How Is It the End of July Already?

The July program page has info about today's registration deadline for Drake Well's Virtual Summer Camp and the Railroad Museum's Trivia Night tonight. The August page has a growing list of online events. For online activities available 24/7, check out the Trailheads Rec Room (to the right of your screen).

Collage of chalk drawings and messages at Graeme Park - includes a heart and messages thanking staff and saying how nice the site is
Since late spring, visitors enjoying the grounds at Graeme Park have shared encouraging messages in sidewalk chalk (via Facebook)
So, I blinked and apparently July is now over. This week got away from me, too. Folks at our Trails of History sites continue to keep in touch with the public through online programs (check the August calendar page) and social media posts. Below are a few that I'd like to share with you as you head into August (and the weekend). Today's focus (ahem) is on photos and other images.

Quick side note: Two summers ago, when Eckley was celebrating the 50th anniversary of the filming of The Molly Maguires, actress Samantha Eggar shared some thoughts with Eckley staff, and they shared them with Trailheads (June 2018 post).

The Week in Review

The July program page has info about online programs happening this weekend and next week (and a couple of deadlines for August programs). To help you plan ahead, I've also published the August page. For online activities available 24/7, check out the Trailheads Rec Room (to the right of your screen).

Screenshot of computer desktop with photos of online meeting participants arranged in 3 rows of 5 images
Members of the Accessibility Excellence Working Group during their online meeting (screenshot)

I spent yesterday afternoon meeting with colleagues working on the PA Museums and PHMC Accessibility Excellence project. PA Museums received a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services last fall, and PHMC is partnering with them on this effort. We are developing an assessment tool to help museums and historical organizations measure their accessibility to the public and a resource kit to help institutions improve. As you might expect, COVID-19 has thrown us a significant curveball. On the upside, we have continued, with the leadership of project manager Jenny Angell, to refine the assessment and work to bring it in line with some other standards programs in the field. On the other hand, we had hoped by now to be piloting the assessment tool at PHMC's Trails of History sites. With uncertainty about when sites will reopen, we are considering a number of alternatives and (yes) pivots to keep the project moving.

Screenshot from online meeting showing shared document with rows of participants above
Online meetings allow for document sharing in addition to the Brady Bunch experience (screenshot)

On a related note, Sunday, July 26, is the 30th anniversary of the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), landmark legislation intended to make employment, government services, and public accommodations fully accessible to people with disabilities. Clearly, the work to achieve that is still ongoing. As part of their "ADA at 30" compilation, the New York Times spoke with disability rights activists Judy Heumann, Alice Wong, and Haben Girma for an article titled "What the A.D.A. Means to Me" and provided an overview, "'Nothing About Us Without Us': 16 Moments in the Fight for Disability Rights." To learn more about disability history and disability rights advocacy, check out the Disability History Association or Disability Rights PA.

Two-story plus attic building with wooden siding, a central door on ground floor, a central window above it, two additional windows on first and second floors.
The historic Saal at Ephrata Cloister (photo via Facebook)
Singer, educator and musicologist Chris Herbert will be on NPR's Morning Edition today to talk about his recording project, "Voices in the Wilderness: The Music of the Ephrata Cloister," which includes works by the earliest-known female composers in America. Herbert describes the project:
"In order to create modern transcriptions of the music for the recording, I visited 22 libraries, collections, and archives throughout the world to study and photograph Ephrata music manuscripts. I got to spend time in the Library of Congress, and it was there that I realized that one of the largest Ephrata documents, known as the Ephrata Codex, contains inscriptions that offer proof of authorship by three women: sisters Föben, Hanna, and Ketura.
Since this post won't publish until about 20 minutes before you can hear Herbert on NPR, I'll add a link to the recording here when it becomes available (NPR link added 7/26/2020). In the meantime, you can sample some of the music, which was recorded at Ephrata in the historic Saal (meetinghouse) last year.

This week also marks the return (finally) of Major League Baseball, although greatly curtailed due to COVID-19. Pennsylvania Trails of History shared a relevant artifact from the State Museum of Pennsylvania collection.

And here's a selection of posts from the past week - I noticed a theme of different types of work. I hope you have a chance to rest from your labors sometime in the coming week.

The Great Outdoors

Please check out the July program page for upcoming online programs or take a look at the Trailheads Rec Room (to the right of your screen) for jigsaw puzzles, videos, and more.

A dark pink peony is in the foreground. In the background is a two-story stone house two chimneys and a covered porch spanning two thirds of the ground floor.
Daniel Boone Homestead on a beautiful summer day (photo via Facebook)
Although our Trails of History sites and museums remain closed, many have grounds that are available for visits during posted hours (and in accordance with guidance from the CDC and Pennsylvania Department of Health). The Commonwealth also has 121 state parks and 20 state forests that offer a range of outdoor activities (check their websites for details and remember that there are health and safety guidelines to follow). Thank you to my colleagues at Drake Well Museum and Park and the Pennsylvania Lumber Museum for the reminder that today, July 17, is Park and Recreation Professionals Day.

Although the outdoors is a great place to be, it's still not possible to offer our traditional events (or even plan them when COVID-19 causes so much uncertainty). The folks at the Anthracite Heritage Museum, faced with canceling the Arts on Fire event at Scranton Iron Furnaces, worked with their community partners to produce a video version. With interviews, footage of past iron pours at the Furnaces, musical performances, and a demonstration of stained glass art, they've offered a brief history of the Iron Furnaces and a glimpse of the event for folks who had to miss it. The video runs a little over an hour. You can watch it below or go directly to YouTube.

If you're interested in learning more about the comet (Neowise) that is currently visible over North America, the Franklin Institute posted some info. (For some historical perspective, you can read about the Great Comet of 1744 as documented in a book written and printed at Ephrata Cloister.)

And now, some posts about animals. Because who doesn't love photos of animals? I hope your weekend and the week ahead are filled with good things.

Just added...

One Thing Leads to Another

We have delayed reopening PHMC's Trails of History sites, which includes The State Museum of Pennsylvania and the Pennsylvania State Archives, until further notice. The July program page lists online events that you may want to check out; updates on site schedules will also be made there.

See if you can follow my train of thought (spoiler alert: it's not a long train...or a high-speed one for that matter):

Left third of image shows rows of white archival boxes on metal shelves. Right two-thirds is close-up view of one box with a label detailing the contents. Heading on label is Pennsylvania State Archives
Rows of archival boxes at the Pennsylvania State Archives (photo via Facebook)
On July 22 and 29 at 10 am, join archivist Josh Stahlman for free webinars on PHMC's Historical and Archival Records Care (HARC) Grants. Stahlman, grants manager for the HARC program, will provide a brief overview of eligibility and guidelines and offer tips for a competitive proposal. Questions will be answered throughout the presentation. Register online for either date.

In early June, the Science History Institute partnered with the American Philosophical Society to present "Deciphering the Past: An Introduction to Transcription." The webinar provided an overview of transcription projects going on around the country. It also explored issues related to transcribing historical documents and the nuances of different types of documents. It includes a transcription exercise near the end. Whether you're actually transcribing or not, there are some useful tips for deciphering manuscript documents. The webinar lasts about an hour - you can watch it below or go directly to YouTube at your leisure.

This spring Sarah Buffington, curator at Old Economy Village, posted a call for volunteers on Facebook to help with a data entry project. OEV has typewritten lists of Harmony Society correspondence that had been compiled over the years, but they needed help entering the information so that it can be searched and sorted by staff and other researchers. Sarah tells me that the Facebook post garnered several volunteers, who have worked on the project remotely during the COVID-19 closures. Thanks to these volunteers, the amount of work still to do has been greatly reduced. Kudos!

Typewritten list of names in alphabetical order by last name
Excerpt from Old Economy Village list of Harmony Society correspondents (photo via Facebook)

The Science History Institute identified their transcription webinar as being part of a new social media initiative called Museum Survival Kit, which seeks to share the skills and knowledge that museums and historic sites preserve and interpret and show their relevance to the challenges we currently face (the tagline for the project is "Our Ancestors Knew Some Stuff"). If you're interested in learning more or contributing to the kit, visit the Museum Survival Kit website or find them on Twitter (@MuseumKit) or search hashtag #MuseumSurvivalKit on Facebook or Twitter.

Trails of History sites are actively engaged in researching, preserving, and sharing historical knowledge with audiences of all ages. The pandemic has interrupted public programming and school visits, but the work continues. I'm inspired every day by my PHMC colleagues who are so dedicated to helping people connect to the past in tangible ways that can lead to greater insights.

Here's an example of a program for younger audiences from Erie Maritime Museum and U.S. Brig Niagara:

And because it's Friday, a little something from Pennsbury Manor for the over 21 set: a demonstration of 17th-century beer brewing and a conversation about historic and contemporary beer, breweries, and brewing. Enjoy!

Changes are Coming

The July program page is up and running; it has info on virtual programs scheduled for this month. We'll try to keep it updated to reflect site reopening plans. You'll also find links to each site's Facebook page to check out online offerings. Trailheads Rec Room (to the right of your screen) has pages for various online offerings. New this week is the Collections Gallery, with Facebook posts related to objects, photos, and documents in our collections - there's also a link to PHMC's online collections portal.

Stone wall with garden bed in front filled with herbs
This herb garden at Conrad Weiser Homestead says "summer" to me (via Facebook)

So here's what I know. As of July 3, all Pennsylvania counties are in the "green zone." Lots of things are opening up, some are pausing, and some are closing again because COVID-19 hasn't released its grip. Our Trails of History sites are busily working on plans and guidelines and changes to keep everyone safe. UPDATE 7/7/20: reopening Trails of History sites has been delayed . We plan to start reopening sites the week of July 20; please stay tuned to PHMC's website and social media channels (such as Facebook). Individual site schedules will vary (many with reduced hours), so you'll need to be sure to check with your favorite site to see what's up.

Reddish-brown stone building to right, a walkway with wooden structure covering it is perpendicular. The sky is a vivid blue with puffy white clouds.
The Charcoal Barn (Visitor Center) and Connecting Shed at Cornwall Iron Furnace on a stunning summer day (via Facebook)

It's Fourth of July weekend, and we still need to be careful out there. Most (all?) big events and festivities are off the calendar. Despite the fact that Trails of History sites have not yet reopened, many have grounds that are open to the public during posted hours. We ask that you follow all posted guidelines and practice social distancing (from people you don't live with - or maybe from them too, amiright?). If you have a picnic or bring pets along, please bag your/their trash and take it with you. As long as everyone looks out for each other, our sites are great places to enjoy some relaxing time in the summer weather. (If you visit the grounds at Hope Lodge, they've made their cell phone tour available on their Facebook page, so you can still learn a little history while you're there.)

The Pennsylvania Lumber Museum had to cancel their popular Bark Peelers' Festival this year, but they've produced short videos with some of their usual demonstrators to bring some of the festival to you. Curious about how a shingle mill works? You can watch a demo from home. Stay tuned to the museum's video page on Facebook for more. (You might also enjoy this Trailheads post about the event in 2018, when the museum dedicated Bob and Dottie Webber's cabin.)

If fishing is your sport, Saturday is your lucky day. The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission has declared July 4 a "Fish-for-Free Day" on Pennsylvania waterways. No fishing license is required, but all other fishing regulations apply (visit the Fish and Boat website for details).

Some of you may be planning to watch the filmed production of Hamilton that is streaming on Disney+ as of July 3. I know I am. (If you enjoy a side order of commentary with your viewing, Historians at the Movies (follow #HATM) and the cast and crew of Hamilton (#Hamilfilm) are hosting a Twitter Watch Party starting at 7 pm EDT on July 3.) I wrote about my late-to-the-party encounter with the musical's cast album back in July of 2016. That post seems like a very long time ago, but I think it holds up.
"So, I spent the 4th of July listening to the album and totally get what the big deal is (my opinion, your mileage may vary). It was a fitting reminder of the heroic and yet complicated, messy, sometimes ugly, origins of our democracy and the importance of helping our visitors understand that life was not "simpler back then." And that we are all part of the continuum of history. "Hamilton," for all of its cultural phenomenon-ness, is also an object lesson: when history is presented as a compelling story, with an eye and ear to the intended audience, people respond. We can't create blockbuster musicals at our sites, but our staff and volunteers strive all the time to forge emotional and intellectual connections between the present and the past and to shed light on the human strengths and weaknesses we share with our collective ancestors. It's frustrating work sometimes (most of the time?), but it matters."

I hope you have a chance to spend time with family and friends in ways that keep you all healthy. I think all of us can take some time to reflect on our history and how it shapes our present. It's a moment and a movement for living up to what we can be. Together.