Behind the Scenes at Old Economy Village

Although one of the goals of Trailheads is to share glimpses of the work that goes on out of the public eye, that’s proven to be harder than I thought. Where it’s worked, it has usually been because staff at Trails of History sites, or central office staff who travel to sites, have contributed photos and info to our joint effort. I’m really grateful for the help.

A couple of weeks ago we were able to show you some photos of the new exhibit installation at Drake Well (you can find photos on PHMC’s Flickr account here, and we’ll continue to add more in coming weeks).

I’m pleased this week to be able to share some photos of work taking place at Old Economy Village. Staff there, with the help of several interns, are putting together a temporary exhibit, “Faces and Places – Photographs of Economy,” that will include numerous historical photographs, as well as a model to help visitors understand the extent of the Harmonists’ 19th-century holdings. The exhibit is slated to open later this month—watch this space for more info. (Photos below are by Brenda Reigle, unless otherwise noted.)

Curator Sarah Buffington works on a model that shows the streets and buildings of Economy, a fraction of which constitutes the historic site visitors see today.

Interns Elizabeth Dofner (Edinboro Univ.) and Sarah Lerch (Allegheny College) with just a few of the photos that will be included in the exhibit.

Sarah Lerch gave me an update on her internship experience so far: "The best part about my internship is that I can see the work I'm doing as eventually helping the site. I love that I am a part of something bigger than myself or just the summer. The exhibit we are working on will be on display for a year or more, and it is truly an honor to play an active role in its creation."

Intern Dorian Gilliam (Penn State Beaver) scans archival collections for use in the exhibit.

In addition to exhibit planning and the myriad of everyday activities at Old Economy, major work has been accomplished cleaning the Grotto, built in 1831 in the garden of Harmony Society founder George Rapp’s house. The Grotto is said to be a metaphor for the Harmonists themselves, rough on the exterior, but refined inside. The project team consisted of Carl Bolton of Perfido Weiskopf, Tim Noble of Noble Preservation, Steve Young of Young Restoration Company, with staff from Old Economy and the PHMC’s Division of Architecture and Preservation.

Before and after cleaning (okay, I guess that's kind of obvious). (Photo by Carl Bolton, AIA)


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