Happy Anniversary, Trailheads!

Note: The National Park Service has announced the 2010 National Historic Landmarks photo contest, open to amateur and professional photographers. For a list of NHLs in Pennsylvania, go here.

Although it seems like only yesterday (okay, a couple of days before yesterday, but you know what I mean), Trailheads hit the blogosphere one year ago on August 1. It’s been quite a year. Change came to the Trails of History (I keep typing “trials of history”) by the truckload. Within weeks of our intro post, the first round of furloughs and site closures began, followed a couple of months later by another round. I won’t rehash it again—we’ve covered that ground enough for the moment.

Our friends and supporters were mobilized by the severity of last year’s budget cuts and we’re all trying to get better at articulating the value of history in general and PHMC’s sites and programs in particular. I would like to thank all of you who read Trailheads, who support our efforts, and who tell other people why. Cautious optimism seems to be in order, for the coming fiscal year at any rate, but we need you all to help us keep up the good fight.

Courtesy Historical & Genealogical Society of Somerset County

One way to support us, of course, is by visiting your favorite sites on the Trails of History (or by visiting one that’s new to you). August program offerings are listed below (there are still a few summer camps in August—check our June 11 post for details).

Anthracite Heritage Museum
Month of August: Coal Country Summer Holiday Tours (contact museum for details and reservations)
August 1: Lithuanian Heritage Day and opening of exhibit, “Just Married: 70 Years of Weddings in Coal Country, 1880-1950”
August 11: Digital Day, workshop for teachers (registration required)

Bushy Run Battlefield
August 7-8: 247th Anniversary Reenactment of the Battle of Bushy Run

Conrad Weiser Homestead
August 8: Weiser Interpretive Sunday
August 21: Evening Tours with Living History Vignettes

Daniel Boone Homestead
August 8: First Pennsylvania Regiment Flintlock Shoot

PHMC/Drake Well Museum

August 7: Blacksmithing Workshop (2 half-day sessions, 4 students each—contact site to register)

Eckley Miners’ Village
August 14-15: Living History Weekend and Civil War Encampment

PHMC/Eckley Miners' Village

Ephrata Cloister
August 21: Family Day

Graeme Park
August 7, 14, 21, 28: Farm and Flea Market (flea market once a month, check with site for date)
August 22: Living History Sunday

Landis Valley Village and Farm Museum
August 3: Hands-on History Day
August 28: Artisan demonstrations at the Weathervane

PHMC/Old Economy Village

Old Economy Village
August 7: An Evening in the Historic Gardens of Old Economy Village (reservations required)
August 29: Celebrate Gertrude Rapp’s 202nd Birthday

Pennsbury Manor
August 1: Historic Trades
August 8: Living History Theater—the 1686 trial of Quaker James Wills on charges of beating his slave to death
August 15: Open Hearth Cooking Demonstration: The Receipts (recipes) of Gulielma Penn
August 22: Garden Highlights
August 29: Animals at Pennsbury

Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania
August 13-14: Hogwarts Express Parties (registration is required and is on a first come first served basis)

Washington Crossing Historic Park
August 15: A Midsummer’s Evening of Music

Communities in Common

Early this year, PHMC announced its 2010 Annual Theme—Black History in Pennsylvania: Communities in Common. For several years now, we have used themes to focus agency-wide attention on historical eras or topics that cut across our various program areas. Staff begin planning for the themes during the previous year (I went to a meeting this week for the 2011 theme, which will explore issues of religious freedom and toleration in Pennsylvania from William Penn’s time to the present). In addition to using themes to inform our own work, we also hope the annual themes help shed light on the work of other organizations and individuals and encourage people to explore these significant areas of history.

So for this week, Trailheads features info that highlights Pennsylvania’s fascinating and divergent stories of freedom and slavery, cooperation and conflict, dislocation and community building—you know, the stuff that makes history worth studying. I’ve probably missed some things and hope folks will comment (click on the number next to the word “comment” at the top of this post) to add to what is included below.

Resources for researching African American history in Pennsylvania—including a detailed bibliography and historic preservation surveys of eight communities—are available here. This history study, a wide-ranging examination of black history topics, also can serve as a framework for anyone who wants to document and learn more about the history of his or her community and its connections to the theme. Teachers looking for support in sharing Pennsylvania’s black history with their students will find relevant lesson plans on the ExplorePAHistory.com website.

Interested researchers and readers of history can also find information on the Trails of History at the click of a mouse. Read about African Americans who served on Niagara or other ships in the Battle of Lake Erie or find out about the service of free and enslaved African Americans during the American Revolution from Joseph Becton and Noah Lewis (both of whom have participated in reenactments of Washington’s crossing of the Delaware). Ongoing research into the free and enslaved workers at Graeme Park and Cornwall Iron Furnace may provide avenues for further exploration. On the website of the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, the significant contributions of African Americans to railroading are explored in the context of Railroads in Society.

Pennsylvania Heritage magazine, Spring 2010 cover

The editors of Pennsylvania Heritage magazine devoted almost all of the spring 2010 issue to exploring the theme. The summer 2010 issue includes articles on National Historic Landmarks and state historical markers related to African American history in Pennsylvania; a profile (part of the Trailblazers series) of Scranton businesswoman Louise Tanner Brown; an overview of the theme (condensed from the history study I mentioned above); and a documentary heritage feature highlighting the Civil War muster rolls (and announcing the November 2010 reenactment of the 1865 Grand Review of the United States Colored Troops (USCT) in Harrisburg). In addition, PABookstore.com developed a program of talks this year related to the theme; video of those that have already taken place is available here.

PHMC/Landis Valley Village and Farm Museum

A Pennsylvania member of the USCT, John Worfel (those are his personal belongings in the photo above), is featured in a new exhibit at Landis Valley Village and Farm Museum. “A Soldier, Three Blacksmiths, and an Inventor: Profiles of Individuals from Three Historic African-American Families in the Pennsylvania-German Region” introduces visitors to Worfel, a private in Company C, 32nd Regiment of the USCT; John, Benjamin, and Edward Sebastian, who were blacksmiths in rural Berks County during the mid 1800s; and William Chester Ruth, who designed, patented, and manufactured a bale feeder and a self-raising conveyor-elevator (among others) in the early 1900s. The exhibit runs through Dec. 31.

Other exhibits and programming include the works of artist C. Edgar Patience, whose coal sculptures are featured at the Anthracite Heritage Museum in Scranton. The State Museum will feature the exhibit (opening Aug. 7), “Voices of the Revolution,” woodcuts by artist Edith Jaffy Kaplan commemorating the Civil Rights Movement. There will also be a presentation on civil rights by Dr. Leslie Patrick of Bucknell University on Sept. 12. At Pennsbury Manor, visitors learn about the complex issues of slavery and freedom in the new permanent exhibit, “Seed of a Nation,” as well as during tours and programs on the site (classroom and distance learning programs are also available).

As always, it’s impossible to cover a broad and detailed topic in this short space (or not so short this week). Please explore and see where you end up!

Call Me

Special note: If you'd like to participate in the Pennsylvania Community Preservation Values Survey that will inform the next Statewide Preservation Plan, go here.

Remember the days when you’d go to a museum and they’d ask you to turn off your cell phone? That still happens, of course, but more and more museums are giving you something to do with your cell phone while you visit. Art museums were the first to begin offering their audio tours through visitors’ own technology. History museums and historic sites have been somewhat slower to get on board, but we’re getting there. Personally, I don’t see technology ever replacing the experience of a really good guided tour. But the reality is that we have fewer guides, and you can’t offer a guided tour of every inch of a large historic site anyway. Not to mention the fact that some research shows that many people who visit historic sites prefer to tour on their own.

So far, three Trails of History sites have experimented with cell phone tours. The Railroad Museum of PA, during a pilot project several years ago, found that while the people who used the tour were very pleased with it, not enough visitors took advantage of the opportunity to make it worth pursuing at that time. (Metal buildings also tend to interfere with cell phone reception, making it a less than smooth experience for some users.) The museum staff focused their technology efforts on developing interactive kiosks, a locomotive simulator, and more visual displays within their exhibits.

PHMC/Pennsbury Manor

Pennsbury Manor developed a cell phone tour last summer and has been offering that for visitors as a great enhancement for self-guided tours of the grounds (except for special events, only guided tours get to see the interior of the Manor House). Tour stops introduce visitors to many of the people who lived and worked at Pennsbury during William Penn’s time and shed light on the (re)construction of the Manor House and other buildings in the early 20th century. Staff at Pennsbury are very pleased with the amount of listen time the tours receive (2.5 hours—a minute at a time—in the past 2 weeks) and feel that the tours are well worth the effort.

PHMC/Ephrata Cloister

The most recent addition to our stock of cell phone tours is at Ephrata Cloister, where tours were launched at the end of May. The audio tour includes information on individuals who may not be highlighted in a guided tour or the interpretive brochure, adding yet another layer of insight for visitors. Several of the tour stops feature character voices instead of straight narrative, which gives listeners some audio variety and a taste of what makes Ephrata’s special programs special. On top of providing a new way to serve the site’s visitors, the launch garnered some welcome local publicity, both in the media and at the local convention and visitors bureau. During the first 2 weeks of July, listen time for the tours was just shy of 6.5 hours (again, one minute at a time).

As you can guess, we’re pretty excited about the possibilities for using what has become a ubiquitous technology to further enliven our visitors’ time with us. Trailheads will keep you posted as additional sites develop cell phone tours and more.

Oh, and for those of you who have moved on to smartphones, here’s a secret message:

Mid-Week Update--Oil history

Join noted historian Johnny Cash for a trip to Titusville and a look at the early history of the oil industry.

Trains in Motion

Program note: registration is still open for the Archives without Tears workshop to be hosted by Somerset Historical Center on July 21-22. The two-day workshop features practical advice on archival collections care and management, plus lunches (all for $25). Contact Joshua Stahlman at the Pennsylvania State Archives for more info.

Last month, I visited the refurbished “Trains in Motion” exhibit at the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania in Strasburg. Part of the museum’s ongoing series of changing exhibits focused on images of railroads in art and culture, the exhibit will be up through December of this year. “Trains in Motion” is effectively a timeline of cinema history, spanning films from the Lumière Brothers’ Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat (1895) to Unstoppable (set for release this November, starring Denzel Washington and filmed—in part—along former Pennsylvania Rail Road lines).

Four screens within the exhibit feature highlights of train-centric films that you may or may not be familiar with. Movie posters and stills create a great visual sweep, and a variety of props and objects provide an added dimension for visitors. Be sure not to miss “Trains in Motion,” which is located in the Museum’s second floor gallery.

Prop from Hello, Dolly! on loan from Strasburg Rail Road

The staff and volunteers at the Railroad Museum, perhaps inspired by this exhibit, have recently been making great use of moving images to document their work and show what goes on behind the scenes. Of current interest is the restoration of the PRR No. 460 locomotive (also known as the “Lindbergh Engine”).

More video of the restoration shop and other stuff going on at the Railroad Museum is available on Facebook or the museum website. And be sure to check out the calendar of events for programs coming up later this summer and fall.

Sailing, sailing

PHMC/Flagship Niagara

Your mid-week update: WKYC Channel 3 in Cleveland (NBC affiliate) is onboard Flagship Niagara as it heads from Erie to Cleveland for the Tall Ships Festival. Follow their blog here.

After the fireworks...the history and stuff

Breaking news: PHMC 2010 Photo contest opened July 1 (and runs to January 1, 2011). Go here for details!

I love the 4th of July. The fireworks, getting together with family and friends, and the food (big surprise). I’m not much for parades, but if you like parades you can surely find at least one to suit your tastes. I like the fact that this is a holiday that unites us as a nation of communities and people of different backgrounds and traditions. There are many perspectives on what it means to be American, but on Independence Day, I think we can put a lot of that aside and celebrate the fact that we don’t all have to believe exactly the same things (the signers of the Declaration of Independence certainly didn’t see eye-to-eye on everything). We can commemorate our rich and varied history, made up of the victories and losses, the successes and disappointments, the dreams and fears of generations of folks from all over the political (and geographical) map.

Once you’ve digested the hot dogs and potato salad, and your ears have stopped ringing from the percussion of the neighbors’ roadside-stand fireworks, you can continue the celebration on the Pennsylvania Trails of History. That’s right, Trailheads, this is the July program preview (drumroll, please). Most sites on the Trails will be observing their regular Sunday schedule on July 4, but remember to check ahead to make sure that the site you want to visit will be open when you plan to be there. There’s a lot going on the rest of the month, too, so here goes.

July and August are prime time for summer history camps, but since we covered those in a post in June, they are not listed below.

Bushy Run Battlefield
July 11: Bushy Run Trail Run

Conrad Weiser Homestead

July 4: Ringgold Band Concert
July 11: Weiser Interpretive Sunday

Cornwall Iron Furnace
July 17: Cast Iron Cooking Demonstration

Daniel Boone Homestead
July 4: Independence Day Program

Drake Well Museum

July 4: Antique Car Show
July 24: Coopering for Kids

Eckley Miners’ Village
July 17-18: Summer of ’44 WWII History Weekend

Fort Pitt Museum
July 2-4: Onsite activities during Three Rivers Regatta

PHMC/Graeme Park

Graeme Park
July 3, 10, 24, 31: Farm and Flea Market (no market on 7/17)
July 17: Celtic Heritage Festival

Hope Lodge

July 30: Movie Night

Landis Valley Village and Farm Museum
July 24: Civil War Day

Old Economy Village
July 17: Hands on History Day

Pennsbury Manor Watch for William and Hannah Penn in the Wawa Welcome America Independence Day Parade in Philadelphia! Then visit Pennsbury and say that you saw them; see what happens.

July 4: Historic Trades (joyner and blacksmith)
July 11: Living History Theater—Women Preachers: A Visit from Mary Rogers and Elizabeth Webb
July 18: Open Hearth Cooking Demonstration: Preserving the Harvest
July 25: Garden Highlights

Pennsylvania Lumber Museum
July 3-4: Bark Peelers Convention

Pennsylvania Military Museum
July 8-11: People’s Choice Arts Festival
July 24-25: Vietnam Revisited

Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania
Through July 5 (started June 30): Reading Railroad Days (night photo shoot July 2)

Somerset Historical Center
July 21-22: Archives without Tears (cosponsored with Pennsylvania State Archives; you can attend one or both days; registration deadline is July 9)