Current and Coming features detailed information about current and forthcoming programs, events, exhibits and activities of historical and cultural institutions in Pennsylvania. Originated as “Currents.” Retitled “Current and Coming,” Winter 2003, and then retitled “Out and About,” Fall 2005. Revived as “Current and Coming,” Winter 2013. Ran regularly, Spring 1984 to Spring 2008, and then occasionally, Winter 2013 to Spring 2015.

Amish Arts

A comprehensive-and colorful-sur­vey of the distinctive decorative arts cre­ated by and for the Amish of Lancaster County is on view at the Heritage Center Museum of Lancaster County. About two hundred objects made during a period of two hundred years, from 1790 to 1990, are showcased in “Amish Arts of Lancaster County,” on view through Saturday, Janu­ary 2, 1999. Included in this exhibit are quilts, toys, fraktur, samplers, furniture, and clothing. Many pieces have been drawn from one private collection, and many have not been previously exhibited.

Researchers, scholars, and collectors place much emphasis on bonds within the close-knit Amish community, but there are surprising aspects when mem­bers interact with the outside world. A number of objects are the result of these interactions and the influence of non­-Amish or, as the Amish say, the “Eng­lish.” The Amish are not a people frozen in time; they are real people who consid­er, adapt, and respond to the ever-chang­ing world that surrounds them. The “English” are basically unaware of the color, humor, and vigorous lifestyle that thrive within this religious sect, and often think of the Amish as living in a drab and spare world. The Amish, too, are per­ceived as a dour society, whose women shroud themselves in black and whose husbands wear dark and plain clothing and wide-brimmed hats. This perception is further enhanced when outsiders see the Amish living frugally, plowing fields with horse-drawn equipment, undertak­ing household chores completely by hand, and at the end of the day returning to homes lacking electricity. A long­standing “English” perception is that the Amish home is a dark, austere place, devoid of any form of comfort, color, warmth, or entertainment. Nothing could be fur­ther from the truth.

Church districts discourage mem­bers, in varying degrees, from having “worldly goods” in the home, or at least downstairs where they can be seen. This restriction prompts some members to copy and adapt for their own use something they may have seen in the outside world. It is not unusual for the Amish to design and construct articles, in their own style, to fulfill household needs. The panels of a hanging newspaper rack, for instance, may be decorated in the Amish style with a floral motif and placed prominently in the home. News­papers are particularly important to them since they do not own radios and televi­sions. Two weekly newspapers read by Lancaster County’s Amish are their own publication, Die Botschaft (The Message), and a non-Amish periodical, The Budget, “A Weekly Newspaper Serving the Sugarcreek Area and Amish­-Mennonite Communities Throughout the Americas.” Most Amish also receive a daily local newspaper.

Although lacking electrical appliances and the latest in deco­rating trends and fads, the home provides for the comfort of the Amish family. Comfort is the context in which the furnishings and decorative objects relate to one another and on a per­sonal level to the individuals who dwell within. Being without electricity does not mean being without light and color. Amish homes contain such objects as paint-decorated kerosene lamps, boxes, containers, wall hangings, even brightly colored handmade refrigerator magnets. These objects, with their eccentricities, reflect the bold use of color and design associated with the Pennsylvania German culture. The Amish do not use decoration to create a flagrant show; decoration is secondary to the function of the object. Nevertheless, few house­hold objects escape embellishment.

The Amish are well known for their traditional art forms, notably fraktur, the illuminated manuscripts that record births, deaths, marriages, and the owner­ship of books; painted, grained, and deco­rated furniture; and textiles such as quilts, coverlets, braided and hooked rugs, sam­plers, and decorated hand towels. Famil­iar images of nature, home, and farm, which meld with church life, have been incorporated into the lexicon of Amish arts. The worldly symbols of a patriotic and political nature are conspicuously absent, suggesting the difficult decisions that members of the Amish community must constantly make to avoid unwanted influences of the outside world on their daily lives.

Today’s Amish artisans – like their predecessors before them – are frugal. They occasionally conserve materials by recycling scraps of fabric and odds and ends, which they incorporate in pieces considered “charming” by those outside the community. The Amish make a wide variety of craft items, ranging from quilts to birdhouses, for sale throughout the world. They account for a burgeoning cottage industry in Lancaster County and southeastern Pennsylvania. They sell their objects at craft and produce stands on the farm, in roadside market stands, and through cooperative groups around the country. The same talent and work ethic responsible for producing a broad range of arts for use within the sect is also responsible for creating objects perceived by a nostalgic public as quality goods from an earlier era.

“Amish Arts of Lancaster County” showcases objects illustrating the society’s unrelenting respect for tradition. The exhibit shows that design sources tend to be copied from earlier generations, and innovative approaches to design are not generally encouraged within the commu­nity. Although much thought may go into the choice of a decorative motif, forms change slowly.

The exhibition is accompanied by a publication of the same title which contains more than three hundred color illus­trations.

For more information, write: Heritage Center Museum of Lancaster County, 13 West King St., Lancaster, PA 17603-3813; or telephone (717) 299-6440. Admission to the museum, located adjacent to the his­toric Central Market in downtown Lan­caster, is free.


Ancient Artifacts

The first major North American exhi­bition dedicated to the archaeology of ancient Israel and neighboring lands, “Canaan and Ancient Israel,” will open Sunday, October 18 [1998], at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology in Philadelphia. The all-new, permanent features more than five hundred rare ancient artifacts dating from 3000 to 500 BCE (Before the Common Era), principally excavated by the museum’s archaeologists in Israel, Jor­dan, and Lebanon. Recognizing the role that the Bible has played in shaping both personal and cultural identities of people throughout the world, “Canaan and Ancient Israel” literally digs deep into the past to consider the question: “What shaped the identities of the Bible’s peo­ples?”

“Canaan and Ancient Israel” features a wealth of artifacts offering insight into kinship, culture, and everyday life as it evolved in the Bible lands through several millennia. The archaeological record, evi­denced by this sensational array of pot­tery, statuary, inscribed jar handles and seals, weapons, weights, large and com­pelling faces modeled on clay sarcophagi, and personal objects crafted of gold, ivory, and semi-precious stones, speaks volumes about the ancient peoples – the Israelites and Canaanites, Philistines, and Phoenicians – who lived, and developed their identities, in the land between the powerful and influential Egypt and Mesopotamia.

While the Bible (the Old Testament or the Tanak) is concerned with defining the cultural boundaries that separated ancient Israel from its neighbors and predecessors, archaeological research offers evidence that the Biblical world was a cosmopolitan one with significant contact and cultural interchange among the region’s ancient peoples. Not only is “Canaan and Ancient Israel” the largest permanent exhibit of excavated artifacts from Israel, Jordan, and Lebanon in the United States, but it is also the first to probe the complex identities of those who made the artifacts, be they Israelites, Canaanites, Philistines, or Phoenicians.

To examine the evolution and inter­play of cultural identity, the exhibition is organized into several distinct sections, including politics and society, religious practices and beliefs, domestic life, tech­nology and craft production, personal identity, commerce and international trade, and death and burial customs. The segment exploring domestic life features a full-scale re-creation of a furnished three room house from Tell es-Sa’idiyeh (725 BCE), and illustrations of breadmaking, weaving, and animal use.

A “discovery trail” running through the exhibition offers visitors an opportu­nity to engage in interactive activities, including artifact examination and identi­fication.

The exhibition draws heavily on the nearly fifteen thousand artifacts from the Levant (Bible lands) chiefly excavated by University of Pennsylvania Museum archaeologists between 1921 and 1981, and now part of the institution’s perma­nent collection. Artifacts were excavated at six important sites in Israel, Jordan, and Lebanon: Tel Beth Shean, from 1921 to 1933; Gibeon, from 1956 to 1962; Tel Beth Shemish, from 1928 to 1933, and acquired from Haverford College; Tell es-Sa’idiyeh, from 1964 to 1967; the Baq’ah Valley, from 1977 to 1981; and the Phoenician port of Sarepta, from 1969 to 1974.

On Sunday, November 8 [1998], the museum will co-sponsor with Archaeology maga­zine a symposium, “Archaeology and the Bible: From Canaan to Ancient Israel,” in conjunction with the exhibition’s installa­tion. Outstanding Israel and American scholars will debate some of the most contentious issues in Old Testament scholarship.

Beginning with its groundbreaking excavation of Tel Beth Shean in the 1920s, the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology has long been a leader in archaeological exploration and research in the southern Levant. Renowned museum archaeolo­gists James Pritchard, Clarence Fischer, and Alan Rowe were American pioneers in the field of Biblical archaeology.

The University of Pennsylvania Muse­um of Archaeology and Anthropology is dedicated to the study and understanding of human history and diversity. Founded in 1887, the museum has sent more than three hundred and fifty archaeological and anthropological expeditions to all the inhabited continents of the world. Through its ambitious exhibition sched­ule and educational programming, the museum offers visitors an opportunity to share in the ongoing discovery of humankind’s collective heritage.

For more information about changing exhibitions and special events, write: University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Thirty­-Third and Spruce Sts., Philadelphia, PA 19104; or telephone (215) 898-4000. There is an admission fee.


Out Of Obscurity

By today’s standards, John Wolcott Adams (1874-1925) may be better known for his famous ancestors, U.S. Presidents John Adams and John Quincy Adams, than for his meticulous depictions of sev­enteenth-, eighteenth-, and nineteenth­-century America.

Just opened at the Brandywine River Museum in Chadds Ford, “John Wolcott Adams: American Life and History” casts a light on impressive works of art he cre­ated during his prolific career. The exhibi­tion features more than one hundred orig­inal works of art in pen and ink, gouache, and watercolor that highlight Adams’ attention to historical detail and his unique, captivating style.

In recent decades, John Wolcott Adams has fallen into obscurity, but he was once heralded as a preeminent illus­trator of early American scenes and events. Towards the end of the nineteenth century, his illustrations appeared in pop­ular magazines such as Harper’s Monthly, Scribner’s Magazine, Ladies Home Journal, and The Saturday Evening Post. By 1904, Adams’ work had caught the attention of renowned American illustrator Howard Pyle (1853-1911) who invited Adams to join his exclusive art school in Wilming­ton, Delaware, not as a student but as a teacher. Adams joined Pyle, and he devel­oped a distinctive style characterized by fine, Bickering pen-strokes and a notable ability to bring historical events to life.

Adams illustrated many books, including A Hoosier Romance (1910) by Indiana poet James Whitcomb Riley, biographies of Abraham Lincoln and Ben­jamin Franklin, and Fred Dayton’s 1925 Steamboat Days.

Despite Adams’ popularity during the late nineteenth and early twentieth cen­turies, there has never been a major retro­spective exhibition of his work, although his art has often appeared in exhibitions of American illustration. In 1985, Andrew and Betsy Wyeth donated more than four dozen works of art by Adams to the Brandywine River Museum. The gift served as a catalyst for study and eventu­al exhibition of works by Adams.

“John Wolcott Adams” continues through Sunday, November 22 [1998]. The exhi­bition is accompanied by an illustrated catalogue.

The Brandywine River Museum is open daily (except Christmas Day), from 9:30 A.M. to 4:30 P.M. Admission is charged.

For more information, write: Brandy­wine River Museum, P. O. Box 141, Chadds Ford, PA 19317; telephone (610) 388-2700; or visit the Brandy­wine River Museum website.