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.

Before I launch into a review and preview of changing exhibits at sites on the Pennsylvania Trails of History® this summer, I take this opportunity to share with you the honorees for this year’s Volunteer of the Year awards. PHMC’s historic sites and museums rely heavily on volunteers in many capacities, and it’s always a nice occasion when we bring everyone together each spring to celebrate their work. There isn’t space here to describe all of our honorees, but the Trailheads blog featured several posts in May that did so. Our honorees are: Vivian Cleveland, Anthracite Heritage Museum and Scranton Iron Furnaces; Joe Barnett, Brandywine Battlefield; John Brenkus, Bushy Run Battlefield; Joyce Bucci, Conrad Weiser Homestead; Irvin Muritz, Cornwall Iron Furnace; Lydia Rieger, Daniel Boone Homestead; Lorraine Ownsby, Drake Well Museum and Park; Karen Esak, Eckley Miners’ Village; Rev. John Oliphant, Ephrata Cloister; Lance Barclay, Erie Maritime Museum and US Brig Niagara; Jack Washington, Graeme Park; Tony Garvan, Hope Lodge; Barbara and Bruce Johnson, Joseph Priestley House; Floyd Ruhl, Landis Valley Village and Farm Museum; Ann Sevcik, Old Economy Village; Carol Cunliffe, Pennsbury Manor; Bill Roberts, Pennsylvania Lumber Museum; Bryant T. Mesick, Pennsylvania Military Museum; Robert J. Lawrence, Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania; Cindy Wickham, Somerset Historical Center; Beverly Lichkus, The State Museum of Pennsylvania; and Nancy Heyrich, Washington Crossing Historic Park.

In addition, two volunteers received Outstanding Service Awards, which recognize long-term contributions to the work of our historic sites and museums. Clair Garman’s support of and service to Landis Valley Village and Farm Museum dates from 1959, and Edith Reisler began as a volunteer at the Pennsylvania Lumber Museum in the early 1970s. I’d say that qualifies as long-term.

So with that important business taken care of, let’s take a look at some temporary exhibits at PHMC historic sites and museums this summer. I can’t possibly do justice to them all but with any luck I’ll entice you to visit them on your own. All are included in regular admission which is free for site associate group and Pennsylvania Heritage Society members.


Wind Turbine Integration in Architecture and the Urban Environment

Through October 12 [2012] the Erie Maritime Museum hosts an exhibit of architectural models created by Penn State University students in 2010 as part of an assignment to design a hypothetical addition to the museum for ship restoration, exhibitions, and education. The proposed building had to use wind turbines to generate electricity. The models represent the variety of approaches taken by the students, integrating turbines “on the roof, at the parapet, wind funneling structures within the roof, funneling structures within the building, at the façade or free standing,” according to museum education coordinator Linda Bolla. Students visited the museum on the Erie bayfront and attended the Tall Ships Erie festival to understand the context for their designs. The Erie project is part of a larger interdisciplinary effort at Penn State to research building-integrated wind energy.


The Golden Age of an American Art Form: The Lancaster County Long Rifle

Working with guest curators, private collectors, other institutions, and the museum’s collections, the staff at Landis Valley Village and Farm Museum has created an exhibit of more than sixty long rifles made in Lancaster County from the 1770s to the 1840s. “Lancaster County gunsmiths were exquisite craftsmen who excelled at producing hand-made pieces incorporating highly refined artistic carving, engraving, and inlaying while at the same time satisfying the need for accurate hunting weapons,” says site director James Lewars. Although the exhibit focuses on long rifles, it also includes smooth-bore fowling pieces, pistols, powder horns, game bags, and gunsmithing tools. Check Landis Valley’s website or the Trailheads blog for more information on programming related to the exhibit. The Golden Age of an American Art Form: The Lancaster County Long Rifle, supported by a grant from the Richard C. von Hess Foundation, continues in the Visitor Center through the end of December [2012].


The Combat Ration

In support of PHMC’s theme, “The Land of Penn and Plenty: Bringing History to the Table,” the Pennsylvania Military Museum has added new elements to its exhibit on the tactics and logistics of warfare. Joining the rolling field kitchen that is part of the ongoing exhibit are examples of field rations showing the evolution of feeding the troops during the twentieth and into the twenty-first centuries. As the larger exhibit examines changes in the technology of combat, temporary exhibit text shows how those changes (for example, the advent of trench warfare in World War I) affected the realities of getting food to those on the front lines. Also included in the exhibit are examples of chocolate bars developed for different combat environments (on loan from The Hershey Story) and a nod to the ingenuity of soldiers who improvised field stoves when none were available. The exhibit continues through December [2012].


The Role of Railroads in Pennsylvania During the American Civil War

As the commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War continues, the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania’s changing exhibit for 2012 focuses on the significant impact of railroads on the war in general and of Pennsylvania’s railroads on the Union victory in particular. Nationally, railroads had grown to more than thirty thousand miles of track by the beginning of the war and were commandeered by the Union and the Confederacy alike for transportation of troops, food, and munitions. The Role of Railroads in Pennsylvania During the American Civil War features historic photographs, documents and artifacts to tell the story of Pennsylvania’s railroads and the strategic importance of supply centers and junctions. The exhibit continues through December [2012].


Made in Somerset County

Opening June 23 and continuing into fall [2012] (when it will be succeeded by an exhibit of election-related artifacts), Somerset Historical Center’s summer exhibit examines a wide array of necessary and decorative items produced by local artisans since the settlement of the county in the late eighteenth century. The finest work of weavers, blacksmiths, coopers, cabinetmakers, and gunsmiths will be represented, making this an excellent overview of the wealth of skills present on the frontier. The Historical Center annually showcases contemporary artisans working with and adapting traditional forms and techniques at Mountain Craft Days (the first weekend after Labor Day); this is a chance to see the historical roots of their trades.


The author thanks staff members at Erie Maritime Museum and US Brig Niagara, Landis Valley Village and Farm Museum, Pennsylvania Military Museum, Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, and Somerset Historical Center for their contributions to this article.


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.