PHMC Highlights presents stories and information about PHMC programs, events, exhibits and activities.

A popular exhibit at the ninetieth annual Pennsylvania Farm Show, “An Agricultural Tradition for Generations,” held in Harrisburg in January, was the PHMC’s display featuring a dugout canoe – most likely the earliest form of constructed watercraft in the world. While children are encouraged to explore the dugout – essentially a hollowed-out log – ­historic preservation specialists and archaeologists discussed not only the tra­ditional methods used to make the canoe, among them cutting, burning, and scrap­ing, but they also educate adult visitors about the importance of protecting and preserving prehistoric and historic sites. PHMC archaeologist Kurt Carr (back­ground) and professional archaeologist Rick Guidel (foreground), a consultant with KCI Technologies, Mechanicsburg, engaged families visiting the annual event with accounts of their research and ar­chaeological investigations in the Commonwealth. A half-million people visited the 2006 Farm Show.


Several weeks before his death at the age of sixty-eight, on January 28, 2006, state Senator Robert J. Thompson (R-19th District) of West Goshen Township, Chester County, donated a silent black and white film of a Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) drum and bugle corps at the seventy-fifth anniversary reunion of the Battle of Gettysburg in 1938. Filmed by Thompson’s father, the late Joseph H.Thompson at the Adams County battlefield – where more than fifty thousand soldiers died in the epic three-day blood­bath in July 1863 – the movie records performances by the VFW drum and bugle corps and presentations by several participating units. Thompson and his wife Nancy Blackman Thompson have long been known for their generous com­munity service. The couple was most recently honored by the Chester County Historical Society, West Chester, which presented them its 2005 Founders Award, recognizing individuals whose talents, ac­tivities, and achievements symbolize the vision embodied by the extraordinary group of community leaders who founded the historical society in 1893. At the time of his death, Senator Thomp­son, who represented parts of Chester and Montgomery Counties, chaired the Senate Ap­propriations Committee.


A million-dollar, three-year intensive conservation project to preserve badly deteriorating Muster-Out Rolls that list soldiers of Penn­sylvania Regiments during the Civil War has been launched by the Pennsylvania State Archives, which safeguards the invaluable records. The Muster Rolls are the official government records for each of the ap­proximately 362,000 soldiers who made up the 215 regiments, battalions, Colored Troops, Veterans Reserves, and Militia, among other units, raised by the Com­monwealth between 1861 and 1865. They offer a portrait of each regiment, company, and individual soldier at the moment of discharge from military service, giving de­tailed information on name, hometown, military engagements, and final status. The Muster Rolls have been damaged during nearly a century and a half of overuse, and professional conservators will clean, repair, and stabilize more than twenty-five hundred of the most severely deteriorated records during the project’s first phase, which will run through 2008. A second phase, from 2008 to 2010, will enable the Pennsylvania State Archives to scan and place digitized copies of the Muster Rolls on the Internet for re­searchers. Project archivist Richard C. Saylor and state Representa­tive Lynn B. Herman (R-77th District) recently examined records designated for conservation. Herman and state Represen­tative Frank J. Pistella (D-21st District), co-chairs of the History Caucus, are re­sponsible for an appropriation totaling $675,000 over three years. Save America’s Treasures, a public-private initiative, is funding the project over a three-year pe­riod in the amount of $375,000.


For the first time since 2001, “General George Washington” once again crossed the Delaware River, from Wash­ington Crossing Historic Park, Bucks County, to New Jersey, just as he did on the night of December 25, 1776. Accompanied by sixty fellow reenactors in full costume, Jim Gibson, of Fallsington, Bucks County, who portrayed Washington, made the crossing as a chilly mist turned into steady rain. High water levels posing a safety threat to the volunteer reenactors had forced the cancellation of three previous Christmas Day crossings. The event, which draws national media coverage, re­calls Washington’s crossing in driving sleet that allowed his Continental Army to surprise enemy forces at Trenton and to victory at Princeton, reversing the Ameri­can side’s declining fortunes. Large crowds of spectators line the banks of the Delaware at the historic site each on Christ­mas Day to watch the reenactment. Washington has also been portrayed by St. John Terrell (1916-1998), actor, impresario, and producer, who originated the role in the first reenactment, staged in 1953, and John B. Kelly (1922-1985), four-time Olympian, president of the United States Olympic Committee at his death, and brother of Grace Kelly, American actress and later princess of Monaco.


The National Endowment for the Hu­manities (NEH) recently announced that the PHMC’s “Doc Heritage,” has been selected “as one of the best online re­sources for education in the humanities.” The NEB partnered with the National Trust for the Humanities and the Mar­coPolo Education Foundation to create EDSITEment, which serves as a gateway to the highest quality humanities-related educational content on the Internet. EDSITEment pro­vides a central resource bank for parents, teachers, and students across the country seeking outstanding sites selected from among the thousands of educational sites available on the Web. “Doc Heritage” was reviewed by a panel of educators and ad­ministrators in education organizations which determined the site met the EDSITEment criteria for intellectual quality, design, content and, most importantly, classroom impact. “Doc Heritage” show­cases historical documents drawn from the vast holdings of the Pennsylvania State Archives, accompanied by narratives that place them in a regional, state, or na­tional context. Presented in time Lines, the documents are among the three hundred million letters, reports, photographs, maps, and records generally available to the public at the Pennsylvania State Archives in Harrisburg.


The unveiling and dedication of a state historical marker honoring Philadel­phia’s Tun Tavern by the PHMC in November 2005 attracted considerable media attention, including coverage by Leatherneck, Magazine of the Marines. Tun Tavern is recognized as the birthplace of the United States Marine Corps because the Continental Congress, on November 10, 1775, commissioned tile first two battalions of Marines. Th.e historical marker was installed near the site of the brew house, built in the late seventeenth cen­tury by Samuel Carpenter, at the city’s water front. In addition to military brass and dignitaries, PHMC Chairman Wayne S. Spilove participated in the ceremony. “This marker is but another example of how Pennsylvanians have played an important role in the rich history of our country,” Spilove said. ‘It’s a proud day for the Commonwealth and the marines, as well as a tribute to all those who have served out country. Even though the tavern building no longer exists, this marker allows us to put it on the map for visitors to discover yet another exciting chapter in Pennsylvania’s – and America’s – history.” The Tun Tavern marker joins more than twenty-five hundred erected by tile PHMC throughout the Commonwealth’s sixty-seven counties.


Pennsbury Manor, Morrisville, Bucks County, was reaccredited in December 2005 by the American Association of Museums (AAM) following a rigorous process of self-assessment and peer review. AAM grants accredi­tation only after affirming that an institution operates in accordance with the best practices and highest standards in the museum field, and fulfills its obligations to the public as set forth in its mis­sion statement. A museum is also judged on its commitment to ex­cellence, accountability, and continued institutional improve­ment. Pennsbury Manor is well known for its diverse educational programs, including guided tours, workshops, living history theater, hands-on activities, lectures, and demonstrations of traditional crafts and skills. In addition to Pennsbury Manor, thirteen muse­ums received reaccreditation, including the Southern Alleghe­nies Museum of Art, Loretto, Cambria County, Farnsworth Art Museum, Rockland, Maine, Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago, and the Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, Va.