Bring on 2021!

Please check the PHMC Events Calendar if you're planning ahead. The Trailheads Rec Room to the right of your screen has all kinds of online offerings, available whenever you need a taste of the Trails of History.

Sprigs of holly, winterberry, pine, and boxwood in a splint basket with a gold ribbon sits on porch
This will be the last Trailheads post for 2020, as we take a little break until after the new year. However you're celebrating in the coming week, I hope that you are safe, warm, have plenty of good food, and get to spend time with people you love, be it in person or remotely. As we wave goodbye to this unexpectedly awful year, I want to thank my colleagues for their inspiring and resilient work to keep history alive and well and in front of the public. And as we ring in 2021 with as much optimism as we can muster, I hope that we will soon be welcoming people back on site in person, while continuing to use all these new skills. Watch for news of new virtual events and tours coming in 2021.

Zoom screen with 2 rows of 3 people. Caption reads "Okay everyone, welcome to the PHMC Virtual Collections Showcase for the month of"
Speaking of virtual programs, PHMC's first Virtual Collections Showcase went off without a hitch this past Saturday. Hosted by Josh Roth, site administrator at the Pennsylvania Lumber Museum, the program featured presentations by staff at Eckley Miners' Village, Old Economy Village, Pennsbury Manor, Pennsylvania Lumber Museum, and Pennsylvania Military Museum. Each site chose an object from their collection to illustrate this month's theme, food, and had five minutes to highlight their choice.

Photo 1920s still for making alcohol. Looks like a metal stove with several vessels connected by tubes.
Screenshot of Eckley Miners' Village still with gallery of presenters

Objects included a homemade still, cookie cutters, a Long Island Cheese Pumpkin (living collections are part of what we do), a 1941 Christmas dinner menu from the Civilian Conservation Corps, and military rations. Several presenters shared recipes (check out boilo, gingerbread cookie, and pumpkin pie recipes, plus some bonus material). We had some lively back and forth among the staff, answering audience questions and building on each other's presentations. Near the end of the showcase, audience members had a chance to vote on their favorite object via a Zoom poll. The Eckley Miners' Village still and the Pennsylvania Military Museum's rations tied for first place and will share the PHMC championship belt until the next showcase.

We recorded the program and hope to have it available soon on PHMC's YouTube channel. We plan to offer these programs monthly and are finalizing plans for January. Keep an eye on the PHMC Calendar of Events for details.

Bearded man in white shirt and blue tie holds a wrestling belt with medallions on it, center medallion has the PHMC logo on it in blue
You thought I was joking about the championship belt, didn't you? Kudos to Josh Roth.

Christmas Programming

There's still time to get your tickets for "Witness to History," this year's online version of Ephrata Cloister's popular Lantern Tours. Student historians will fill the roles of residents and field reporters on scene of the Revolutionary War hospital at Ephrata in the winter of 1777-78. WGAL 8's Jere Gish will anchor the broadcast, and there may be some breaking news. The program premieres Saturday, Dec. 26 at 7 pm, but ticketholders will have access to the recording until the end of the month. Purchase tickets via Ticketleap for $10 per viewing screen.

Pennsbury Manor has been counting down to Christmas on its Facebook page by exploring the "history of Christmas in William Penn's life and legacy." You can learn about how Chrismas was (and wasn't) celebrated in the 17th-century. You can also enjoy some modern celebration, such as this Christmas greeting from the Pennsbury Manor stables.

Selected Greetings from the Pennsylvania Trails of History

Starting today everyday has a little bit more of Light!

Posted by Conrad Weiser Homestead on Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Christmas is right around the corner. This is a piece from the Landis Family Collection....

Posted by Landis Valley Museum on Monday, December 21, 2020

It’s a silent night at the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania. @rrmuseumpa #rrmuseumofpa...

Posted by Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania on Thursday, December 24, 2020

From the Museum Educator: For my final post of 2020, I share with you a photograph I took of one of the front doors of...

Posted by Old Economy Village on Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Click here to watch the videos and to see other great videos!

Posted by Landis Valley Museum on Wednesday, December 23, 2020

These are just a few of the friendly faces you might see at Historic Hope Lodge. As an all volunteer nonprofit...

Posted by Historic Hope Lodge on Monday, December 21, 2020

Throwback Thursday features Christmas Past at the Homestead! Most of our current traditions can be traced directly to...

Posted by Daniel Boone Homestead on Thursday, December 24, 2020

What's on Your Watchlist?

Please check the PHMC Events Calendar if you're planning ahead; I've highlighted some events below. The Trailheads Rec Room has all kinds of online offerings, available whenever you need a taste of the Trails of History.

Text reads: What's in a theme? PHMC Virtual Collections Showcase. This month's theme: Food! Saturday, Dec. 19, 2pm EST. Zoom registration link. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission

It's not too late to register for the inaugural episode of our new series, "What's In a Theme? PHMC Virtual Collections Showcase," set for 2 pm tomorrow, Dec. 19. In tomorrow's program, staff from five Trails of History sites will present objects related to food, this month's theme. The audience (that's you!) will get to vote on which object best embodies the theme. We did a trial run of the program last month, and it was lots of fun. It's a quick way to learn about our collections, our sites, and our staff. Please join us for what is sure to be this season's breakout hit (okay, maybe I've had too much sugar, but you won't regret tuning in). Check out the Facebook event for more info and the registration link.

Last week's post included info about Cornwall Iron Furnace's Christmas at Cornwall 2020, which debuted last Saturday. In place of the on-site activities originally planned, site staff and volunteers created a series of videos that are now available on YouTube to watch at your leisure. They vary in length and topic. Since we're talking about food (when am I not?), I'll point out that two feature cooking demos and recipes.
Two story wooden building in the background with snow on the ground and in the trees. A dozen lanterns are lighted and in a row in the front of the image.
Lantern light is an important part of December programming at Ephrata Cloister (photo by Donald Reese)
If you missed the Christmas at the Cloister virtual event earlier this week, you can still purchase a link to the recording (and support the site in the bargain). On Dec. 26, Ephrata will premiere this year's Lantern Tour program, adapted to a "You Are There" inspired virtual event. Student volunteers will play the roles of modern-day field reporters and 18th-century folks to tell the story of the Revolutionary War hospital at Ephrata in 1777-78. Local news anchor Jere Gish will be "in the studio" receiving the reporters' info (those of us of a certain age will remember Walter Cronkite in this capacity). The Facebook event has details and the link to purchase tickets ($10 per viewing screen). The event will livestream starting at 7 pm on Saturday, Dec. 26; ticket holders will have access to a recording following the livestream.

Happening Today

  • The State Museum of Pennsylvania, noon-1 pm - Fine Arts Curator Amy Hammond will talk with artists Brian Skalaski and Amy Edwards, whose work is included in this year's Art of the State exhibit. Visit the Art of the State 2020 page to register for today's free Virtual Artists Conversation.
  • The Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, 7-9 pm - test your knowledge of history, geography, science & technology, sports, and popular culture at Virtual Trivia Night. Tickets are $10 for individuals, $30 for teams of up to 4 people, and $50 for teams of up to 8. Register online to get your party started.

How was Your Week?

Please check the PHMC Events Calendar if you're planning ahead; I've highlighted the coming week's events below. The Trailheads Rec Room has all kinds of online offerings, available whenever you need a taste of the Trails of History.

How was your week? Like all the others, because time has no meaning anymore? Or were there milestones that set this week apart? If you're celebrating Hanukkah, I wish you lots of light and peace.

Several Trails of History-related items came across my screen this week that may be of interest. No matter how my week is going, I'm always happy to share what my colleagues are up to.

A small brown redware jug and a larger light colored jug on either side of a large orange redware plate with lines
Objects on display in Landis Valley's redware exhibit (photo from website)

Earlier this week, PA Museums announced this year's recipients of the organization's Special Achievement Awards. Landis Valley Village and Farm Museum received an Institutional Award of Merit for their two-part exhibit, "Thrown, Fired, and Glazed: The Redware Tradition from Pennsylvania and Beyond." Congratulations to curator Jennifer Royer and all the folks who put together this wide-ranging and comprehensive exhibit of redware and related objects. Part two of the exhibit, which opened in March just as COVID-19 caused the closure of Trails of History sites, has been extended through June of 2021. In the meantime, you can enjoy an online version of the exhibit on Landis Valley's website. Another Trails of History site, Fort Pitt Museum (which is managed by the Heinz History Center), also received a PA Museums award for their exhibit, "Pittsburgh, Virginia."

A white woman with glasses wears a knit hat with a Dr. Who Tardis design and a multi colored sweater
Drake Well educator Sarah Goodman honoring Dr. Who (screenshot from video)

Staff and board members at Drake Well Museum and Park marked "Pretend to be a Time Traveler Day" with a series of short videos. Each person noted when and where they would travel if they could go anywhere in time. Strangely, they all picked oil heritage events or locations, so their videos are great snapshots of oil region history. You can access them all through Drake Well's Facebook page.

All of Pennsbury Manor's Holly Nights at Home videos are now available on their Facebook page, including craft activities, music, and a Manor House tour (Holly Nights at Home 2020 playlist).

On a far more somber note, the Pennsylvania Military Museum moved their annual Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day Tribute program mostly online. You can watch the recording below - the audio of site administrator Tyler Gum's remarks is a little hard to hear, but the sound of "Taps" is unmistakable.

Upcoming Events

Text reads: What's in a theme? PHMC Virtual Collections Showcase. This month's theme: Food! Saturday, Dec. 19, 2pm EST. Zoom registration link. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission

Sneak preview: on Dec. 19 at 2 pm, we are premiering a new series, "What's In a Theme? PHMC Virtual Collections Showcase," which brings you a look at objects from a variety of Trails of History sites all in one program. The December theme is "Food." Check out the Facebook event for more info and the registration link.

Tomorrow, Dec. 12
  • Cornwall Iron Furnace, Christmas at Cornwall video series - through Dec. 17, Cornwall will premiere a new video each day, presenting elements of the Christmas at Cornwall program they debuted last year. Stay tuned to their Facebook page for video links each day.
  • Old Economy Village, Virtual Meet Belsnickel - even Belsnickel has learned to Zoom, so kids can still visit with Santa's German helper. There's still time to sign up for the link. Program takes place at 11 am.
  • Erie Maritime Museum and U.S. Brig Niagara, Boats Ships, and Us! the Mayflower - an online lecture kicking off a new series in cooperation with other maritime museums. Check the Facebook event for registration info. 2-3 pm.
  • Erie Maritime Museum and U.S. Brig Niagara, Christmas Tree Ship Lighting - join the festivities online for the annual lighting of the ship and a reading of the book, The Christmas Tree Ship. This will be live via Facebook, 5:30-5:45 pm.
Sunday, Dec. 13
  • Pennsylvania Military Museum, Miracle at Hungnam - Dr. Michael E. Lynch, senior historian and asst. prof. at the US Army Heritage and Education Center, will present an online lecture exploring the evacuation of the port of Hungnam, North Korea, in December 1950. Register for the Zoom link. 2-3 pm.
Monday, Dec. 14
  • Ephrata Cloister, Christmas at the Cloister - enjoy this long-standing program of music and readings online via Zoom, with recordings of the Ephrata Cloister Chorus and guest musicians, the Bensing Strings. Ticket purchasers will have access to the program for viewing through the end of December. Tickets are $10 per screen; you'll receive a link to view the livestream. Visit the Facebook event for details and ticket link. 7-8:30 pm.
Tuesday, Dec. 15
  • Landis Valley Village & Farm Museum, PA German Christmas and Other Unique Holiday Traditions - this presentation will share information about holiday folklore and traditions of the Pennsylvania Germans. Register for the Zoom link. 7-8 pm.
Wednesday, Dec. 16
  • POSTPONED (per FB post) Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, Pioneer Steam Heritage Virtual Tour - this program offers an in-depth virtual tour of two iconic steam locomotives, the "John Bull" and the "Tahoe," as well as the Camden & Amboy No. 3 and Cumberland Valley passenger coaches. Tickets are by donation, and the Facebook event has registration info. 7-8 pm.

What's Up, December?

Please check the PHMC Events Calendar for upcoming events (I've highlighted some below). The Trailheads Rec Room pages to the right of your screen will lead you to online offerings available 24/7. There's a new page this week highlighting virtual exhibits on the Trails of History.
Image shows divided window panes. A lighted candle in a glass chimney is in the center with greenery at its base. Text reads Holly Nights at Home.
Photo via Pennsbury Manor's Facebok page

Today, December 4

  • Pennsbury Manor's "Holly Nights at Home" continues on Facebook, with video greetings and activities. The videos will remain available, so you can experience this year's virtual event on your schedule.
View of large two-story brick house. The street in front is covered in snow and a street light shows snow is still falling.
Recent snow in western PA, as captured at Old Economy Village (photo via Facebook)

Saturday, December 5

Men in military uniform gathered for tribute ceremony under two long gray battleship guns. A podium flanked by flags is in the background.
Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day Tribute at PA Military Museum, Dec. 7, 2019 (photo via Facebook)

Monday, December 7

  • Pennsylvania Military Museum, Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day Tribute, takes place under the guns of the USS Pennsylvania, which was present at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. The event will be open to the public via Facebook this year (visit the museum's Facebook page to watch). 12:45 pm.
Brown stone iron furnace building with gothic windows. Snow covers the roof and the grass next to it.
It snowed a bit in southcentral PA too, as seen at Cornwall Iron Furnace (photo via Facebook)

Tuesday, December 8

  • Cornwall Iron Furnace, virtual lecture, Cornwall Oral History Project, 1980-1982, presented by Brett Reigh of the Pennsylvania State Archives, 7-8 pm (check Facebook event to register for Zoom link)

What to Do When the Turkey's Gone

Please check the PHMC Events Calendar for info on upcoming events on the Trails of History. The Trailheads Rec Room pages to the right of your screen have examples of online stuff that you can access anytime you like.

Candles light a table with a redware dish full of walnuts. An repro newspaper and glass bottle are also on the table.
Scene from 2017 Candlelight Tours at Conrad Weiser Homestead (photo via Facebook)

Opportunities for Support and Shopping

Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Museum Store Sunday, Cyber Monday, and Giving Tuesday all lie ahead of us as I write this. (Okay, it's true that every Monday feels like Cyber Monday for those of us working from home.) Everything looks different this year, but these are all opportunities to support your favorite sites. Donations are always welcome, if you can afford it, and memberships provide you (or your "giftees") with direct benefits in return. You can find links to all the Trails of History sites on the PHMC website.

Many of our sites offer online shopping or mail order options for at least some of their museum store inventory. The links below will make it all so easy:
Design with birds and stylized flowers in shades of red, orange, and yellow. Text reads Lo, we heard of it at Ephratah, we found it in the fields of the wood. Psalm 137:6
Ephrata Cloister Christmas Card 2020 (photo via Facebook)
Gingerbread cookie in the shape of a train locomotive is decorated with colored sprinkles. Dishes of different types of sprinkles are in the background.
Gingerbread cookies shaped like locomotives. What's not to like? (photo via Facebook)
Other ways to support Trails of History sites include following them on social media (if you don't already), sharing their posts with your friends and followers or commenting to let sites know you support them, attending a virtual program (most are free or by donation), or watching a recorded program on YouTube or Facebook. Everything helps.

In the Coming Week or So

What Are You Thankful For?

Please visit the PHMC Events Calendar for information on virtual events scheduled in the next month or so (I've highlighted a few below). The Trailheads Rec Room links to the right of your screen have examples of online offerings available whenever you are.
Highway with dark clouds and rainbow arched over the road
For some reason, thankfulness makes me think of rainbows (photo AKF)

Over the next week, many of us will be preparing for Thanksgiving, in one way or another. My guess is that the experience will be different this year, as we adjust our plans to the times (as we've done for the past 8 months). Some families who normally travel - won't. Groups gathering for Friendsgiving celebrations will be smaller or via Zoom. Some chairs will be empty because of COVID itself (or the many other ways we lose friends and family over the course of a year). Whatever 2020 brings to your Thanksgiving holiday, I hope that you will be able to find a rainbow somewhere and that you have things you can be thankful for.

I am thankful, as always, for my husband, my mom, my brother and his family, my in-laws (adding a niece-in-law this year via a wedding most of us watched on Facebook), and my friends. I am thankful for my colleagues at PHMC who have risen beautifully to the challenges of maintaining our historic buildings and landscapes and providing the people of Pennsylvania and the world with connections to our history, collections, and educational opportunities. I'm thankful for front-line workers everywhere who risk their health and safety to provide essential services. I'm thankful for poll watchers and vote counters and everyone else who works to make sure that democracy has a fighting chance in the midst of a pandemic. And I'm thankful for Trailheads readers.

What's on Your Menu?

The State Museum of Pennsylvania shared info about the wild turkey on their Facebook page

When you hear that distinctive gobble, gobble sound, you know that a turkey is nearby. Turkeys are found throughout...

Posted by The State Museum of Pennsylvania on Monday, November 16, 2020

And for dessert, Pennsbury Manor shared an old pumpkin pie recipe in this Facebook post

What spices do you expect in a pumpkin pie? This 1658 recipe for “Pumpion Pye” is one of the first recipes for pumpkin...

Posted by Pennsbury Manor on Saturday, October 31, 2020

Upcoming Events (virtual unless otherwise noted)

Today, Nov. 20 Saturday, Nov. 21 Sunday, Nov. 22
  • Pennsbury Manor, deadline to order Holly Nights at Home kits for pick-up on Nov. 29 at the site (link for ordering) - the event will take place on Facebook Dec. 3-4

The Week Ahead

This week's post highlights upcoming virtual events on the Trails of History. If you're planning further ahead, please visit the PHMC Events Calendar. The Trailheads Rec Room to the right of your screen has examples of online offerings available whenever you need a break from your routine.
Golden fall foliage and late afternoon sun with stone walls of iron ore roasting oven
I've loved Cornwall Iron Furnace's fall foliage posts - this one shows the Roasting Oven bathed in golden light (roasting oven was used to remove sulfur from iron ore) - photo via Facebook

In the week ahead, Trails of History sites will be hosting a variety of virtual programs on a wide range of topics. I bet you can find at least one to help you weather the pre-Thanksgiving lull.

Graphic shows 3 small circles joined by a larger circle. The small circles have logos for Old Economy Village, Historic Harmony, and Historic New Harmony

On Nov. 17 at 7 pm (EST), Old Economy Village will join with two other Harmonist-related sites for a new quarterly program exploring the history of the Harmony Society. The Harmony Museum (Harmony, PA) celebrates the Harmony Society's first communal settlement and New Harmony, Indiana, preserves the history of their second. Economy was the third and final community settled by George Rapp and his followers. Learn more about the program and register to receive the Zoom link by visiting the Facebook event for "The Harmonist Connection."

Wednesday, November 18, brings two programs for those looking for a midweek break. At noon, the Pennsylvania State Archives will present "Caring for Artifacts and Objects," the latest in their Community History Dialog series. The 90-minute workshop, led by Bureau of Historic Sites and Museums curator Rachel Yerger and Railroad Museum of PA collections manager Dodie Robbins, will discuss ways to handle, clean, and store your important family and/or community artifacts. Visit the PA State Archives webpage to learn more about the series and to register for the Zoom link.

That evening from 7 to 8:30 pm, the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania will transform their popular "Trains & Troops" event into a virtual program exploring how World War II changed the railroad industry, how railroads aided the war effort, and the effect that railroads had on civilian life on the homefront. Tickets are by donation; you can register by visiting the Eventbrite page.

Wooden building with peaked roof and wooden tower that houses replica oil derrick. The building is set among trees and a green lawn on which 7 geese are gathered.
Replica oil derrick at Drake Well Museum & Park (photo via Facebook)
On Thursday, November 19 from 7 to 8 pm, join staff from Drake Well Museum & Park, Erie Maritime Museum, and the Pennsylvania Military Museum for "Revolution! How Black Gold Transformed the Military." The program will explore the oil industry's intersection with the U.S. Civil War up through the 20th century and beyond. The program is free (donations are welcome), but you must register to receive the Zoom link. Visit the Facebook event for more info and ticket link.

What November Brings

Please visit the PHMC Events Calendar for info on upcoming programs on the Trails of History (mostly virtual). Check out the Trailheads Rec Room pages to the right of your screen for online offerings available whenever you need them.

Gear and lever style voting machine with gray metal structure and blue privacy curtain
Voting machine used in Lebanon County, 1950s-60s (via State Museum of PA Facebook page)

As I write this on Thursday afternoon, votes are still being counted and the outcome of the Presidential election is not yet clear. So let's just set that aside and think about some of the other things going on this month. Any objections? I didn't think so. (But please join me in thanking all the poll workers, voters, and vote counters who did their part for democracy this week.)

Wednesday, November 11, is Veterans Day, a time to honor all who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces. As you probably know, the Pennsylvania Military Museum's mission is to honor and tell the stories of Pennsylvanians who have served, so be sure to visit their Facebook page or their blog to learn more about the objects and related stories from their collections, covering all periods of American colonial and national history. The other sites on the Military History Trail and the State Museum of Pennsylvania relate the stories of specific conflicts and military service, as well. Commonwealth of PA resources for veterans and active duty military are available on the web.

November is Native American Heritage Month. If you want to learn more about Native American history and heritage, the National Museum of the American Indian has all kinds of online resources, including a section on Thanksgiving that presents indigenous perspectives on the holiday. There's also a Facebook page devoted to Native American Heritage Month and you can learn more about land acknowledgments at

Aqua square with yellow text listing topics for #Museum30
Ephrata Cloister is participating in #Museum30, sharing a post each day to illustrate a variety of themes and topics. If you aren't already following them, find them on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram

The deadline to nominate a state historical marker is December 1. For information and guidelines on submitting a nomination, visit the State Historic Preservation Office marker page, where you'll also find a recording of a recent webinar that provided tips for success.

Upcoming Events

  • You may have heard that the 2021 Pennsylvania Farm Show will be mostly virtual this year (and if you hadn't heard, I'm so sorry to be the one to break the news). Fear not, milkshake and fried mushroom lovers (at least if you're in the Harrisburg area or are willing to travel). November 13-15 is the PA Farm Show Fall Food Fest, which will take place outdoors at the PA Farm Show Complex from 11 am to 6 pm each day.
  • On Nov. 18 from noon to 1:30 pm, the Pennsylvania State Archives will host another of its Community History Dialog webinars, this one focused on caring for artifacts and objects. The webinar is designed for folks who are working to preserve their community history, but the information will be useful for those caring for family history as well. Rachel Yerger, Bureau of Historic Sites and Museums curator, and Dodie Robbins, collections manager at the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, will be the presenters. The webinar is free and is offered via Zoom; you must register to get the link. To learn more about the Community History Dialog series, find a list of resources, or watch recordings of previous programs, visit the Archives webpage.

Something Scary

Please visit the PHMC Events Calendar for info on upcoming programs on the Trails of History (mostly virtual). Check out the Trailheads Rec Room pages to the right of your screen for online offerings available whenever you need them.

If you have questions about voting in Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Dept. of State website has answers. If you or someone you know needs assistance with voting due to disability, Disability Rights PA is available via email or its hotline.

Gothic window with point at the top set into brown stone wall. Green leaves of a nearby tree are reflected in the glass.
Gothic window at Cornwall Iron Furnace (photo via Facebook)

Despite all that's going on in the world, many Trails of History sites have found a way to share some Halloween fun, candy, and scary stories with their communities. Socially distanced Trick-or-Treating has primarily meant "drive-thru Halloween," but there are also some online offerings.

Two vehicles lined up for drive-thru Trick or Treating. Two museum staff are there to hand out goody bags. A tree-covered hill is in the background.
Drive-thru Trick-or-Treating at the PA Lumber Museum (photo via Facebook)

Last weekend the Pennsylvania Lumber Museum hosted a drive-thru event in their parking lot that drew more than two dozen carloads of local residents. Area businesses donated candy, which museum staff and volunteers pre-packaged in goody bags along with the text of a story that would normally be shared at the museum's Halloween lantern tours. You can see more pictures from the event in a Facebook album.
White background with black silhouette of two story manor house
Silhouette of the Manor House at Pennsbury (via Facebook)

If you haven't yet carved your Halloween pumpkin, Pennsbury Manor has some site-related silhouettes you can use as patterns (see above). You'll find more, including Bill the Ox, on their Facebook post.

The Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania shared a ghost story, "Foul Play with the Lamp," that first appeared in print in 1874. The story is narrated by a train engineer and includes numerous details of railroad communication and operations - but it takes an eerie turn. The Facebook post is below or you can find it using this link.

During this Halloween season, Daniel Sohn shares a railroad ghost story from the October issue of “Milepost,” the...

Posted by Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania on Wednesday, October 28, 2020

More ghost stories are available at
Graeme Park. See their Facebook below or at this link for a recorded story (including details to help you decide if it's too scary) and info about virtual programs available.

Happy Halloween from Graeme Park! Join Graeme Park Volunteer, Erin, for a traditional Halloween Legend for all ages...

Posted by Graeme Park on Monday, October 26, 2020

Definitely too scary for me, but maybe not for everyone - The State Museum of Pennsylvania has been featuring spiders on Facebook this week. Learn everything you need to know, and get thoroughly creeped out in the process (see below or visit Facebook link).

Pennsylvania is home to many species of spiders, and thankfully most of them prefer to live outdoors. Some, like the...

Posted by The State Museum of Pennsylvania on Thursday, October 29, 2020

And finally, I'll leave you with this. It's not actually Halloween-related, although it does involve people dressing up. Last week, Drake Well Museum & Park hosted an online event, "Pithole Person of the Year," in which staff presented short vignettes about people who were part of the history of Pithole, an oil boomtown that came and went quickly. The audience voted to declare who would be Person of the Year. This week, Drake Well posted a short video in which the winner was presented with her award. Enjoy! (And I'll see you on the other side.)

Working from Home to Transcribe History

Be sure to check out the PHMC Events Calendar for online events at Trails of History sites. The Trailheads Rec Room pages to the right of your screen have wide array of puzzles, activities, videos, and collections highlights - all available 24/7.

Today we have a guest post from Faith Denny, who recently took on a remote transcription project as a volunteer. Faith lives outside of Philadelphia with her husband Joshua and their cat, Colby. She works in journalism and is studying to earn a master's in library and information science, with a concentration in archives management. Faith worked with Bureau of Historic Sites and Museums curator Rachel Yerger, who has written several posts about curatorial work for Trailheads (most recently in April and May).

This year, we have certainly had to overcome new challenges by not being able to safely meet or congregate in person as much as we would like. However, it has also provided us with some new opportunities to connect virtually. Thanks to the internet, I was able to be connected with the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC) and Rachel Yerger, a curator with the Bureau of Historic Sites and Museums in Harrisburg, for a virtual volunteer opportunity, though I live about two hours away outside Philadelphia.

Framed 18th-century document - rectangular shape, written on vellum in iron gall ink
Gilpin Land Indenture (BB85.1.35, view 1)

My work consisted of transcribing a land indenture from 1730 associated with Brandywine Battlefield Park. I was very new to transcription, especially for a document from this long ago. Rachel sent me two photographs of the indenture, of its front and back. A land indenture is similar to a deed, and this one in particular had to do with the Gilpin family. My technique was to have the photo open on one side of my computer screen, with a Word document open on the other side and I would write down whatever I saw as I saw it. The definition on the photographs was incredible, allowing me to zoom in to my heart’s content.

This project was very interesting and kept me on my toes. I had to remind myself not to change the spelling (and to watch out for autocorrect), even if the word looked incorrect or odd to my eyes. For example, the author of the indenture spelled the state’s name Pensilvania. Hickory was spelled like Hickery. There were also different terms used, such as perches, which is a form of measurement.

Inset of document - handwritten in iron gall ink, showing transfer from Joseph Gilpin Sr to Joseph Gilpin Jr
Detail of document (BB85.1.35, view 2)

Though ideally you would want to see documents like this in person with a nice magnifying glass, it is truly amazing that something like this can be done virtually. I was able to work on it at any time, from the comfort of my own home. I look forward to doing more and to learning more about the Gilpin family and that time period in American history.

Stone house showing L-shaped rear section, multiple chimneys and a bake-oven are visible
Rear view of Gideon Gilpin House at Brandywine Battlefield Park (via Facebook)

[Editor's note: the document Faith Denny transcribed (transcript) involved a transfer of property from Joseph (Sr) and Hannah Gilpin to their son Joseph Gilpin Jr. In 1745, Joseph Jr constructed the stone portion of the house shown above (the kitchen section to the left in the photo was added in 1782). Joseph Jr's son Gideon took custody of the home in 1764 (learn more about Gideon Gilpin's experiences during the Battle of Brandywine and its aftermath).

Living Our Lives Online

Tree showing fall colors with bright blue sky and a brownstone wall behind
The latest in our fall foliage series - this one from Cornwall Iron Furnace (via Facebook)

So fall is here, the weather is cooling, and COVID-19 cases are rising. The sites on PHMC's Trails of History are continuing to create new programs and events that you can access from home. If you are looking for things to do, please be sure to check out the calendar of events on the PHMC website. A new feature, it includes information from all of our Trails of History sites, conveniently in one place. The Trailheads Rec Room pages (to the right of your screen) show samples of online offerings available whenever you want them.

Rectangular wooden base with metal pieces attached used to send telegraph signals
Learn more about this telegraph key during STEAM on the Rails (photo via Facebook)

On Tuesday, I got to check out two of the sessions for the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania's STEAM on the Rails program (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics). One was a demonstration of steam power by the museum's Chris O'Brien, the other was an introduction to abstract art with a hands-on activity. It was fascinating to see how different students engaged with the two sessions. If you know a student in grades K through 6 who might be interested, there are still two more Tuesdays (meaning eight more individual sessions) left in the program. On Oct. 20, museum staff will demonstrate railroad telegraphy. There will be another art activity, demonstration of a coal-fired pizza oven by Eckley Miners' Village (tentative), and a visit with blacksmith Frank Gillespie. On Oct. 27, staff from Drake Well Museum and Cornwall Iron Furnace will connect oil and iron history with railroading and steam power. Sessions are by donation, but you must register to get the Zoom link. Visit Eventbrite for more details.

Black and white photo of street scene around 1865 with dirt street and two story buildings lining either side. People are standing in front of building to the right and a man sits on a horse on the left side of the street
Holmden Street in Pithole, PA, ca. 1865-77 (photo via Facebook)

On October 21 (7-8 pm), staff from Drake Well Museum and Park will present an online event to determine the "Pithole Person of the Year." They'll introduce a range of characters from the oil boomtown and then ask the audience to vote on their person of the year. The event is free (donations are welcome) and attendance is limited (tickets via Network for Good). Registrants will receive a Zoom invitation. I look forward to seeing some of you there.

Two-story wooden sided medieval style building with roof dormers. A curved path runs from the building to the front of the photo through a green lawn and there is a wooden fence with flowers planted along it.
The Sisters' House (Saron) at Ephrata Cloister (photo via Facebook)

The folks at Ephrata Cloister have launched another virtual exhibit, this one focused on the roots of Ephrata's distinctive building styles. Singular, and of Ancient Style: The Architecture of Historic Ephrata Cloister takes its title from a description by William Bromwell in 1854: "The buildings are singular, and of ancient style of architecture, all the outside wall being covered with shingles." Earlier this year, staff created an online exhibit titled Hidden Knowledge at Ephrata, exploring the complex religious traditions and theological elements that informed Ephrata's worldview.

Thinking About History

Looking for online events? Visit the new calendar on the PHMC website to find info about Trails of History programs. For virtual offerings available 24/7, visit the Trailheads Rec Room pages (to the right of your screen).

Red flowers in garden with grass and small stone building in background
Rapp House Garden at Old Economy Village, October 2019 (photo AKF)

This has been a relatively quiet week for me (i.e. only one online meeting), and I've been able to catch up on and digest some of the sessions I watched (and some I missed) during the American Association for State and Local History (AASLH) virtual conference. The theme of the conference was "What Kind of Ancestor Will You Be?" and sessions explored the work of museums and historic sites to better reflect and serve their communities. I've also had time to reflect on some of the work we're doing at PHMC to advance our Diversity, Equity, Accessibility, and Inclusion (DEAI) initatives and all the resource gathering I've worked on with my colleagues. There are many downsides to our sites and offices being closed, but an unexpected upside (for me anyway) has been the ability to have online conversations with staff across the agency and across the state. Bureaucratic lines have blurred somewhat, and I sense a stronger collective purpose around telling a more inclusive story of Pennsylvania. Will it be easy? No. Will we ever be finished? No, it's a journey. But I think (and hope) there's a new collaborative energy that can make a huge difference.

So as I basked in the chance to think this week, AASLH released the report of the first phase of their "Framing History with the American Public" project. Funded by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the project has three major goals: "1) to identify the gaps between experts' and the public's understanding of what history is and why it's valuable to society; 2) to develop and test new communcation strategies for solving those challenges; and 3) to create and deploy tools and resources to train history professionals in all sectors of our field to communicate more effectively with the public." The report, "Communicating about History: Challenges, Opportunities, and Emerging Recommendations," is available online.
"The brief notably uncovers the implicit connections that exist between privilege, power, and historical knowledge in US public thinking. It shows how mainstream historical narratives are often considered the default, while narratives of historically oppressed peoples are seen as 'optional' for many in the US public; and how people in positions of privilege tend to use their comfort level to determine what to learn and what to ignore about past injustices and trauma." ("Communicating about History: Challenges, Opportunities and Emerging Recommendations," page 2)

That's not the only finding in the report, but I think it's one of the most challenging. It speaks to something deeply ingrained and forces us (whether we're practitioners or consumers of history) to confront our "comfort levels" as we may not have done before. (One definition of privilege is "the stuff you don't have to think about.") I don't have any blinding insights on this, but I'm letting it simmer.

A tree showing red leaves stands in the middle of a grassy area, there is a small stone building to the right
Fall color at Drake Well Museum and Park (photo via Facebook)

Honoring Indigenous History

In addition to the AASLH virtual conference, last week I also attended a webinar presented by the National Association for Interpretation (NAI) called "Elevating Indigenous Voices and Stories in Interpretation." The webinar featured interpreters and other staff from California State Parks, which has entered into an agreement with the Yurok Tribe that removes some of the barriers to the Yurok people's traditional uses of their ancestral lands. These lands include what is now Patrick's Point State Park (Trinidad, CA) and a reconstructed Yurok village that is interpreted to the public. The conversation was quite emotional at times and conveyed the power of people being able to tell their community's stories in their own way. I recommend this webinar to anyone interested in historic sites and the tremendous possibilities of historical interpretation; you can find it on NAI's Facebook page.
"You can't give people a voice. You can only silence yourself and let them speak." (Skip Lowry, CA State Parks interpreter at Sumeg Village and Yurok tribal member)

Closer to home, The State Museum of Pennsylvania's Virtual Workshops in Archaeology continue today and the next two Fridays, with online lectures around the theme "The Delaware Indians: Then and Now." Check The State Museum's Facebook page for details.

The Week Ahead

Large black steam locomotive with with people standing beside it
Photo courtesy Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania

On Tuesday, Oct. 13, the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania starts a three-part virtual education series, "STEAM on the Rails" (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics). This week's sessions feature Chris O'Brien (Railroad Museum) on steam locomotives (10-10:30 am); Liz Bleacher (Girl Scouts in the Heart of PA) with an art program (10:30-11 am); Jennifer Kreszswick from Operation Lifesaver talking about railroad safety (2-2:30 pm); and Josh Roth (PA Lumber Museum) explaining logging equipment and simple machine concepts (2:30-3 pm). Tickets are by donation, and you must register to get the Zoom link. More sessions follow on Oct. 20 and 27, featuring Railroad Museum staff and staff from Anthracite Heritage Museum/Eckley Miners' Village, Drake Well Museum and Park, and Cornwall Iron Furnace. For details and to register, visit the Eventbrite page for this program.

According to this week's Dept. of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) foliage report, the coming week has most of the state at peak or near-peak fall color.

With funding from the Appalachian Regional Commission (via PHMC), Eckley Miners' Village Associates are hiring a Project Manager/Fundraiser (one-year contract with possibility of renewal) to develop a sustainable new business model and management plan for the site. The person hired with work closely with PHMC staff, including the State Historic Preservation Office and Division of Architecture and Preservation. For a full project description and application instructions, visit Eckley's website. Deadline to apply is November 16, 2020 (contract begins January 1, 2021).

Canopy of trees showing fall colors over a gravel path through the woods
Photo via Bushy Run Battlefield Facebook page
Bushy Run Battlefield's popular Fall Tea will be mostly virtual this year. They are currently (through Oct. 24 or until sold out) accepting orders for their "Take Home Tea" package, which includes tea, baked goods, and a cup and saucer. Take Home Tea packages will be available for pick-up between 9 and 11 am on Nov. 7; there will be an online program for participants that afternoon. Visit the Facebook event for details.