Trailheads presents information and details about the exhibits, events and programs hosted by the historic sites and museums on PHMC's Pennsylvania Trails of History.

New Exhibits

An exciting new long-term exhibit recently opened at Drake Well Museum and Park at Titusville, Venango County. In the Summer 2011 issue of Pennsylvania Heritage, I profiled the building renovation project at Drake Well, including plans for a geothermal climate control system and a new comprehensive exhibit. There’s a Drop of Oil and Gas in Your Life Every Day, which made its long-awaited debut in late August, presents the fascinating saga of Edwin L. Drake’s successful oil well in 1859, the many industries it spawned, and the ongoing impact of our use of petroleum and natural gas products.

Visitors will gain insights into the local, state, national, and global context of historical events as well as the modern-day story of drilling in the Marcellus Shale areas of northern Pennsylvania. The exhibit features an interactive video installation exploring Erie County native and pioneering journalist Ida Tarbell’s exposeé of John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Company, published in McClure’s Magazine from 1902 to 1904, and a new orientation theater that promises to liven up even the most jaded museumgoer.

Over the summer, staff at Drake Well documented the exhibit installation and we shared many of the photographs on PHMC’s Flickr Photostream.

 

Old Economy Village in Ambridge, Beaver County, unveiled a new show this summer in the changing exhibit gallery of the historic site’s Visitor Center. Faces and Places — Photographs of Economy features both historical and contemporary images to help visitors understand the extent of the Harmonists’ holdings. A model shows the streets and buildings as they were laid out in the nineteenth century. The complex that visitors tour today is a fraction of the commercial, residential, industrial, and agricultural settlement built by the Harmony Society, beginning in 1826.

Old Economy Village staff members develop changing gallery exhibits to supplement an orientation exhibit and offer tours to focus on additional topics. For this project, curator Sarah Buffington had support from interns Elizabeth Dofner of Edinboro University of Pennsylvania, Sarah Lerch of Allegheny College, and Dorian Gilliam of the Pennsylvania State University at Beaver. When we featured Faces and Places in the weekly Trailheads blog in June, Lerch gave me an update on her internship experience: “The best part about my internship is that I can see the work I’m doing as eventually helping the site. I love that I am a part of something bigger than myself or just the summer. The exhibit we are working on will be on display for a year or more, and it is truly an honor to play an active role in its creation.”

 

Scary!

Keep your hands inside the ride — we’re making a sharp turn here! It’s autumn, and you know what that means. It means many things to many people — fall festivals, harvest days, apple celebrations — but I’m thinking about Halloween. Never let it be said that we don’t know how to have a good time on the Pennsylvania Trails of History®. In October you can get your shriek on at special events and programs slated throughout the month. Since this information was compiled several months ago, please check to make sure that events are going on as described.

Eckley Miners’ Village near Hazleton, Luzerne County, will offer several chances to encounter the eerie side of history. On Sunday, October 7 [2012], an afternoon program, “Ghost Stories from the Mines,” will consider the question of whether or not the historic patch town is haunted. On the following three weekends (Friday and Saturday evenings), the village will come alive with Halloween festivities as part of the annual Lantern Tour program. Visitors can bring their own flashlights or purchase a lantern at the Visitor Center when buying admission tickets. Folks go all-out with spooky, funny, and entertaining vignettes. Although this is a family-friendly program, it’s not recommended for children younger than six years old.

The Celtic Samhain Harvest Festival at the Scranton Iron Furnaces in downtown Scranton on Saturday, October 20, combines the harvest traditions of the anthracite region’s English, Irish, Scots, and Welsh immigrants with familiar Halloween activities — several of which have Celtic roots — to create a unique event. Visitors will enjoy apple- bobbing, jack-o’-lantern carving, hot dogs, and popcorn. But to me the star attraction is the bonfire. Not only does it create an autumnal ambience, but it’s part of a series of programs, such as the annual Arts on Fire Festival in summer, bringing fire (in a safe way) and the community to this significant industrial site.

Ephrata Cloister in Ephrata, Lancaster County, will present “Mysterious, Melancholy, and Macabre: Stories from Early Lancaster County” on Saturdays, October 6, 13, and 20 [2012]. Guided walks through the site begin at 6:30 p.m. and step off every half hour until 8:00 p.m. Billed as “not terrifying, but chilling,” the program draws from eighteenth-century newspaper accounts and may even include mention of a ghost or two. For visitors who have enjoyed the immensely popular Christmas season lantern tours at Ephrata, this is an opportunity to experience a slightly different ambiance. Reservations are strongly recommended.

After a successful re-launch last fall, the Erie Maritime Museum and the Flagship Niagara, Erie, Erie County, are teaming with Mercyhurst and Gannon Universities to present “Ghosts Afloat” on Fridays and Saturdays, October 19–20 and 26–27 [2012]. Think of it as Master and Commander meets Night of the Living Dead. Scenes are drawn from the Niagara’s history and student actors bring a dramatic twist to the gory details of nineteenth-century naval warfare. If you prefer Halloween programs that are extremely frightening and zombie-filled, then this is perfect — and a welcome change from a guy in a hockey mask chasing you through a corn maze with a chainsaw. You’ll also enjoy the opportunity to see the majestic Niagara at night and support the sailing program that is now reaching hundreds of students of all ages each year.

Other Halloween-related events on the Trails of History this autumn include a Haunted History Hayride on Saturday, October 20 [2012], at Bushy Run Battlefield, Jeannette, Westmoreland County; Haunted Moonlight Tours, Friday and Saturday, October 26–27 [2012] at Graeme Park, Horsham, Montgomery County; Trick or Treat at the Museum, Saturday, October 30 [2012], at Somerset Historical Center, Somerset, Somerset County; and a family Halloween program and living history theater presentation of a 1684 Pennsylvania witch trial on Sunday, October 28 [2012], at Pennsbury Manor, Morrisville, Bucks County.

More information about these and other offerings are always available by visiting the Pennsylvania Trails of History website and clicking on sites you want to learn more about. Happy Halloween!

 

The author wishes to thank staff at Drake Well Museum and Park, Old Economy Village, Anthracite Heritage Museum and Scranton Iron Furnaces, Eckley Miners’ Village, Ephrata Cloister, Erie Maritime Museum and Flagship Niagara, Bushy Run Battlefield, Graeme Park, Somerset Historical Center, and Pennsbury Manor for their help in compiling this information. Any errors or omissions are the author’s.

 

Amy Killpatrick Fox is a museum educator based in PHMC’s Bureau of Historic Sites and Museums, supporting education, interpretation, and communications efforts bureau-wide and at individual historic sites and museums along the Pennsylvania Trails of History. She writes an informative weekly blog entitled Trailheads.