Second Growth at the Pennsylvania Lumber Museum

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

Charlie Fox appreciates the eye-catching curves and retro craftsmanship in the designs of most vintage automobiles, but his connection to a particular 1917 Ford Model T pickup truck is more about historical significance and less about aesthetics. The fully restored truck, a new addition to the remodeled Pennsylvania Lumber Museum’s visitor center, is similar to the vehicles that carried foresters from one far-flung logging operation to the next during World War I.

“I do like old cars and trucks, but it’s more than that,” said Fox, the museum’s acting administrator. “This truck really gives you a sense of the technology and the challenges that people faced trying to move around the forests in those days. It’s nothing for me to drive from Harrisburg to Potter County. It was much more difficult to move around Potter County back in the day.”

The truck is just one addition to the expanded Adirondack-style visitor center that is now open to the public. Headlining this multiyear PHMC project is an interpretive exhibit that transports visitors back in time to the lumbering towns of northern Pennsylvania during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. As the hands-on, interactive exhibit winds its way through the history of the commonwealth’s lumber industry, visitors discover how workers initially tapped forest resources and later employed measures aimed at managing and conserving those natural treasures.

The center’s expanded exhibit hall is outfitted with rarely seen artifacts such as uniforms worn by members of the Civilian Conservation Corps, a New Deal program that put previously unemployed men back to work in the nation’s forests. Musical instruments that lumbermen played in the logging boomtowns illustrate how foresters entertained one another when not sawing wood or swinging axes. The 24-foot-long raft sweep that helped propel and steer logs up and down Pennsylvania’s rivers retains its place inside the main exhibit hall. “These are all powerful items that give you direct contact with our forbearers,” Fox said. “We’re all walking in their footsteps. Seeing these rare artifacts makes it very easy to imagine yourself living in those places and times.”

The visitor center now includes a changing exhibits gallery for deeper explorations into single topics while offering patrons something new to see on their return visits to the museum. A new multipurpose room provides a venue for community meetings and business functions. This space allows the museum to host fee-based banquets and other events that can potentially generate revenue, said Robert F. Miller, president of the Pennsylvania Lumber Associates, a nonprofit group that raises money for the museum through fundraisers and membership sales.

“We needed a facility that would support our growth into the future,” Fox said. “In some ways, I think the old center limited our ability to grow, expand and fulfill our mission because we didn’t have the exhibit space to really highlight our collections.”

Sean Adkins is an information specialist for PHMC. Look for his updates at Pennsylvania Trails of History on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.