Volunteers of the Year, part 4 (season finale)

What are you planning for Memorial Day? If you’re inclined to get some history in between hot dog eating contests, we’re there for you. These Trails of History sites will be open on Monday, May 28: Anthracite Heritage Museum, Bushy Run Battlefield, Cornwall Iron Furnace, Drake Well Museum, Eckley Miners’ Village, Ephrata Cloister, Erie Maritime Museum and Flagship Niagara, Fort Pitt Museum, Landis Valley Village and Farm Museum, Old Economy Village, Pennsbury Manor, Pennsylvania Military Museum, Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, and Washington Crossing Historic Park. Most others will be open Saturday and Sunday, so please check if you’re planning to go.

PHMC/Drake Well Museum, photo by Brenda Reigle
The much-anticipated exhibit at Drake Well Museum is in its first phase of installation (with two more phases to go before opening in August). The Titusville Herald provided some coverage here and here. Additional photos are posted in PHMC's Flickr photostream.

And now, we bring you part 4 in our review of this year’s Volunteer of the Year honorees (part 1, part 2, part 3). We thank them all for their dedication to preserving our shared heritage and making it available and accessible to the public.

Robert J. Lawrence has been a presence at the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania for many years, serving as, among other things, a board member, fundraiser, and cataloguer of historic photographs.

At Somerset Historical Center, Cindy Wickham served as chairperson for Mountain Craft Days, an annual three-day event featuring more than 125 artisans and craft demonstrators.

Beverly Lichkus had an eventful first year as a volunteer at the State Museum of Pennsylvania, working as a docent in the “Life Through Time” exhibit, assisting with the installation of the annual “Art of the State” exhibit, and sharing her artistic talent with young visitors in the IdeaZone.

At Washington Crossing Historic Park, Nancy Heyrich stepped in to coordinate care of the site’s sheep when budget cuts took their toll and also worked to relocate and reopen the museum store.

In addition to the volunteer of the year honoree from each site, PHMC presented the Outstanding Service Award to:

Clair Garman for his more than 50 years of service to Landis Valley Village and Farm Museum as a board member, craft demonstrator and teacher, and mentor, and

Edith Reisler for her 40 years of service to the Pennsylvania Lumber Museum as board member, museum store organizer, event planner, and pie baker extraordinaire.

That’s it for this year’s Volunteer of the Year awards. I can’t wait to see who we get to honor next year!

Volunteers of the Year, part 3

The National History Day in Pennsylvania contest wrapped up at the beginning of the month, with more than 700 participants competing to go to the national event in June. (To view the list of winning entries, go here.) As you may know, History Day is a bit misleading, since students (with support from their teachers/parents/librarians/etc.) spend months researching and developing their entries. I’ve been involved with the state program in Pennsylvania for *gulp* twenty years as a judge (and as state coordinator for a few years before the turn of the century). It’s always a joy to see the quality of research and presentation that students are capable of and a hopeful sign for the field of history.

Another hopeful sign is the continuing dedication of volunteers to sites on the Trails of History (smooth, huh?). This week is the third installment of our recap of the Volunteer of the Year awards honoring service in 2011 (week 1 here, week 2 here).

Barbara and Bruce Johnson, long-time volunteers at Joseph Priestley House, performed extraordinary service in 2011 when flooding from Tropical Storm Lee threatened the house and surrounding neighborhood.

Landis Valley Village and Farm Museum’s Heirloom Seed Project and farm program have benefitted greatly from the fact that Floyd Ruhl was looking for something “to keep himself busy” when he retired.

Ann Sevcik has devoted many hours to the curatorial, archival, and music collections and programs at Old Economy Village, from cleaning, to research, to database entry, to promotion.

Pennsbury Manor honoree Carole Cunliffe has provided leadership and hands-on hard work to help keep the animal program going, in addition to her participation in the site’s living history theater troupe.

In addition to a wealth of mechanical knowledge, Bill Roberts has contributed countless handmade wooden items to the Pennsylvania Lumber Museum for sale in the museum store and for inclusion in the silent auction fundraiser, where they draw high bids.

Bryant T. Mesick has supported the Pennsylvania Military Museum’s educational mission by giving tours of the 28th Division Shrine and exhibits (indoors and out) and by helping to launch two new initiatives in 2011 aimed at the museum’s younger visitors.

Next week, part 4 of our recap, plus a list of sites that will be open on Memorial Day.

Volunteers of the year, part 2

But first, a couple of items. The Pennsylvania Military Museum was included in WeAreCentralPA.com’s ongoing “Daytrippin’” feature—some of you may have trouble with the link, it seems to vary.

On May 8, in honor of National Tourism Day, Visit Bucks County announced the recipients of its annual tourism grants. Washington Crossing Historic Park and Pennsbury Manor were among the 50 organizations who will share more than $1 million in grants. In addition, Pennsbury’s Tabitha Dardes received the Dedicated Partner Award as part of Visit Bucks County’s first-ever National Travel and Tourism Week honors (it’s not too late to celebrate NTTW by visiting your favorite heritage site this weekend). Congratulations!

So now, we continue with our all-too-brief intros to the volunteers recently honored for their work in 2011 (more posts on this here and here). These folks represent the wealth of dedicated unpaid staff at sites on the Trails of History who, working with the dedicated paid staff, preserve our Pennsylvania heritage and share it with the public.

Lorraine “Lorri” Ownsby divides her year between summer volunteering at Drake Well Museum, where she staffs the front desk and helps visitors learn about the exhibits, and winter volunteering at the Superstition Mountain Museum in Apache Junction, Arizona.

At Eckley Miners’ Village, Karen Esak has been instrumental in the development of Victorian-themed fundraising events, as well as two plays, one based on Mother Jones and the other on the Avondale Mine Disaster.

John “Jack” Oliphant serves Ephrata Cloister in a broad variety of ways—as a member of the Chorus, as an interpreter for historical programs and tours, as a chauffeur of people and cider—adding up to just over 125 hours in 2011.

Among other contributions to the Erie Maritime Museum and Flagship Niagara over the past 20+ years, Lance Barclay has guided numerous tours, trained and mentored new guides, and represented both the museum and the ship in Erie and beyond through educational presentations.

Jack Washington has provided leadership to the board of Graeme Park as well as participating in public programs for all ages, portraying Dr. Graeme, presenting Revolutionary War military personas, and demonstrating 18th-century woodworking skills.

Hope Lodge has benefitted greatly from Tony Garvan’s hard work keeping the gardens and grounds clean and cleared of brush as he helps to make the site enjoyable for reenactors and the visiting public.

More next week.

Volunteers of the Year, part 1

Two weeks ago, we honored 25 volunteers for their service at our historic sites and museums during 2011. I’ve been involved with the volunteer of the year awards since the early 1990s, and it never gets old. Folks came from all over the state to receive their awards and to help celebrate the honorees. This week and in weeks to come, I’ll introduce you to the people who were recognized this year for their efforts on behalf of our shared heritage.

But first, here’s some info on a new exhibit at Anthracite Heritage Museum, opening today (May 4). The exhibit, “Penn Foster: Alma Mater to the Millions,” sheds light on a distance-education training program that began over 100 years ago to help anthracite miners gain the skills and knowledge they needed to seek advancement (while still working a 12-hour day in the mines). The exhibit will continue through December 22.

And speaking of Anthracite Heritage, Vivian Cleveland joined the volunteer team there in 2009, where she has excelled in customer service (at the admissions desk and the museum store) and membership development.

Joe Barnett serves Brandywine Battlefield in many capacities, including guiding tours and assisting with the Colonial Day education program by portraying a Revolutionary War soldier.

Bushy Run Battlefield recognized John Brenkus for, among other contributions, his work at the annual battle reenactment and other special events and his service on the board of the Bushy Run Battlefield Heritage Society.

Joyce Bucci drives three hours from her home in New York State to volunteer at Conrad Weiser Homestead, where she assists at special events and has put her considerable skills as a seamstress to good use creating reproduction 18th-century clothing.

At Cornwall Iron Furnace, Irvin Muritz has served as Treasurer and chair of the buildings and grounds committee, providing leadership in board governance and all kinds of special events.

Lydia Rieger spends countless hours tending to Daniel Boone Homestead’s livestock, including donating materials and equipment to help in taking care of the animals.

Look for more of these admittedly brief intros in the weeks to come.