Current and Coming features detailed information about current and forthcoming programs, events, exhibits and activities of historical and cultural institutions in Pennsylvania. Originated as “Currents.” Retitled “Current and Coming,” Winter 2003, and then retitled “Out and About,” Fall 2005. Revived as “Current and Coming,” Winter 2013. Ran regularly, Spring 1984 to Spring 2008, and then occasionally, Winter 2013 to Spring 2015.

The Gift

A spectacular collection of nearly three hundred and fifty colorful feathered objects is featured in an unusual exhibi­tion at The University Museum of Archaeology and Anthropol­ogy, Philadelphia. Designed to invite the museum visitor “to be an anthropologist” and explore culture as it is experi­enced by diverse South American natives, “The Gift of Birds: Featherwork of a Native South American Peoples” is on view through May 1994.

The exhibition, which follows more than five years of intensive research and plan­ning, includes life-size human figures in dioramas, a state-of­-the-art interactive video system, wall murals, a model of an archaeological site, and photographs. Through the perspective of featherworking, and an examination of the multi-faceted role that birds play in many cultures, the exhibition offers an opportu­nity to explore the cultures, traditions, and values of many South American native popula­tions.

Artifacts featured in “The Gift of Birds: Featherwork of Native South American Peoples” represent thirty-one groups; these objects were drawn by researchers and curators from the extensive holdings of featherworking objects of The University Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology that were largely collected by anthropologists during the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Three groups well represented in The University Museum’s collections and showcased in this exhibition are the Waiwai of Guyana, the Cashinahua of eastern Peru, and the Bororo of central Brazil, all groups who live in – and depend on – the endangered Amazon rainforest. A fourth collection of feather and feather-related artifacts, from pre-Columbian peoples who lived in the arid terrain of the Andean region, was selected from archaeological excavations and collections in coastal Peru.

In “The Gift of Birds” featherwork becomes the medium through which visitors examine the aesthetic, religious, and social values of Native South American cultures. On the South American continent, the vibrant feathers of tropical birds are used by native populations to create distinc­tive personal ornaments, such as headdresses, earrings, and arm bands, as well as to decorate arrows, baskets, and objects for ritual occasions. Although the same types of feathers are used by many groups, various methods are employed to create different styles which, in turn, serve to identify different groups and their cultures.

Visitors to The University Museum will enjoy the oppor­tunity to witness – much as an anthropologist would­ – important ritual moments in the lives of Waiwai, Bororo, and Cashinahua peoples. To give visitors the feel of direct contact with these people and their cultures, dramatic scenes depict an initiation ceremony among the Cashinahua in 1965, an inter-village visiting ceremony among the Waiwai in 1913, and a funeral among the Bororo in 1986. A scale model of the ancient Temple of the Sun at Pachacamac provides the context for the archaeologi­cal materials, and an interactive video system allows visitors to “participate” in selected rituals. In addition, a wide range of film clips, slides, graphs, charts, and maps examines the world of South America’s native cultures.

“The Gift of Birds: Featherwork of Native South American Peoples” is accompa­nied by an illustrated catalogue featuring insightful essays interpreting the social and cultural context of feather­working.

Founded in 1887, The University Museum of Archae­ology and Anthropology is world renowned for its more than three hundred expeditions in thirty-three countries, as well as for its extraordinary collec­tions of material from the Americas, China, the Near East, Greece, Africa, Egypt, and the Pacific Islands. Visiting hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 10 A. M. to 4:30 P. M.; and Sunday, 1 to 5 P. M. There is a charge for admission.

For additional information, write: The University Museum of Archaeology and Anthropol­ogy, University of Pennsylvania, Thirty-Third and Spruce Sts., Philadelphia, PA 19104; or telephone (215) 898-4000 or 898-4045.

 

Star Struck!

The most recently installed exhibition at the Balch Institute for Ethnic Studies in Philadel­phia is generating interest in significant movies such as Carmen Jones, Black Orpheus, and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? “African American Actors on the Silver Screen: Film Posters from the Edward C. Mapp Collection” is on exhibit through Saturday, July 31 [1993].

Dating from the 1920s to the present, approximately fifty posters trace the development of African American expression in film and reveal patterns of social acceptance and change in America. Several of these posters illustrate the propa­ganda that has been used to create stereotypical perceptions of African Americans and their culture and traditions. Other posters, which advertised films produced by African Ameri­cans, were affirmations of dignity and pride. “African American Actors on the Silver Screen” is the latest exhibition in the Balch Institute’s highly successful series of installations which examine images of ethnic groups in popular culture.

The Black film poster has paralleled the development of Black cinema, its images at once reflections of social change and vehicles of propaganda and exploitation. The rich, visual history of the art of advertising as it relates to Black films is explored in this exhibition. Since its creation, the Black film poster genre has retained a strength and life of its own through its capacity to entertain, educate, and excite. Many of the posters on view will be appreciated for the social history they reveal, others for their titillation, and very few for their artistic quality. Usually created under the auspices of white filmmak­ers and producers, these posters often reinforced white values. However, the images are not merely a reflection of how the dominant society has perceived Blacks over time, but of what Blacks have seen as contemporary projections of themselves.

The quality of Black film posters ranges from the costly lithography of the early twenties to today’s cost-effective offset printing. A number of the posters featured in “African American Actors on the Silver Screen: Film Posters from the Edward C. Mapp Collection” were designed by some of America’s most talented artists whose creativity and clever­ness not infrequently surpassed the quality of the films they advertised.

Posters were made and distributed for film classics that have been forgotten or neglected, including Anna Lucasta (1958), starring Eartha Kitt; Fight Never Ends (1947), with Joe Louis; Jackie Robinson Story (1950), featuring Ruby Dee; and Norman, Is That You? (1976), starring Red Foxx and Pearl Bailey. Selections for the exhibition were drawn from the collection of Edward C. Mapp, a professor of speech and communications at the Borough of Manhattan Community College, the City University of New York. A specialist in Black cinema history, he is the author of Blacks in American Film and co­author of A Separate Cinema: Fifty Years of Black Cast Posters. “African American Actors on the Silver Screen: Film Posters from the Edward C. Mapp Collection” will be accompanied by a film series, including thirteen movies represented by posters in the exhibit.

Visiting hours at the Balch Institute are Monday through Saturday, 10 A. M. to 5 P. M. Admission is free.

To obtain additional information, write: Balch Institute for Ethnic Studies, 18 South Seventh St., Philadel­phia, PA 19106; or telephone (215) 925-8090.

 

Quillers

By the early decades of the twentieth century, Allentown, Lehigh County, was the second leading producer of silk in the United States. The silk industry in the Lehigh Valley can be traced to as early as 1881, when local investors raised funds to bring the Adelaide Silk Mill to the city from Paterson, New Jersey. Faced with the decline of the area’s iron industry, these entrepreneurs attempted to diversify the valley’s industrial base, and by 1917 more than thirty mills were in operation. During this prosperous era, silk manufactured in the Lehigh Valley was famous­ – and sought after – for its superior quality and design.

As recently as 1989, the region’s last silk mill, the Catoir Silk Mill, closed its doors. Although reasons for the decline of the silk industry were varied, World War II hastened its demise. During the war years silk could no longer be imported from Japan, and mill after mill turned to producing rayon and similar fabrics. After World War II ended, imported textiles competed with domestic products, and other synthetic fabrics were created and manufactured.

A major exhibition examin­ing the region’s silk industry, “Quillers, Warpers, and Weavers: Silkworkers in the Lehigh Valley,” has recently been unveiled at the Lehigh County Museum in center-city Allentown. The title of the exhibition refers to three important tasks in the process of silk production: quillers who are responsible for machinery that winds thread onto spools (or “quills”), which fit into the shuttle which passes from left to right in the weaving phase; warpers who are in charge of aligning the loom’s threads, along which the shuttle passes, according to the design or pattern; and weavers who oversee the operation of the loom, where the shuttle travels across the warp to create the end product – silk.

Objects featured in “Quillers, Warpers, and Weavers: Silkworkers in the Lehigh Valley” include tools these workers would have used, such as shuttles, quills, quill cleaners (to remove surplus thread), and gluebars, with which they would coat their fingers before touching silk threads on the loom. Visitors can see raw silk skeins, silk produced by the local firm of Peter Moggio and Sons, a woven silk depiction of Niagara Falls, and twentieth century photographs of mill machinery and laborers. The exhibition explains the lifecycle of the silk worm, how raw silk is made and “thrown” (or prepared) for weaving, and the ways in which the product is marketed and sold. Workers’ experiences and the lifestyles of immigrant silkworkers are also presented.

Artifacts were loaned by former silkworkers, the Allentown Art Museum, the Paterson Museum, and the Passaic County Historical Society. For the exhibit’s interpretation, a team of student researchers at the State University of New York (SUNY) at Binghamton analyzed a survey of the Lehigh Valley’s silk industry employees undertaken in 1925. The staff of the Lehigh County Historical Society, which administers the Lehigh County Museum, conducted inter­views with a dozen former silkworkers and researched local records and newspapers.

Two bus tours have been scheduled in conjunction with the exhibition. On Saturday, April 17 [1993], a tour entitled “Silk Mills of the Lehigh Valley” will visit important sites associated with the industry, including the Adelaide, R. K. Laros, American Beauty, Bethlehem, and Dery silk mills. On Wednesday, June 30, the historical society will conduct a bus tour, “Paterson, New Jersey: Silk City.” This excursion will explore the birthplace of the country’s silk industry, tour Paterson’s historic industrial district, and visit the Paterson Museum, featuring working silk-making machinery, Lambert Castle, the palatial residence of one of the community’s wealthiest silk mill owners, and the Botto House, the home of an Italian immigrant silkworker’s family and center of labor strike activities in 1913.

“Quillers, Warpers, and Weavers: Silkworkers in the Lehigh Valley” will remain on exhibit through Monday, July 5 [1993].

Visiting hours of the Lehigh County Museum, located at Hamilton and Fifth streets, are Monday through Saturday, 10 A. M. to 4 P. M.; and Sunday, 1 to 4 P. M. There is no admission fee.

Additional information is available by writing: Lehigh County Museum, Lehigh County Historical Society, P. O. Box 1548, Allentown, PA 18105; or by telephoning (215) 435-4664.

 

Urban Views

Although recognized by his peers as the greatest contribu­tion to the genre of urban view painting since Canaletto, Camille Pissarro’s cityscapes were seldom grouped for exhibition during his lifetime, and have never been seen together since his death. Now, fully a century after he created his first important Paris scenes, seventy-five of the greatest paintings selected from the artist’s urban series have been gathered from collections­ – both public and private – throughout the world. Joachim Pissarro, the painter’s great-grandson, served as guest curator of the exhibition, “The Impressionist and the City: Pissarro’s Series,” which was organized by the Dallas Museum of Art, the Philadel­phia Museum of Art, and London’s Royal Academy of Arts. The exhibition is on view at the Philadelphia Museum of Art through Sunday, June 6 [1993].

While his fellow impressionists typically depicted bour­geois family life, popular entertainment, and suburban landscapes, Camille Pissarro (1830-1903) became known as the preeminent painter of rural life. Yet in his final decade, between 1893 and 1903, he made more than three hun­dred paintings, at least as many drawings, and several prints representing four French cities: Paris and the busy Norman ports of Rouen, Dieppe, and Le Havre. Often capturing a scene directly from his hotel or apartment win­dow, Pissarro favored panoramic views of the urban bustle. Traffic, motion, loading and unloading, buying and selling, walking and riding dominate the compositions, with the architecture simply serving as a grand backdrop for the human spectacle. Whether bathed in the warm light of a spring day or in the mist of a frosty winter morn­ing, the activity on Pissarro’s boulevards, bridges, river banks, and docksides defines the specific character and ambience of each place.

ff one single building seemed to captivate the artist, it was the Louvre in Paris. Pissarro’ s remark to Cezanne that it would be better if the Louvre was burned, made when he was a young artist rebelling against the estab­lished Academy, is often quoted. However, in the last five years of his life, he painted the great museum at least fifty times, from virtually every point of view, in every season, and at every time of day. In his late paintings, the Louvre becomes Paris, its towers, facades, and courtyards literally filling the picture in reverence to the great artists of the past.

“The Impressionist and the City: Pissarro’s Series” showcases these bold paint­ings, produced in direct competition with artist Edouard Manet’s series. Pieces on view stand as outstanding visual chronicles of the nature of urban life in fin de siecle France. Over the years, Pissarro’s urban paintings have been dispersed in private collections and museums throughout the world. For the first time in history, sixty of his greatest paintings from the artist’s important urban series have been assembled espe­cially for this exhibition.

The exhibition is accompa­nied by a fully illustrated catalogue written by Joachim Pissarro and Richard Bretell, director of the Dallas Museum of Art.

Visiting hours at the Philadelphia Museum of Art are Tuesday through Sunday, 10 A. M. to 5. P. M., with extended hours on Wednesday to 8:45 P. M. There is an admission charge. The museum is located at Twenty ­Sixth Street and the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.

Additional information regarding this exhibition is available by writing: Philadel­phia Museum of Art, P. O. Box 7646, Philadelphia, PA 19101; or by telephoning (215) 763-8100 or 787-5431.

 

Sightseeing in Paradise

On view – for the first time – at the Allentown Art Museum is an exceptional edition of prints by Hiroshige (1797-1858), the last great master in the development of Japanese color woodblock prints. “Sightseeing in Para­dise: The Great Tokaido Road in Nineteenth Century Japanese Prints” explores an important theme in Japanese printmaking: traveling the Tokaido Road, a nineteenth century version of today’s busy interstate highways. The centerpiece of this exhibition is a superb impression of Hiroshige’s best known work, Fifty-three Stations of the Tokaido, acquired as a gift to the Lehigh Valley museum in 1992. This edition has never before been publicly exhibited.

“Sightseeing in Paradise: The Great Tokaido Road in Nineteenth Century Japanese Prints” includes works from four Tokaido series of formats by Hiroshige, as well as Tokaido Road prints by the artist’s contemporaries. Also on view are a selection of Japanese textiles and related objects drawn from the museum’s permanent collection, and a four-panel screen depicting a breathtaking view of white­-capped ocean waves, worked entirely in silk embroidery.

The Tokaido Road gained importance as a subject of Japanese prints when travel for pleasure and adventure became popular and, for many people, possible in the early nineteenth century. The sheer romance of travel stimulated the develop­ing genre of landscape woodblock prints.

The great eastern highway of Japan, the Tokaido Road, linked Edo (now Tokyo) and Kyoto. This ancient thorough­fare attracted much attention when Edo became the military capital of Japan in the seven­teenth century. About three hundred miles long, the highway was divided into fifty­-three stations marked by inns or rest stops that were main­tained by regional lords. The stations offered food, a place to sleep, porters, and horses and runners who relayed imperial dispatches along the route. By the nineteenth century, the highway, the two week journey required to traverse it, and the social activities at the stations were steeped in a romantic lore that fueled the market for guidebooks, prints, and novels that took the road and its promise of adventure as their subject.

Hiroshige, Japan’s preemi­nent nineteenth century landscape painter, traveled the Tokaido Road in 1832 and made sketches that became Tokaido gojusan-tsugi or Fifty-­three Stations of the Tokaido, a series of fifty-five views issued in 1833 and 1834. Fifty-three Stations of the Tokaido is considered Hiroshige’s first great work and one for which he is well known. In these prints, Hiroshige first demon­strated his individuality and his ability to render nature in terms of color, atmosphere, and mood. Although he traveled the highway in July, he represented the four seasons and took great license with his unconventional compositions and details of specific landscapes. Hiroshige’s series was an immediate success, not only because of the beauty of the prints, but because the Japanese public recognized the scenes and enjoyed their frequently humorous depic­tions of travelers from all walks of life. Hiroshige’s prints are as fresh and delight­ful today as they were when released more thru1 a century and a half ago.

“Sightseeing in Paradise: The Great Tokaide Road in Nineteenth Century Japanese Prints” also showcases Hiroshige’s 1855 edition of fifty-three views along the Tokaido Road in a vertical format, as well as images by Eisen (1790-1848), the artist’s contemporary, in which each station along the route is represented by a courtesan and a miniature landscape, an unusual interpretation of the theme.

The exhibition continues through Sunday, June 6 [1993].

Visiting hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 10 A. M. to 5 P. M.; and Sunday, 1 to 5 P. M. There is an admission charge.

For additional information about th.is exhibition and related special programs, write: Allentown Art Museum, Fifth and Court Sts., P. O. Box 388, Allentown, PA 18105-0388; or telephone (215) 432-4333.

 

Valley Forge

Valley Forge National Historical Park is the site of the famous 1777-1778 winter encampment of Gen. George Washington and his coura­geous Continental Army. The bedraggled soldiers trudged to Valley Forge in a light snow in December 1777, and a number of these twelve thousand soldiers would die before the encampment ended six months later. During that period, however, the ragged and weary soldiers who had entered the army to fight a common enemy would emerge a cohesive fighting unit for the newly formed United States of America, recognized as a nation for the first time by a foreign power.

The soldiers who had converged on Valley Forge in early winter 1777 had just been bitterly defeated in a series of battles. The army which emerged in June 1778 would renew the task of winning the War of Independence for the fledgling nation.

When General Washington surveyed sites for his Continental Army’s winter encampment, he wanted to be far enough away from the British forces (warmly housed in Philadelphia) so as to discourage their attacking, and needed to be on a defendable terrain in the event they did. Valley Forge, with its high ground, the Schuylkill River to the north and Valley Creek to the west, seemed ideal, and thus an important chapter in America’s Revolutionary War history began.

Washington had no way of knowing, as his troops took up bivouac positions on Decem­ber 19, 1777, that they would face the toughest of winters and the truest of tests of their stamina and resolve. Nor did he know the training they would receive at the hands of Baron Frederick William Augustus von Steuben would serve them well enroute to their victory over the British at Yorktown four years later.

After the Revolutionary War ended, the land encom­passing the site of the encampment was returned to farmland. By the late nine­teenth century, however, interest was building to memorialize the site for future generations. In 1893, Gov. Robert Pattison signed the historic bill establishing Valley Forge as a public park to preserve the area and keep intact the traces of the memo­rable encampment. National recognition came on July 4, 1976, when Pres. Gerald R. Ford signed legislation adding Valley Forge to the national park system.

The scenic three thousand acre park boasts many historic sites, as well as a number of recreational areas. Historic sites include Washington’s Headquarters, the small stone house of Isaac Potts, which served as the residence of the general, his military staff, and Martha Washington; Artillery Park, where most of the army’s cannon were massed; and Varnum’s Quarters, a four room fieldstone farmhouse that served as housing for Gen. James Varnum. Recreational attractions and facilities include a visitors center, picnic areas, and biking, walking, and riding paths.

Through the years, Valley Forge has become a great symbol of patriotism in the history of the United States. Each year millions of visitors make pilgrimages to the park to pay tribute to the dauntless soldiers who braved the harsh winter weather, the lack of adequate shelter, and the shortage of food and supplies.

Throughout 1993, the National Park Service will observe the centennial of Valley Forge’s.status as a historic park with a variety of activities and special events. French Alliance Day, sched­uled for Saturday, May 8 [1993], will celebrate France’s recognition of the colonies as a nation. On Sunday, May 30 [1993], the Common­wealth will celebrate the one hundredth anniversary of the legislation that created Valley Forge Park. During the weekend of June 19-20 [1993], a “Grand Celebration” will re­create the site as it appeared during the Victorian era. In addition, numerous com­memorative programs and activities are scheduled throughout the year. A special centennial exhibition of memorabilia and mementos made during the past one hundred years is on exhibit at the park’s Valley Forge Train Station.

(An article tracing the history of the historic site by Lorett Treese will appear in the spring 1993 edition of Pennsylvania Heritage.)

For additional information, write: Valley Forge National Historical Park, P. O. Box 1777, Valley Forge, PA 19481; or telephone (215) 783-1045 or 783-1077.

 

Chester County Centennial

The Chester County Historical Society, West Chester, will mark its one hundredth anniversary by opening an exhibition entitled “Presenting Your Past: A Centennial Celebration” on Saturday, April 24 [1993]. The exhibit will highlight the extraordi­nary collections acquired by the historical society during its first century. Objects on view will include significant pieces selected from the institution’s library, archives, and museum to illustrate the diversity and depth of its extensive holdings, as well as to explore changing philosophies about collecting and interpreting that have occurred throughout the years.

Visitors’ favorites, such as the sign and date stone of the Old Turks Head Inn (counted among the museum’s first acquisitions), and famous documents, including George Washington’s orders during the battle of the Brandywine, will take their place with selected “curiosities” that include a splinter reputedly taken from the Mayflower and a cigar stump cast aside by Pres. William McKinley during a whistle stop campaign tour of Chester County.

“Presenting Your Past: A Centennial Celebration” will showcase the historical society’s well known decora­tive arts collection and explore the reasons why artifacts were preserved and donated throughout the years. One furniture form strongly associated with Chester County is the spice box, of which the society owns several fine examples. On exhibit will be an exceptional example which is richly decorated with some of the most significant regional characteristics of inlay, the line and berry and compass designs. A represen­tative selection of furniture and furnishings made, owned, or used in the region will give insight into the long-standing tradition of craftsmanship in the county.

Objects made in other areas specifically for Chester County families will also be shown, including a rare Philadelphia Chippendale chest-on-chest made for a member of the Howell family and handed down from one generation to the next, until it was donated to the society. The county’s proximity to Philadelphia will be well illustrated in the stylistic influences of such pieces.

On the occasion of the Chester County Historical Society’s fiftieth anniversary in 1943, one local scholar noted that at the society “historical students and curiosity­-mongers alike ought to find … answers to all questions relating to the County.” Today, one question is of great import to local historians: What twentieth century artifacts should be preserved? “Presenting Your Past” will for both gallery and program use, and will provide a counter­point to the centennial’s reflection on the past. The exhibition will reiterate the need for collecting as a key to understanding the impact of history.

“Preserving Your Past: A Centennial Celebration” will continue through spring 1994. Admission is charged.

For more information, write: Chester County Histori­cal Society, 225 North High St., West Chester, PA 19380-2691; or telephone (215) 692-4800.