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.

Every spring we honor those who contribute their experience and expertise to support the mission and work of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC). In 2011–2012 volunteers donated approximately 117,000 hours at historic sites and museums along the Pennsylvania Trails of History®. This impressive collective donation is valued at nearly $2.5 million, based on data provided by Independent Sector, a leading coalition of nonprofits, foundations, and corporate giving programs to advance the common good in America. Of course, we know the true worth of our volunteers is measured not in dollars but in the impact of their public service.


Volunteers of the Year

Anthracite Heritage Museum and Iron Furnaces (Scranton, Lackawanna County) board member Virginia Goodrich works tirelessly to build memberships and donations, participates in board development training, and accepts any task that needs to be accomplished.

Verne Weidman, a tour guide at Brandywine Battlefield Park (Chadds Ford, Delaware County), has revitalized the historic site’s Facebook page and website, and is spearheading the Cannon Restoration project, pulling together construction helpers and materiel.

At Bushy Run Battlefield (Jeannette, Westmoreland County) William “Sam” Poulton Jr., Ph.D. assisted with the Haunted History Hayride, served as a historic weapons safety officer, and provided firing demonstrations for forty-four hundred students during a six-week school tour season.

Robert Morris, volunteer tour guide at Conrad Weiser Homestead (Womelsdorf, Berks County), has used his enthusiasm, knowledge, and personable demeanor to enhance visitors’ experiences at the homestead and the grounds of the Memorial Park.

At Cornwall Iron Furnace (Cornwall, Lebanon County) Tom Lehman’s work as a tour guide is outstanding. The museum staff is grateful Tom’s typical response to requests for help is, “Yes, I can be there right away.”

As a Daniel Boone Homestead (Birdsboro, Berks County) volunteer, Diane Krueger leads tours for regular visitors and school groups; helps clean the visitor center; prices and tags items for the museum store; and has recruited carolers for the Christmas program.

Since retiring and returning to her hometown Mary Sturgis has worked in the Drake Well Museum (Titusville, Venango County) Store; guided tours and provided visitor service at the front desk; and put her computer, accounting, and analytical skills to good use.

Kristen Bogash has participated in Eckley Miners’ Village (Weatherly, Luzerne County) living history programs; produced a successful off-site dance; given tours and staffed the front desk; helped the curators catalogue artifacts and clean exhibits; and greatly expanded Eckley’s social media presence.

Since 2009 David Koch has been a dedicated Tuesday guide at Ephrata Cloister (Ephrata, Lancaster County) and recently added Fridays to his schedule. He volunteers for school programs, helps with special events and group tours, and lends a hand whenever a staff member needs his assistance.

Claudia Bankert serves as port coordinator for Flagship Niagara (Erie, Erie County) voyages, finding venues, developing partnerships (including the U.S. Navy for the War of 1812 bicentennial), and negotiating contract language and appearance fees totaling more than three hundred thousand dollars to support ship operations.

Teacher Holly Niemeyer-Schorpp was instrumental in getting her school district to Graeme Park (Horsham, Montgomery County) for tours, helping students to appreciate local history; organized “Senior Days,” a multi-faceted program; and (with husband Ed) designed “Find Fidele,” where children touring the Keith House hunt for clues to find Elizabeth Graeme’s dog.

Cheryl Snyder supports the Joseph Priestley House (Northumberland, Northumberland County) as newsletter editor, dealing with deadlines and volunteer authors with a competent eye and a cheerful spirit. At the front desk, the retired chemistry teacher explains chemical concepts and historical issues, adding immeasurably to both the staff’s and the visiting public’s knowledge.

At Landis Valley Village and Farm Museum (Lancaster, Lancaster County) John Spear is an active board member, identifying and interviewing new members and assisting at special events. In 2012 he recruited others to work with him on a range of carpentry projects, including a major rebuild of Landis Valley’s sheepfold, an enclosure for confining sheep.

Pat Leiphart, a dedicated volunteer at Old Economy Village (Ambridge, Beaver County) since 2003, works in the Rapp House and the Baker House gardens, plans and cleans up after special events, is a member of the education committee and the sewing circle, conducts tours, and staffs the front desk.

A volunteer at Pennsbury Manor (Morrisville, Bucks County) since 2001, Tom Turner is a top-notch interpreter; his thirst for learning and ongoing research shows in his tours. He recently rolled up his sleeves to help with the historic site’s animal program, tackling animal care with gusto — and boots.

For ten years forester Chris Gastrock pursued the history of stills used to extract oil from birch wood. In 2011–2012 he led the construction of a birch still at the Pennsylvania Lumber Museum (Galeton, Potter County) where it is demonstrated during the annual Bark Peelers’ Convention.

Dr. Michael Williamson interpreted a World War II infantryman for the Pennsylvania Military Museum’s (Boalsburg, Centre County) inaugural living history event in 1999. As programs have expanded to include other twentieth-century conflicts Mike has acted as a liaison with the military reenacting community and serves as a historic weapons safety officer.

Since 1986 the Pennsylvania State Archives (Harrisburg, Dauphin County) Railroad Volunteer Group has helped make available to researchers thousands of railroad records and drawings that otherwise would have remained unprocessed. The team includes Joe Acri, Rick Bates, Charlie Horan, Rich Jahn, George Kusner, Bob Johnson, Bob Losse, David Rose, Neil Sardinas, and Nick Seman.

At the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania (Strasburg, Lancaster County) Steve Kistler interprets the Steinman Station telegrapher’s office, explaining the intricacies of railroad communications. He also maintains the equipment, helps with general museum interpretation, and in 2012 assisted with the model railroad layout at the holiday open house at the Governor’s Residence in Harrisburg. Elvin Ressler interprets the GP-30 locomotive, developed a tour of locomotives in Rolling Stock Hall, greets bus groups, and helps orient visitors to the museum. He also presents the Stewart Junction railway education center’s Live Steam Demonstration.

Board member, genealogy researcher, tour guide, and school program interpreter Gary Burkett stepped in to make sure that Somerset Historical Center’s (Somerset, Somerset County) Mountain Craft Days would still include demonstrations of flax breaking, scutching, and heckling, as he teaches visitors about linen production.

When Corrine Rebinski volunteered to become board treasurer of the Friends of the State Museum of Pennsylvania (Harrisburg, Dauphin County) she used her expertise as a CPA to return the organization’s finances to good order and resolve several legal and accounting issues.

At Washington Crossing Historic Park (Washington Crossing, Bucks County) Tara Gallagher feeds and waters the sheep at the Thompson Neely House complex and cleans out their barn, furthering the interpretation of colonial life at the site.


Outstanding Service Awards

Ruth Eleanor McCorkill has been a devoted volunteer at the Joseph Priestley House since 1991. With others, she sewed costumes and created exhibits for the Elizabeth Ryland Priestley bedroom as part of a women’s history initiative. She has greeted countless visitors at special events and created a miniature doll character, Merry Merry, who charms young visitors.

Pauline Wagner, a dedicated volunteer with The State Museum since 1986, has served as a docent for the Stop and Learn educational program, the National Geographic Giant Traveling Map of North America, and the Pennsylvania Civil War Road Show. She is a member of the new art docent program, attends the Fort Hunter archaeology dig tours each fall, and is a frequent attendee at museum events.


Amy Killpatrick Fox is a museum educator based in PHMC’s Bureau of Historic Sites and Museums, supporting education, interpretation and communications bureau-wide and at individual historic sites and museums along the Pennsylvania Trails of History. She writes an informative and entertaining weekly blog entitled Trailheads.