Happy New Year!

Taking a little break this week, except to remind you to check site schedules before visiting - some sites will probably close early today (12/30) and/or tomorrow (12/31) for New Year's Eve and all sites will be closed on New Year's Day.

The January program page is available now, if you're planning ahead.

Since this is a good time to look back at the year that is about to end, I've compiled a list of the top 5 most-viewed Trailheads posts from 2016 (as of Dec. 20). Enjoy and I'll see you next year!

#1 - Jumping on the [Hamilton] Bandwagon, July 8

#2 - Cool Stuff at which to Look, June 10

#3 - Happy Labor Day Weekend, Sept. 2

#4 - PHMC curators log in for Ask a Curator, guest post by PHMC Social Media Manager Sean Adkins, Sept. 8

#5 - Stuff You May Have Missed, Aug. 19

The Gift of Learning

Santa in Shay locomotive at PA Lumber Museum 2016
Santa greeted visitors in the Shay locomotive at the PA Lumber Museum earlier this month (photo courtesy PLM)

If you're headed out onto the Trails of History this weekend or next week, please be sure to check ahead for schedule changes. Some sites will close early tomorrow (12/24) and all (except Washington Crossing) will be closed on Sunday (12/25). The Railroad Museum of PA will be open on Monday, Dec. 26 (per Facebook), although they are otherwise closed on Mondays this time of year. You can get to any of the sites through the Trails of History page on PHMC's website.

Speaking of the Railroad Museum, they are one of the sites included on the Radnor (Delaware County) Memorial Library's new Museum Pass program. The museum (along with Ephrata Cloister and Landis Valley Village and Farm Museum) is already part of the Library System of Lancaster County Family Museum Pass program. Erie Maritime Museum and U.S. Brig Niagara are included in the Erie County Public Library Free Museum Pass program.

On Sunday, Dec. 25, Washington Crossing Historic Park will hold the annual Christmas Day reenactment of the Christmas night 1776 crossing of the Delaware River by Gen. George Washington and his troops. The commemoration begins at noon with the boats set to launch at 1 pm (river conditions permitting). If you aren't able to go in person, this year you can catch a livestream of the event on YouTube, starting at noon.

Ephrata Cloister's annual Lantern Tours program takes place Dec. 27-30, with tours leaving the visitor center every 30 minutes from 6:30 to 8 pm. Tickets are $10 (adults), $9 (seniors), $7 (students), and $5 (children). Reservations are required; call 717/733-6600. If an evening of Ephrata history isn't enough, you might consider signing up for the Winter History Class, which meets on Thursday mornings from Feb. 2 through March 30, with a field trip on April 6. A complete schedule is available on the website, along with a registration form.

Dec. 27-30, Brandywine Battlefield will host Holiday History Week, with special programming included in regular admission (so on top of the orientation film, visitor center exhibit, and tour of the Ring House). They've posted a list of the topics (different each day) on their Facebook page. Presentations will be offered at 11:30 am and 1:30 pm.

If you were planning to sign your kids up for the Winter History Camp at Landis Valley Village and Farm Museum Dec. 29-30, I'm afraid it's too late if you haven't already done it. Their website says the camp is full for this year.

The State Museum of PA's Noon Year's Eve program is scheduled for Friday, Dec. 30, from 10 am to 2 pm, with family-friendly activities and a balloon drop at noon (more details about schedule and activities).

Whatever the coming week means to you, I hope it is filled with light, peace, and moments of joy. And I wish you a healthy and productive 2017, with lots of opportunities to cultivate your love of history and learning. Thanks for reading.

On and Off the Trails

Please consult the December program page for details on upcoming events.

So, today's post includes some items from the Trails of History and a couple from off the trails that I thought might be of interest.

Lights on rigging of US Brig Niagara
Lights adorn the rigging of US Brig Niagara during last week's Christmas Tree Ship event (via Facebook)

Seasonal events continue on the Trails of History (see photo above and check the program page for details). Washington Crossing Historic Park has posted and shared photos from this year's first reenactment of George Washington's crossing of the Delaware River on Christmas night in 1776 (read a first-hand account from a first-time participant). The 174th Infantry Brigade from Ft. Dix (NJ) was there, learning first-hand about The 10 Crucial Days (following the Christmas crossing) and experiencing the crossing and march to Trenton. The Christmas Day reenactment starts on Dec. 25 at noon with a commemorative program, with the boats set to launch around 1 pm (boat crossing is dependent on favorable river conditions, but the program takes place even if the boats can't cross).

If you can't make it to the crossing reenactment but still want to be immersed in the American Revolution and the Early Republic (beyond listening to the cast album of Hamilton again), the National Archives has developed a webpage they call Founders Online. They've gathered 176,000 searchable and annotated documents (thanks to the Founding Fathers Papers project) related to George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and family, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, and James Madison. But you'll find many other people in these documents (for example, there are 988 letters written by Abigail Adams and 1,348 received by her). Just what every history geek needs!

UPDATE 12/20/16: WCHP will also be livestreaming the event on Dec. 25 on YouTube, starting at noon.

Still shopping for that hard-to-buy-for history lover? Consider a gift membership, museum store gift card, or admission passes to a site on the PA Trails of History. Or a one-of-a-kind item from one of our museum stores. Or a donation in honor of someone who already has all the stuff they need. That always fits.

Eckley Main Street photo by B Morin
Eckley Main Street (photo by Bode Morin)
Thanks to my Google Alerts, I ran across a Dec. 9 editorial from the Wilkes-Barre Times Leader where they were awarding diamonds (good) and coal (not-so-good) to various local organizations. And I quote: "Diamonds to Eckley Miners’ Village and the people who work to keep the historic coal patch town-turned-museum engaging. The village hosts events throughout the year, most recently the annual 'Christmas in Eckley.' Admittedly, it can be an uphill struggle to present crowd-luring options in a town from a far past, but it’s also important. This may be an aging coal area where anthracite plays a shrinking role, but its importance in our history should never be forgotten." Amen to that (and thank you, Times Leader, for recognizing the folks at Eckley.)

On a related note, but off the Trails of History, I also ran into a Kickstarter project raising funds for conservation work on a coal-region mural painted in 1946 by Franz Kline (later known for his black-and-white abstract paintings). Kline was from Lehighton and painted the mural at the local American Legion post, which has now turned it over to the Allentown Art Museum. The video that goes with the Kickstarter campaign is interesting if for no other reason than it shows the museum's conservators removing it from the wall and preparing it for transport.

And one final item for this week. You may be familiar with Comedy Central's "Drunk History" program where comedians (mostly) get drunk and recount a historical event. A cast of regulars and guests then reenact the drunk's telling of the story, word-for-sloppy-word. It sometimes sheds light (however inebriated) on lesser-known aspects of history or facets of well-known stories. It can be very funny--the Harriet Tubman episode has become very popular--or not funny at all if watching people get drunk disturbs or offends you. Anyway, the Indiana Historical Society staff, wanting to try something similar but without the public drunkenness, created "Hot Pepper History." For each segment, the narrator(s) take a bite of a habanero or other fiery pepper and then try to tell a story from Indiana history. They've compiled a highlight segment, which gives you a good idea of the premise, and you can find the full episodes (generally 3-5 minutes long) on YouTube (The Fairbanks Tea Party is worth your time, I think). Who says history can't be fun?

Life in Pictures

We had a special extra post this week, a piece written by BHSM's Collections Advancement Project curator, Rachel Yerger, about hunter Helen Sites Miller and her hunting-related items in the exhibit at the Pennsylvania Lumber Museum. If you missed it, please be sure to take a look. As always, the December program page has info on Trails of History events this weekend and beyond.

So, recapping some recent events and looking ahead to some upcoming stuff:

This week marked the 75th anniversary of the attack on the U.S. Pacific Fleet Hawaii by aircraft from the Japanese Imperial Navy. The State Museum of PA opened a new exhibit, Pennsylvania at War: The Saga of the USS Pennsylvania, exploring the history of PA's eponymous battleship during World War I and World War II. And the Pennsylvania Military Museum hosted its annual Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day tribute beneath two 14-inch guns that were on the USS Pennsylvania at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. Local news covered the event (Centre Daily Times article and footage from WTAJ-TV), which included US Navy CPT Jim Bloom (Ret), a Marine Corps League color guard, a 21-Gun salute by the Nittany Navy League, and "Taps" played by a US Navy bugler.

Pearl Harbor Remembrance at PA Military Museum 2016
Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day tribute, PA Military Museum 2016 (photo courtesy PMM)
On Veterans Day, staff and volunteers from the Erie Maritime Museum and US Brig Niagara were on hand at Presque Isle State Park provide interpretation on Erie's military history. During the remainder of November, the Museum was a collection point for personal care items for members of the armed forces (included in earlier Trailheads post). As a follow-up, the museum's Linda Bolla reported: "Thanks to the generosity of many in November, the Presque Isle Partnership, Tom Ridge Environmental Center (TREC), and the Erie Maritime Museum partnered to collect enough comfort items for active duty service men and women to fill 32 boxes! Every box contained letters of thanks, written by students at Harborcreek Youth Services, Maplewood Jr. & Sr. High School, or visitors to TREC. A cash donation by the City of Erie helped purchase additional items not donated during the drive, and Erie V.F.W. Post 470 paid to ship the boxes, most destined for overseas military personnel from Northwestern Pennsylvania." Thank you all for your role in this effort.

Personal items collected for service members
Boxes ready for shipment
Photos by Linda Bolla

Candlelight at Pennsbury Holly Nights 2016
Holly Nights 2016 via Pennsbury Manor Facebook page

Members of the Pittsburgh Opera Company performed at Old Economy Village's annual fundraising dinner this week. (Visit Old Economy's Facebook page to hear more.)

Landis Valley Village and Farm Museum shared Jennifer MacNeill Photography's album of images from last weekend's Country Christmas Village event. If you've enjoyed Jen's photos of Landis Valley (and other sites) in the past, you'll want to take a look. And if you haven't enjoyed them in the past, you'll want to start now. In my opinion.

There are lots of programs this weekend on the Trails of History (check the December page for details). I'll leave you with this snowy photo from Erie, taken yesterday (12/8) - perfect weather for the 2016 Christmas Tree Ship program.

Snow in Erie December 8 2016
Niagara under winter cover, Dec. 8, 2016, awaiting the arrival of Santa (from Facebook)

Historic hunting: Helen Sites Miller excelled at male-dominated pastime

Helen Sites Miller, an active hunter in the Potter County area throughout the 1950s, posing with her catch.
Many sportsmen have descend upon the more than 2 million acres of state-managed land open to recreational hunting and trapping. Welcome to deer hunting season in Pennsylvania. But don’t let the term “sportsmen” throw you off. Many women, as well as men, excel at hunting. For example, in this photo from the collections of the Pennsylvania Lumber Museum, we see Helen Sites Miller, an active hunter in the Potter County area throughout the 1950s, posing with her catch. This photograph was taken around 1957-1958 in Thompson Hollow, a community situated between Coudersport and Galeton in Potter County. The rifle depicted in the photograph is a Remington Winchester lever-action Model 94, .30-30, which Helen used for hunting through the early 1960s.

In order for Helen to legally hunt doe in Pennsylvania, she had to have a hunting license, obtained then and now through the Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC). Created in 1895 PGC enforces hunting and trapping laws and regulations. In addition, PGC conducts hunter-trapper educational programs, determines the various hunting seasons, sets bag limits and conducts wildlife research. Licenses vary according to season and type of animal, and if a licensed hunter is as skilled as Miller, the catch must be reported to PGC.

You may be wondering why the Pennsylvania Lumber Museum preserves hunting-related artifacts. The museum collects, preserves and interprets the history of Pennsylvania’s forests, which includes recreational activities such as hunting. This photograph of Helen Sites Miller is currently on display at the Pennsylvania Lumber Museum, along with her rifle and hunting license.

We thank Rachel Yerger, a museum Curator with the Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission’s Bureau of Historic Sites and Museums, for writing this article.


Be sure to check out the December programs page for all your holiday needs.

This Sunday (12/4) at 2 pm, the State Museum of PA will open a new exhibit, Pennsylvania at War: The Saga of the USS Pennsylvania. On view through the end of 2017, the exhibit explores the history of Pennsylvania's namesake ship during World War I and World War II (there have been several - earlier and later - that carried the name). The exhibit also inaugurates PHMC's most recent history initiative, "Pennsylvania at War," commemorating the 100th anniversary of U.S. entry into WWI (2017) and the 75th anniversary of entry into WWII (2016). On a related note, the Pennsylvania Military Museum will hold its annual Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day tribute on Wednesday, Dec. 7, at 12:45 pm. The event (rain or shine) takes place beneath two 14-inch guns from USS Pennsylvania. The ship was in dry dock at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. You can read more about USS Pennsylvania and about how the Pennsy guns ended up at the PA Military Museum in the Fall 2016 issue of Pennsylvania Heritage magazine.

Earlier this week, the State Museum shared a short clip of curators and exhibit staff installing a detailed scale model of USS Pennsylvania in the gallery (see below). I've included a photo of the Pennsy Guns at PMM to give you an idea of the size of the ship.

2015 Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day Tribute (photo by Chuck Smith)

So, if this kind of activity - museum and archival work - appeals to you, there are currently three PA State Civil Service Commission tests open to fill jobs with the PHMC. They're called tests, but they're more of a resume restatement around a series of pre-qualifying factors (I ain't been a bureaucrat for more than 20 years for nothin'). Anyway, those who successfully pre-qualify are placed on a list from which interviews are scheduled when a civil service job opening is filled. (Unless you are in a PA civil service classification that allows you to bid on a job opening, you MUST be on the list to be eligible for consideration.) The timetables and requirements vary, so please be sure to read and follow all instructions carefully. Each test announcement includes info on existing vacancies, but these lists will be used for future openings as well (until the list is exhausted or expires). So don't wait!!