Nancy Ladd has worked to strengthen Cornwall Iron Furnace’s public relations efforts and ensure that the site maintains a vibrant image. This past year Nancy composed the solicitation letter for the site’s first (and highly successful) annual appeal campaign.

Most Sunday afternoons, you can find Robert “Rusty” Coller in the Blacksmith Shop at Daniel Boone Homestead, where he enjoys talking to visitors as much as hammering on the anvil. Rusty has also produced ironwork for the site’s use and for sale in the museum shop.

Retired educator Carole Hall began her service at Drake Well Museum as a part-time museum educator. Since passing the baton in 2002, she has continued to volunteer her time, serving as an advisor (along with her husband Clark) to the Friends board of directors and the MEET-U mobile education unit.

Christopher Deemer came to Eckley Miners’ Village as part of his work on pre-regulatory mining environmental issues and has become an active volunteer, helping with the Village newsletter, photographing the Village, and even picking the coal that’s on sale in the museum shop.

Active in many capacities at Ephrata Cloister, including the Community Days education program, Warren Eberly has led two important efforts in recent years. He coordinated the annual Apple Dumpling Days (a major fundraising event) for six years and has also served as the site’s wedding coordinator, working with brides, grooms, and parents to plan their special occasions.

Stay tuned for future posts to meet the rest of our Volunteers of the Year.

Moving Forward

When a decision is made to close a historic site or museum, even temporarily, it’s a terrible thing for all concerned. Years of work and care that have gone into maintaining the structures and programs seem suddenly to have been for nothing. Colleagues start talking about, and experiencing, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s five stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance). Community members react in a variety of ways to the news; some want to know who to blame and some want to know what they can do to intervene.

In the fall of 2009, the PHMC was faced with a budget cut of roughly 40%. An initial round of furloughs and site closures in August was followed by a second round in November after the budget was finally enacted. Last spring, PHMC began preparing for some of the closures, following the release of an internal report that recommended changes to the historic sites and museums program in light of dwindling financial support. The budget cuts greatly accelerated and broadened the scope of the proposed changes and provided less time for everyone—staff, volunteers, communities—to make sense of what was happening. No site was unaffected; eleven sites lost most or all of their state staff.
PHMC/Old Economy Village

After the initial shock, it was time to just deal with it. Buildings, artifacts, and documents had to be assessed and secured, especially where most or all PHMC staff presence was withdrawn. In some cases, collections were removed from sites and placed in more secure storage elsewhere (for obvious reasons, we don’t say much publicly about the details). Operating and program schedules (often somewhat curtailed over the winter anyway) were reviewed and adjusted in light of reduced staffing levels. The response was different at each site, because the circumstances were different at each site.

There were, however, some basic facts that did not change. For starters, the historic (and non-historic) buildings, artifacts, landscapes, and documents that were under PHMC’s stewardship before the cuts continue to be our responsibility after the cuts. Furthermore, caring for structures and objects, keeping sites open on a regular schedule, and staging public programs all require people to do the work. Site friends groups have stepped up to help fill the gaps wherever possible, continuing their strong support for programming. Moving into 2010, some sites remained closed to the public, but most were open in some capacity, due to the efforts of our friends groups to make sure that their site remained on the public’s radar screen.

PHMC/Brandywine Battlefield

Living in “the new normal” will mean seeking expanded means of sharing PHMC’s responsibilities with our friends groups and other organizations. Now that spring has arrived, we’re continuing to assess our situation, even as we await the fiscal year 2010-2011 budget. Negotiations are ongoing (or recently completed) to put long-term management agreements in place at sites where our administrative presence has been reduced. Through these partnerships, we will work to keep the sites open on a sustainable basis and continue to safeguard the historic structures and collections for the people of Pennsylvania.

If you want to learn more about how you can help, the Pennsylvania Heritage Society has posted useful information and links.