A Glimpse Into Our Collections

We received word yesterday, March 26, on March 30 that all PHMC offices and facilities will remain closed to the public through Friday, April 3 Thursday, April 30. All programs and events are canceled through the end of April, but schedule changes will likely continue for programs in May and beyond. We will update schedule info as we are able. For ongoing updates, visit PHMC's homepage or the official Commonwealth of PA COVID-19 info page.

During this time, staff are taking care of buildings, grounds, and animals or teleworking on site projects and providing digital access to our history and collections. PHMC's Facebook page, Pennsylvania Trails of History, is a good place to start looking for resources to #LearnInPlace or #MuseumFromHome. If you're not already following your favorite site on Facebook, drop me a note in the comments and I'll send you a link.

So while we're here, how about a little of that historical content? In this week's post, curator Rachel Yerger, one of my colleagues in the Bureau of Historic Sites and Museums, highlights some of our "outdoor recreational collections that also promote responsible social distancing."

18th-century brick mansion with center door and steps - there are 6 windows on each of 3 floors, plus 3 dormers on the attic story
Historic Hope Lodge, located in Montgomery County, PA (photo via Facebook)
First up is a 1940s badminton set catalogued to the Degn Collection at Historic Hope Lodge. Hope Lodge, built between 1743 and 1748, is located in Montgomery County and is a prime example of Georgian architecture. The house was saved from demolition in 1922 by William and Alice Degn, who restored and lived at Hope Lodge until 1957, when the property was turned over to the state. (You can read more about Hope Lodge's two time periods on the website. Update 3/30: you can read about Susanna Heath Morris, mother of original owner Samuel Morris, on the Hope Lodge Facebook page. UPDATE 3/31: Be sure to see the embedded post from Hope Lodge at the bottom of this post with photos from the Degn period of residency.)

Remnants of badminton shuttlecocks - red rounded end and green band with bits of wood stuck in rim
Four badminton racquets and the box they came in lie on a table with yardstick
Top photo: remnants of two badminton shuttlecocks (HL76.1.1409 G-H)
Bottom photo: badminton rackets are measured and photographed as part of the cataloguing process (HL76.1.1409 A-F)
The game of badminton likely evolved from games played in ancient Europe and Asia. What we know today as badminton was modernized in British-occupied India during the mid-1800s. By the late 1930s, the game had become popularized in the United States. It became an Olympic event in 1992 and with the right equipment, it can also be played in the backyard! To comply with the current protocol on social distancing, I suggest a singles game. [Editor's note: it looks like two racquets' length apart should do it.]

Eight wooden croquet mallets lined up on a table with yardstick - the handles are approximately on yard long, the heads of the mallets have grooves and painted stripes
Three round wooden croquet balls - some traces of paint are still visible
Top photo: croquet mallets lined up for measuring (HL76.1.1360.2-9)
Bottom photo: close-up of croquet balls - you can still see a little of their original paint (HL76.1.1360.10-17)
Next is a croquet set from the first half of the 20th century. This set is also attributed to the Degn collection at Hope Lodge. The modern game of croquet originated in the 1850s in England and by the 1870s it had reached the U.S. It waned in popularity during the turn of the century but had a resurgence in the 1920s and 30s and then again in the 1960s and 70s. This set is likely from that first resurgence period.

What kind of activities are you doing to beat cabin fever?

The New Normal (for Now)

For information on closures and other schedule changes on the PA Trails of History, please see last week's post (it will also give you an idea of how rapidly things were changing late last week and over the weekend.) For ongoing updates, visit PHMC's homepage or the official Commonwealth of PA COVID-19 info page.

Dining room table with red patterned tablecloth and laptop computer
My home "office" on Monday morning
For now, we're settling in for site closures through the end of March and event cancellations through the end of April (we'll post updates as we get them). It's tremendously disruptive to site programming and operations (and we've had to postpone our annual Volunteer of the Year awards ceremony), but it's where we are. Those of us who can work remotely from home are teleworking, rapidly improving our Skype and other online meeting skills. Other staff are checking on buildings and tending to animals and plants, working one-at-a-time. We're doing our part to help slow the spread of COVID-19 by social distancing and "flattening the curve" (I found this Washington Post simulation to be a useful illustration).

Dining room table with papers and folders strewn next to laptop computer
My home "office" Thursday afternoon

Site personnel and social media folks are quickly exploring ways to share interesting historical content with the public (beyond what they normally do, of course, which is a lot). Here are a few examples. If you aren't already following your favorite sites on social media, now is a good time to check them out.

Image description: black and white photo of two men in shirt sleeves and hats, standing on either side of a large tree with a notch cut out. They are each holding one end of a two-man crosscut saw. Text reads, "Woodhick Social Distancing...keep one crosscut saw's length apart."

The Pennsylvania Military Museum blog is sharing information about items in their collection and the personal stories they represent. Stories include that of a US Army private in France during World War I and that of an American sailor from Erie who took part in the nuclear tests known as "Operation Crossroads" (the Flagship Niagara Facebook page shared the post to their followers as well). New content will be posted as staff continues to gather and share information.

Speaking of Erie, the Erie Maritime Museum and U.S. Brig Niagara issued a "Marine Art Challenge," sharing paintings of ships and other maritime scenes and inviting families (and anyone else) to create their own art and post it.

Metal miners lamp with a shield and the letters U.M.W. of A.
Miners lamp from the collection of Anthracite Heritage Museum (via Facebook)

Expect to see lots of photos of our collections in the coming weeks. The Anthracite Heritage Museum posted the image above and invited followers to answer a question about what the letters stand for (and a bonus question about where the lamp was made). You can find the answers in the comments on this Facebook post.

Pennsbury Manor used their Facebook page to ask readers what kinds of content they want to see.

And I will leave you with these lovely photos from Graeme Park's Facebook page. Please be safe, be calm, and visit the Trails of History virtually during this time. And support your local businesses if you can.

On the Trails of History, March 13-31

Please note that PHMC's response to COVID-19 will evolve as circumstances change. For updates, follow PA Trails of History on Facebook, @PHMC on Twitter, or the Alerts page on the agency website.

PHMC Responds to COVID-19

The safety and well-being of our visitors, volunteers and staff is the Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission’s highest priority. We are closely monitoring the coronavirus (COVID-19) situation as it evolves in Pennsylvania and elsewhere.

We are taking the following steps, developed in conjunction with the Governor’s Office, Department of Health, and the Department of General Services.

The State Museum and the Pennsylvania State Archives

In an abundance of caution the PHMC is cancelling all group events, tours and rentals within our facilities in the Capitol Complex and at all of our historic sites and museums through the end of April. The State Museum of Pennsylvania and the Pennsylvania State Archives are closed to individual visitors and researchers until further notice.

Sites in Montgomery County

In accordance with Governor Wolf’s closure of schools and community centers in Montgomery County, we will close the following sites to all visitors until further notice: Graeme Park, The Highlands Mansion and Hope Lodge.

Sites and Museums Outside the Capitol Complex and Montgomery County

Individual visitation will continue to be allowed at PHMC facilities outside the Capitol Complex and Montgomery County, however all group events, tours and facility rentals are cancelled through the end of April.

UPDATE 3/13/2020 Today, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Wolf announced the closure of all K-12 Pennsylvania schools, effective Monday, March 16. This closure will extend for 10 business days.

In our efforts to protect all Pennsylvanians, including our youngest, the Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission will mirror this strategy by closing all PHMC historic sites and museums to all visitors across the commonwealth, regardless of location, effective Saturday, March 14, [correction] Brandywine Battlefield Park is closed today, March 14, and remaining sites on the Trails of History will be closed starting tomorrow, March 15. The closures will extend through the end of March. Staff will report to work but they will not be welcoming visitors.

UPDATE 3/17/2020: as of today, all Trails of History sites are closed. Staff at sites and in PHMC offices who are able to are teleworking through the end of March. Site personnel will be doing daily checks on facilities and, where applicable, tending to animals and plants during the closure. We will keep you posted.

UPDATE 3/26/2020: we received word today that PHMC facilities and offices will remain closed to the public through Friday, April 3.

Staff Meetings and Events

The Governor’s Office has issued a memo limiting agencies’ hosting of and employees’ attendance at large meetings, conferences, trainings and community events. In line with that directive we are limiting in-person meetings within PHMC facilities to 10 people or fewer through the end of April and encouraging staff to collaborate with outside colleagues virtually if possible.

PHMC we will be monitoring this situation in conjunction with the Governor’s Office, Department of Health, and Department of General Services. Beyond these measures, work will continue at PHMC as usual.