Looking Ahead to May on the Trails of History

I know I’m getting a little bit ahead of myself, so if you’re looking for Trails of History activities this weekend, you’ll find them in the April listings. Most of our sites will be open on Memorial Day, but not all of them. Please check the list to avoid disappointment.

But first…

In honor of its 20th anniversary, the Luzerne Foundation is presenting $1,000 gifts to 20 community organizations. On April 22, Eckley Miners' Village received a surprise visit and a check. Thank you, Luzerne Foundation!

Bushy Run Battlefield
May 3: Spring Nature Walk—this annual event takes participants on an exploration of the woods and fields around the site; free for members of Bushy Run Battlefield Heritage Society, $5 fee for non-members. 10 am.
May 10: Annual Spring Tea—learn about the 18th-century history of tea in the colonies and play children’s games at this family-friendly event. Cost is $18/adult (age 13+), $12/child (age 6-12); includes tea, hot chocolate, sandwiches, and pastries. Reservations are required by May 7, call 724/972-7396.

Conrad Weiser Homestead
May 4: Interpretive Sunday—the public is invited to visit the homestead and park to learn about life in Berks County during the 18th century. Admission is free. Noon-4 pm.

Cornwall Iron Furnace
May 13: Friends Lecture Series—“Charcoal Making” will be speaker Rick Brouse’s topic for the evening. During his presentation, Brouse will describe not only how charcoal was made but will also briefly talk about the year-long process, from cutting down the trees to feeding the charcoal into the furnace. Friends Lectures are held in Freeman Auditorium at Cornwall Manor, across the road from the furnace site. Admission is free (donations are welcome). 7 pm.

Daniel Boone Homestead
May 4: Children’s Day and Sheep & Wool Program—children and their families are invited to spend the afternoon learning about the young Daniel Boone and his family during the time they lived in the Oley Valley. Hands-on activities are on the schedule as well as a chance to see a local shearer get the Homestead’s flock of four sheep ready for summer. Admission is $8 for age 13 and older, free for children 12 and under; light refreshments will be available. Noon-4 pm.
May 24: Daniel Boone Dash!—this event features a 5K run and a 1-mile fun walk that wend their way through the grounds of the museum. If you want to be sure you get a race t-shirt, please register by May 10.

Drake Well Museum
May 3: Engine Start-up Day—when the steam engines that power the Drake Well replica and the oil field equipment start up again, it must be (almost) summer! Included in regular admission.
May 17: MEET-U in 5 Trail Run—enjoy a 5-mile run through the grounds of Drake Well Museum and Oil Creek State Park and help the museum’s MEET-U educational outreach program. Registration fee is $30 but goes up to $35 after May 1. Call 814/827-2797 for details and to register.
May 31: Blacksmithing Demos—monthly blacksmithing demonstrations on the grounds of Drake Well Museum by Oil Valley Blacksmiths the last Saturday of the month, through October. Included in regular admission9 am-2 pm.
May 31: Wildcat Day at Pithole—help kick off visitation season at historic Pithole, the remains of a 19th-century oil boomtown. Admission charged. 10 am-4 pm.

Ephrata Cloister
May 11: Mothers Day Tea—enjoy afternoon tea and conversation with mothers from Ephrata’s past. Cost is $10 for a mother/daughter pair, $3 for each additional child. 1-3 pm.
May 14: Storytime—Preschoolers with an accompanying adult can enjoy a story and an activity as they learn about life at Ephrata. Cost is $6 for one adult and child (age 3-5), $3 for each additional child (includes regular admission to the site); free to Family Level Members of Ephrata Cloister Associates. 10-11 am.
May 16: Community Days—students learn about life in 18th-century Ephrata through 15-minute presentations at a range of educational stations around the site (and move at their own pace from station to station). Reservations are strongly encouraged (call 717/733-6600); admission is $6 for students, with one adult admitted free with every 10 students (additional adults with a group pay $9). 9:30 am-1 pm.
May 17: Ephrata Cloister Chorus Spring Concert—in the historic meetinghouse. The program includes 18th-century music from Ephrata Cloister and other early communities. Admission tickets for concert—age 18-64, $10; age 65 and up, $9; age 6-17, $7; age 3-5, $5—include the rest of the site (members receive a discount). 4 pm. (The Chorus will also present a concert on May 18, 3 pm, at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Lititz.)
May 23: Ephrata Cloister Associates Spring Banquet—“Folk Customs and Traditions of the Pennsylvania Dutch” is the focus. Cost is $20 per person; tickets are available until May 9 in The Museum Store (717/733-6600).
May 24: Clay Tiles—learn about Pennsylvania German redware pottery traditions and make your own clay tile. Part of the “Making History” workshop series. Cost is $15, $10 for ECA members. Call 717/733-6600 to register.
May 31: Ephrata Cloister Chorus Fundraiser—featuring Kauffman’s Chicken BBQ. Tickets are available at the Museum Store (call 717/733-6600). $8 includes chicken, beverage, side dish, and baked potato; dine under the tent or take it home. 10 am until sold out.

Graeme Park
May 3-4: World War II Weekend—held in cooperation with The Horsham Preservation & Historical Association, this program features battle reenactments, displays of military equipment, and swing music. Friends of Graeme Park invites World War II veterans to attend free-of-charge and share their stories in the VIP tent. Admission charged. Saturday, 10 am-4 pm; Sunday, Noon-4 pm.

Landis Valley Village & Farm Museum
May 9-10: 27th Annual Herb & Garden Faire—so many plants, plus lectures by gardening experts, garden furniture, herbal products and baked goods, and lots of great food by local groups and caterers. Admission is $10 (children 5 and under free). 9 am-5 pm.

Old Economy Village
May 2-4: Beaver County History Celebration—OEV will present an exhibit on Harmonist music as part of this year’s countywide history program, organized by the Beaver County Historical Research and Landmarks Foundation.
May 3, 10, 17, 24, 31: 19th-century Trade and Craft Demonstrations—planned activities are: 5/3 – Woodworking and Children’s Games; 5/10 – Textiles; 5/17 – Blacksmithing; 5/24 – Foodways; 5/31 – TBD.
May 17: Garden Mart and Spring Garden Workshop—The Garden Mart offers free admission to OEV’s gardens, which will be filled with vendors and local garden-related organizations. The Spring Garden Workshop includes a full program of speakers, a tour of the gardens, door prizes, and lunch (must register for the full program by May 12). Details for both events, including registration options for the workshop. 9 am-2 pm.

Pennsbury Manor
May 4: Historic Trades and Sheep Shearing—the blacksmith and joyner will be on hand to demonstrate their skills, plus you can watch as the sheep are sheared by hand to get them ready for summer (and help wash, card, and spin the wool if you’re so inclined). Included in regular admission. 1-4 pm.
May 11: Living History Theater—“Women’s Monthly Meeting” explores women’s roles in the community and the issues they discussed. Included in regular admission. 1-4 pm.
May 18: Open Hearth Cooking—the cooks will talk about the uses of milk and prepare cheese using 17th-century recipes. Included in regular admission. 1-4 pm.
May 25: Garden Highlights & Beer Brewing Demonstration—find out what’s growing in the kitchen garden and learn how barley and hops become beer. Included in regular admission. 1-4 pm.
May 26: Picnic on the Lawn—Pennsbury is open on Memorial Day and invites visitors to bring their picnic baskets and blankets.

Pennsylvania Military Museum
May 3: Battery B Drill Exercise—Civil War-era reenactors from the 3rd Pennsylvania Volunteers will demonstrate loading and firing artillery pieces as they conduct their annual safety training and recruitment event. 10 am-4 pm.
May 7: Friends’ Richard Koontz Memorial Lecture Series—“The 1813 Lake Erie Campaign,” with speaker and author Walter Rybka. Capt. Rybka is senior captain of the U.S. Brig Niagara and director of the Erie Maritime Museum. 7:30 pm.
May 24-25: World War II Revisited—American and German WWII reenactors will be bivouacked on the museum grounds portraying field life in the European Theater of Operations, 1944-45. On May 24 at 3 pm, the “Andrews Sister Tribute Show” from First in Flight Entertainment will entertain the troops and homefront crowd in the Service Canteen (please bring your own seating). 10 am-4 pm.

Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania
May 10-11: National Train Days—activities for all ages will be offered to celebrate the role of railroads in American life. Included in museum admission. Saturday, 9 am-5 pm; Sunday, Noon-5 pm.

Somerset Historical Center
May 16: The Sound of Silents—enjoy a presentation about silent movies featuring the work of film pioneer Edwin Stanton Porter (born in Fayette County, one-time resident of and buried in Somerset). As part of this fundraising event, there will be a pre-show reception and exhibit of movie memorabilia. Cost is $50 ($25 if you wish to attend the cinema presentation only). Held at Mountain Playhouse. Call 814/445-6077 for tickets. 7-9 pm.

State Museum of Pennsylvania
May 16: 3rd in the Burg—opening of new exhibit, “A Fondness for Birds: Pennsylvania’s Alexander Wilson,” featuring work that pre-dated John James Audubon by a decade. Wilson’s multi-volume American Ornithology, first published in the early 1800s, was an influential work. (Interesting (perhaps only to me) side note: the Harmony Society, which created one of the country's first natural history museums at what is now Old Economy Village, had a copy of American Ornithology in their library.)
May 18: Harrisburg Jewish Film Festival—the museum will be the venue for Goodbye, Columbus (a screening and discussion led by Prof. Helen Khanzhina, starting at 2:30 pm) and Jews in Toons, a talk by Mike Reiss, writer-producer on The Simpsons (reception at 6:30, program at 7:30). The festival runs May 15-22 at other venues in Harrisburg.

Washington Crossing Historic Park
May 3: Washington Crossing Brewfest—this event takes place in the upper park on the banks of the Delaware River, near the Thompson-Neely House. Admission is $40 ($10 for designated drivers). Details and online ticket sales. 12:30-4:30 pm.
May 9: Sheep Shearing—the sheep will be relieved of their winter coats, and there will be demos of how the fleece is turned into clothing (spoiler alert – it takes a lot of work). Thompson-Neely House. Admission is $8 per person, ages 5 and older. 10 am-2 pm.
May 26: Memorial Day Observance—fallen soldiers from the Winter 1776 campaign will be remembered in a ceremony at the Revolutionary War Soldiers’ Gravesite behind the Thompson-Neely house. Free of charge. 11 am-1 pm.

A Standing Ovation for Museums!

A programming note: the Pennsylvania Military Museum, the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, and Washington Crossing Historic Park will be open Sunday, April 20, on their usual Sunday schedules. All other sites on the Trails of History will be closed.

Okay, so I don’t think I’m prone to giddy outbursts on this blog (and I have a strict limit on the use of exclamation points). Those of you following Trailheads this winter may have thought that Eeyore had taken over (and sometimes I felt that way, too). So when I tell you what a thrill it was (yes, a thrill) to see a bunch of librarians give a bunch of museum folks a standing ovation the other evening, I hope you’ll believe me. It made my nerdy little heart swell with pride.

Family Museum Pass Participants
Trails of History Sites: 2nd & 3rd from R, Railroad Museum of PA, Al Giannantonio  and Charlie Fox; 4th from R, Landis Valley Village & Farm Museum,  Timothy Essig; 6th from R, Ephrata Cloister, Rebecca Lawrence
This past Wednesday, at its annual meeting, the Library System of Lancaster County (LSLC) recognized and thanked the participating sites in the Family Museum Pass Program. The three Trails of History sites in Lancaster County were among those honored (I was there as a guest). I spoke with several librarians about how much they and their library patrons love the museum passes. There are often waiting lists for the passes, and they’ve seen kids get really excited at the circulation desk when they realize they get the pass for a week. Over the past year, more than 2,000 visitors have used the passes to visit Ephrata Cloister, Landis Valley Village and Farm Museum, and the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania. (Landis Valley joined the program in 2008, Ephrata in 2009, and Railroad in 2013, so there have been more visitors than that overall.)

I have to admit that I thought of the Trails of History sites as beneficiaries of the museum pass program. The program helps get the word out about our programs at no cost to us and brings family audiences to our doors who might otherwise not pay a visit. Anecdotal evidence indicates there has been some payoff in terms of memberships, repeat visits, and positive word-of-mouth (a very powerful factor in decisions to visit museums). I felt grateful that the Library System was including all of our sites and that the Lancaster County Community Foundation supported the program. I still feel that way.


But at the awards presentation, LSLC Administrator Bill Hudson described the participating museums as partners in the effort to serve the families of Lancaster County and thanked them all not only for being part of the program but for showing up to be recognized. It was clear that LSCS is extremely (and justifiably) proud of the Family Museum Pass Program. The capper for me was that once all the museum partners had been called individually up to the front of the room, they received a standing ovation. It was a "wow" moment for me.

While I’m gushing on about this, I will mention that library patrons in Erie County can check out passes for admission to the Erie Maritime Museum. Let’s hope this idea can spread throughout the rest of the state. And I would be extremely remiss if I didn’t thank Renee Christiansen, youth services manager at LSLC, for her energy and all the librarians and museum folks who believe in the power of museums and libraries working together.

Honoring Volunteers and More

This past Saturday at The State Museum of Pennsylvania, we said “Thank You” to PHMC’s Volunteers of the Year for service in 2013 with our annual awards ceremony and lunch. We are extremely grateful for all the volunteers who contribute their time, talents, and energy to support the sites on the PA Trails of History. The Trailheads feature in the upcoming summer issue of Pennsylvania Heritage magazine will highlight this year’s honorees. So for the moment, I will say “thank you” again and add a “thank you” to all the staff members who work so hard to serve the public and care for our sites.

Pennsbury Manor recently received an All Star Award for 2013 from Constant Contact, which provides email management services. In honor of Pennsbury's 75th anniversary as a historic site, the Arbor Day Foundation will donate 10 trees to Pennsbury for every person who joins through this special partnership (which costs only $10). It’s really easy to do and a great way to celebrate the fact that spring is finally here (and the anniversary of course).

Stuffed animals enjoying a photo op at Ephrata Cloister (photo by Rebecca Lawrence)
At the end of March, Ephrata Cloister debuted a new program for young visitors, their families, and their stuffed animals. The Stuffed Animal Sleepover invited kids to drop off a fuzzy pal who would spend the night and learn about the people and history of Ephrata. The children and parents returned the next morning to take part in some of the same activities. Upon arrival, each child received a packet of photos showing their stuffed animal in various buildings and then toured the site to share the experience. You can enjoy more stuffed animal photos on Ephrata’s Facebook page.

Daniel Boone Homestead’s inaugural Beerfest was well-attended, selling out all tickets ahead of time. From the photos on Facebook, it looks like a good time was had by all. Tickets are currently on sale for the Washington Crossing Brewfest on May 3 and for Pennsbury Manor’s Brews and Bites on June 14.

The Annual School of Coopering at Somerset Historical Center received some nice coverage from WeAreCentralPA.com, who invited Mark Ware into the studio for an interview. This weekend’s workshop is completely booked, but the waiting list for next year is already forming.


Way back in February, I shared a photo of a redware dish I decorated while visiting with the Student Historians at Ephrata Cloister. Artist Ned Foltz showed us how to scratch the design into the dish, then took our work back to his workshop to be glazed and fired. Well, I’m pleased to share a photo of my masterpiece. It’s amazing what you can do when a talented artist shapes the dish, sketches a design, provides the tools and instruction, and applies the glaze. Thanks, Ned, and thanks again to the folks at Ephrata for letting me be part of the class.

The April calendar was posted a couple of weeks ago, but here's what's happening this weekend:

Conrad Weiser Homestead
April 13: Weiser Interpretive Program—enjoy an afternoon of history. Noon-4 pm.

Daniel Boone Homestead
April 13: Pennsylvania German Easter and Spring Nature Program—lots of family activities, an Easter egg hunt, and a chance to learn about Pennsylvania German Easter traditions. Admission is $4 per person (age 3+). Noon-4 pm.

Drake Well Museum
April 12: Family Day—Today’s program features Kathy Newson, Titusville Historical Society, talking about getting started doing genealogy research (1-2 pm), as well as a scavenger hunt that explores the museum’s exhibit. Included in museum admission; special family rate – up to 2 adults and 3 children for $20. 9 am-5 pm.

Eckley Miners’ Village
April 12: Tour Guide Training and Volunteer Meeting—if you’re interested in volunteering with Eckley’s programs or learning to guide tours of the village, this is a good time to start. Volunteer meeting is at 10 am, tour guide training at 11. Eckley is also looking for a volunteer to serve as Volunteer Coordinator. Call 570/636-2070 to sign up or to learn more.

Ephrata Cloister
April 12: Spring Search—children can hunt for clues all over the site, getting stamps in their Heritage Passports and earning a prize and treat if they find all the clues. Admission for children ages 11 and younger, $1; adults (12-64), $10; seniors (65+), $9 (free admission for members of Ephrata Cloister Associates and Pennsylvania Heritage Foundation). 1-4 pm.

Erie Maritime Museum and Flagship Niagara
April 12: Little Mates Easter Egg Hunt—members of the museum’s Little Mates Kids Club are invited to tour the museum and ship, make Easter crafts, and visit with the Easter bunny. Not yet a member? You can join when you register for the program. RSVP deadline was April 4, so be sure to check ahead to see if tickets are available.

Landis Valley Village and Farm Museum
April 12: Paper Folding—part of the Museum Store’s “Folk Art and Friendship” series. Registration is required; call 717/569-9312. 1 pm.
April 12: Spring Benefit Auction—there’s a silent auction and a live auction, plus food and beverages for sale, to benefit the museum. Doors open 4:30 pm, live auction starts at 5:30 pm.

Old Economy Village
April 12: 19th-Century Foodways: Breadbaking and Cooking—learn how the Harmonists (and many of their contemporaries) prepared meals – you might even get to sample homebaked bread. Included in regular admission, so please go to the Visitor Center first. 11 am-4 pm (site open 10 am-5 pm).
April 12: Easter Egg Hunt—bring the kids for an old-fashioned good time. Rumor has it the Easter Bunny will bring along some friends for the children to visit as well. Designed for children 10 and younger. $5 per person (adults, too) includes refreshments. Paid reservations by April 9; call Holly Dofner, 724/266-4500 x102. 9-11 am (hunt starts promptly at 9:15).

Pennsbury Manor
April 13: Living History Theater—“The Funeral of Phineas Pemberton” sheds light on a man William Penn called “one of the best men of the Province” and explores funeral customs in 17th-century Pennsylvania. Included in regular admission. 1-4 pm.

Pennsylvania Lumber Museum
April 12: Spring Antiques and Collectibles Show—held at Pine Creek Inn (1637 Route 6 West) due to visitor center expansion project. 10 am-4:30 pm.

Generating History at the Erie Maritime Museum

Information on April events is in last week's post. Many, many thanks to guest blogger Linda Bolla for the text and photos today (the pun in the title is mine, so you can assign credit or blame as you see fit). The Erie Maritime Museum is located in the former Pennsylvania Electric Company (Penelec) Front Street Generating Station, which closed in 1991. Part of the legacy left to the museum when it opened in 1998 is the #3 steam turbine generator, one of the five formerly in operation at Penelec.

Carbon brushes newly installed on steam turbine generator

Power from the generator is collected on a rotating part of the machine called the “commutator.” Carbon brushes ride on the commutator as it spins, providing a sliding electrical contact. Volunteer Museum Guide (and retired General Electric Design Engineer) Rich Hall noticed that the carbon brushes, which should be visible in the exhibit, were missing. While the average visitor would not know this, the Erie Maritime Museum audience includes local workers and retirees from both Penelec and GE who are likely to notice this omission.

Rich networked with friends and colleagues at General Electric to identify the correct brushes this commutator used. Morgan Advanced Materials of Greenville, South Carolina, manufactured brushes to the GE design and donated them to the Museum.

On March 19, Rich Hall (left), with some help from
fellow Guide Ed Bolla, installed the brushes, completing the exhibit

Rich checks the carbon brushes

The very next day, Rich and Ed were on hand to talk
 with visitors about the improvement to the exhibit

Thank you to Rich Hall, William Bird of GE Turbine Generators (Schenectady, NY), and Walt Konstanty of GE Motors (Erie) for their help in identifying and providing specs for the brushes, and to Roland Roberge of Morgan Advanced Materials (Greenville, SC) for manufacturing and donating the carbon brushes.