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.

In April we honored a select group of volunteers for exceptional service to the people of Pennsylvania in 2013. PHMC’s Volunteer of the Year awards are as sure a sign of spring as baseball, crocuses and robins. The program is a way for us to thank all of our volunteers while recognizing specific contributions of time and talent. Pennsylvanians (and occasionally folks who cross state lines to help at our sites) give more than 100,000 hours of their time each year, serving in numerous ways to support the Pennsylvania Trails of History (which include historic sites and museums throughout the Commonwealth, the State Museum of Pennsylvania, and the Pennsylvania State Archives).


Public Programming and Fundraising

Bob Barry coordinates front desk volunteers at the Pennsylvania Military Museum, participates in outreach programs and on-site educational programs and, as a Red Cross volunteer, trained museum staff in CPR. At Washington Crossing Historic Park Dominick DiIorio helps school students and adults understand more about the lives of Revolutionary War soldiers as a reenactor with the 5th Pennsylvania Regiment. John Ebenreiter provides tours for visitors to Brandywine Battlefield Park and serves as a step-on guide for bus groups touring the surrounding area. In 2013 Ephrata Cloister board member Shirley Gockley organized a new fundraiser, the Artisans’ Faire, that featured demonstrations of traditional Pennsylvania German crafts. In addition to staffing the front desk, leading historic tours and participating in outreach and recruitment efforts at Old Economy Village, Barbara Hicks also worked behind the scenes at the 2013 Christmas at the Village program to make sure other volunteers were well fed.

At Eckley Miners’ Village Natalie Kost and son Garrett have portrayed a number of historical characters to help bring the 160-year-old coal patch town to life for visitors. Janet Loewe also portrays historical characters to teach history to participants in school tours and the summer history camp at the Anthracite Heritage Museum and Scranton Iron Furnaces. Ron Matlack shares his love of history with visitors to Pennsbury Manor through site events and school programs and helps to coordinate bus tours through the Mansions on the Delaware program. At Conrad Weiser Homestead Cindy Mendelson leads tours of the grounds and helps school children and adults learn more about an important era in colonial and Native American diplomacy. Bonnie Ramus, board president at Bushy Run Battlefield, led efforts to prepare the site for the 250th anniversary of the Battle of Bushy Run, which included fundraisers, refurbishing the visitor center and assisting with all public programs.


Gardening and Landscaping

In 2013 the Drake Well Volunteer Gardeners (also known as Betty and Carl Meinstereifel and Cheryl and Rich Walker) worked with site staff on upgrading the area between the main exhibit building and the replica oil derrick, selecting slow-growing, low-maintenance plants and reducing weed growth with the use of landscape fabric and river rock. Bob Goodhart, an Heirloom Seed Project volunteer at Landis Valley Village and Farm Museum, used his experience as a professional landscaper to plan and install new plantings at the museum entrance, providing a more consistent and lower maintenance first impression for visitors. At Eckley Miners’ Village Joe Kost researched, planted and maintains (in period dress) a garden outside the 1880s house, even using the produce to feed volunteers at special events.


Skills and Expertise

Ron Bruner produced an exhibit catalogue at Somerset Historical Center, photographing artifacts, laying out the publication, editing the text and seeing the project through to completion and marketing. At the Erie Maritime Museum and US Brig Niagara Chuck Christensen used his carpentry skills and expertise to design and build settees for the crew area, workbenches and storage for the wood shop, and ticket booths, ramps and landing platforms for Tall Ships Erie 2013. Diane Kiefer, a member of the Daniel Boone Homestead Spinners Guild, provides demonstrations of spinning and weaving, worked with staff to improve the textile exhibits and assisted with redressing the loom in the visitor center. District forester Chris Nicholas has freely shared his expertise with the Pennsylvania Lumber Museum, helping to maintain trails, facilitating donations of artifacts and equipment, and preparing maps for the new exhibit.

At Joseph Priestley House Scott Onsager, an artist and community art teacher, created an enhanced dining room exhibit with reproduction Wedgwood tableware, a sample dinner menu and for special occasions 18th-century style centerpieces. Having taken numerous classes in open-hearth cooking and practiced in her own 17th-century home, Mary Washington took on the role of an indentured servant at Graeme Park, helping visitors experience and understand the site’s summer kitchen. Artist Sue Wentzel worked on research for a new book on the villages surrounding Cornwall Iron Furnace, creating watercolor images to be included along with historical photographs.


Artifact Collections and Archives

Steve Ferrell’s volunteer work at the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania includes scanning negatives, cataloguing books and working with the museum’s data retrieval database that helps staff and other researchers navigate the archival collections. At the Pennsylvania State Archives Cynthia Margolis helps with all manner of services, including photocopying and scanning to fill patron requests, pulling records for researchers in the Search Room and evaluating microfilming needs. Clydene Strauss’s interest in archaeology led her to the State Museum of Pennsylvania where she has labeled countless artifacts from excavation sites and helped to organize programs focused on archaeological research and field work.


Outstanding Service Awards

Robert F. Miller joined the board of the Pennsylvania Lumber Museum Associates (PALMA) in 1997 while working for the Pennsylvania Game Commission. Since then he has worked to make PALMA into an effective support group for the museum, ensuring that the board functions productively. With the major expansion of the visitor center and museum underway, Bob has consulted with the general contractor to fulfill PALMA’s commitment to provide interior woodwork produced onsite from local sources.

With more than 20 years service as a volunteer with the Bushy Run Battlefield Heritage Society, Kelly Ruoff has taken an active role in the organization’s finances and programming. As co-chair for the 250th anniversary of the Battle of Bushy Run, she also took on the job of fundraising for the commemoration events and led the effort to design and produce a new monument dedicated to all the combatants who died in the battle.


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