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.

On Saturday, April 18 PHMC staff and volunteers gathered at The State Museum of Pennsylvania for the 40th annual Volunteer of the Year program. Twenty-two volunteers were honored for service in 2014, and two received Outstanding Service Awards, recognizing long-term dedication. Awards were presented by Fredrick Powell and William Lewis, Commissioners; David Dunn, Director of The State Museum; and Brenda Reigle, Director of the Bureau of Historic Sites and Museums.


Out Front

Many of our volunteers work in visitor services and public programming, filling a variety of roles, from tour guides to craft demonstrators to greeters. At Brandywine Battlefield Park Linn Trimbell can be counted on to lead a tour on short notice, help with outdoor activities (even when the weather is “gruesome”) and generally do whatever needs to be done. Dan Balzarini supports Bushy Run Battlefield’s annual reenactment as a historic weapons safety officer, provides firing demonstrations for school groups and the public, and plays a lost ranger during the Haunted History Hayride. At Conrad Weiser Homestead Roger Heim provides guided tours and researches aspects of the Weiser story, sharing the information with his fellow docents. Cherylann McGuire began demonstrating textile processing several years ago at the Daniel Boone Homestead but has since branched out into open hearth and bake oven cooking as well.

Donna Webb logs hundreds of hours each year providing tours at Drake Well Museum, assisting the curator and greeting visitors at the front desk; she recently played a mad scientist during the Drake Well by Moonlight program. At Ephrata Cloister Martha Ros leads tours, assists with demonstrations in the Print Shop and Bakery, and serves refreshments to visitors at numerous public programs, always making sure they feel welcome and well-fed. Linda Thomas often can be found baking bread in Old Economy Village’s brick oven during public programs; she also taught a baking class through a local community college. At Pennsylvania Military Museum Dr. Ron Lenox combines an interest in military history and a love of teaching in his tours and has taken on the role of chief instructor for the museum’s annual Boot Camp for Kids.

The Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania’s honoree, Ken Gunderson, uses his knowledge and people skills while talking to visitors about his two favorite pieces of rolling stock, the GP-30 locomotive and the H&BT Cabin Car. Sidney Hostetter, in addition to donating and helping care for paleontology and archaeology specimens, puts his experience as an earth and environmental science teacher to good use instructing visitors to The State Museum of Pennsylvania about fossils and dinosaurs. Jack Pashley is a mainstay at Washington Crossing Historic Park, greeting visitors to Bowman’s Hill Tower, running the orientation video for school groups, and putting new flags on the Revolutionary War soldiers’ graves.


Behind The Scenes

Other volunteers are not as visible to the public, but their work behind the scenes contributes greatly to the visitor experience and to the preservation and accessibility of our collections.

Chef Frank Tartella prepares lunches and snacks for docents and summer campers at the Anthracite Heritage Museum and helps to keep groups on schedule during tour season; his culinary offerings include breaker boy lunches and Welsh cookies. Karl Karinch pays close attention to board reports and documents at Cornwall Iron Furnace, uses his considerable knowledge of local history to solve mysteries and is a staunch supporter for keeping the grounds looking as they should. Margie Bogash, an active volunteer and board president at Eckley Miners’ Village, has run meetings, organized programs, made halushki, cleaned artifacts and worked tirelessly to promote the site. Erie Maritime Museum docent Rich Hall offered his expertise as a design engineer for General Electric and called on his connections with other industrial experts to repair two steam turbines that are part of the museum’s exhibits and working equipment.

At Graeme Park Marie Cherry has devoted countless hours to planning the site’s World War II Weekend and Soldier’s Christmas programs, raising funds and securing sponsorships; she developed a related initiative in 2014 to gather supplies for U.S. troops serving in Afghanistan. Kevin Horan supports Hope Lodge by assisting with grounds clean-up, from moving firewood and shoveling snow to repairing tents damaged by bad weather during the annual Whitemarsh Encampment; he has recently supervised several Eagle Scout projects at the site. At Joseph Priestley House longtime board president Tom Bresenhan has led numerous projects, including the development of exhibits in the laboratory and an adjacent building, two educational videos that explain the science behind Dr. Priestley’s work with carbon monoxide and ammonia, and the installation of Priestley’s microscope in a protective exhibit case. Karen Gunderson used her IT expertise and intellectual curiosity to help Landis Valley Village and Farm Museum’s curators make sense of several dozen boxes of assorted business and personal records that document life in Lancaster County during the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries; she created searchable categories so that the records can now be used for research.

In addition to hours in the summer heat of Pennsbury Manor’s gardens, Ginny Hankinson devotes considerable time to keeping the site’s reproduction clothing collection in good shape; after the annual Holly Nights program in December she laundered clothing worn by some 40 volunteers over two nights, which included multiple pieces per person. Robert Pickup Sr. worked with the Pennsylvania Lumber Museum’s site administrator and PHMC’s web administrator to revamp the museum’s website, set up a Pay Pal account to accept donations and membership dues, and is doing the necessary background work to enable online museum store sales. At Somerset Historical Center Irvin Fleegle worked with the curator to digitize thousands of fragile archival documents and organize the digital files so that researchers, staff and the general public can now make greater use of the information while reducing the danger of damage to the originals.


Outstanding Service Awards

Gloria Meiskey began as an education volunteer at Ephrata Cloister in 2000. Over the past 15 years she has served as membership chair, volunteer coordinator, board vice president and board president. She guides tours, helps support the site’s Student Historians program, assists in the museum store, attends meetings, and is consistently at the top of the list for volunteer hours donated.

For more than 30 years David Zwick has demonstrated historic hewing and building techniques at Somerset Historical Center, gathering family and friends to assist during the site’s signature event, Mountain Craft Days. Further, he has taught these skills to others as part of numerous projects to construct period-appropriate buildings, such as a log barn and a cabin, and structures to protect and interpret the history of the area. He has greatly enhanced Somerset Historical Center’s programming, donated countless hours of labor and engineering expertise, and helped to preserve and perpetuate skills and techniques that are still useful today.


Amy Killpatrick Fox is a museum educator in PHMC’s Bureau of Historic Sites and Museums. She writes a weekly blog called Trailheads.