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.

This past year marked the centennials of the end of World War I and the start of the 1918 influenza pandemic. Of special significance to Pennsylvania was the 300th anniversary of the death of founder William Penn. What follows is a brief glimpse of 2018 on the Pennsylvania Trails of History, a few highlights among many.

 

William Penn’s Legacy

To commemorate the 300th anniversary of William Penn’s death, the folks at Pennsbury Manor (pennsburymanor.org) in Morrisville, Bucks County, focused on the Pennsylvania founder’s legacy. Penn had an impact on government, civic affairs, town planning, and religious and ethnic diversity in Pennsylvania and ultimately throughout America (see “The Last Days of William Penn,” Summer 2018). As the culmination of this year’s anniversary, Pennsbury brought together five living governors of Pennsylvania for a luncheon and panel discussion. Gov. Tom Wolf provided opening remarks, followed by his immediate predecessors Tom Corbett, Ed Rendell, Mark Schweiker, and Tom Ridge, who reflected on their terms in office and the responsibilities of following in Penn’s footsteps. Some of the proceeds from the luncheon will be used to establish the William Penn Scholarship Fund, which will make school visits to Pennsbury Manor more accessible to all local students.

 

Celebrating William Penn’s legacy at Pennsbury Manor, from left, Pennsbury Society President Ron Schmid, Gov. Tom Ridge, Gov. Tom Corbett, Gov. Tom Wolf, Gov. Mark Schweiker, PHMC Chair Nancy Moses, and Pennsbury Manor Site Administrator Douglas Miller. Pennsbury Manor/David Garrett Photography

Celebrating William Penn’s legacy at Pennsbury Manor, from left, Pennsbury Society President Ron Schmid, Gov. Tom Ridge, Gov. Tom Corbett, Gov. Tom Wolf, Gov. Mark Schweiker, PHMC Chair Nancy Moses, and Pennsbury Manor Site Administrator Douglas Miller. Pennsbury Manor/David Garrett Photography

 

Webber Cabin

The relocated Webber Cabin gets a new roof, June 2018, on the Pennsylvania Lumber Museum grounds.

The relocated Webber Cabin gets a new roof, June 2018, on the Pennsylvania Lumber Museum grounds.
Pennsylvania Lumber Museum

The Pennsylvania Lumber Museum (lumbermuseum.org) in Galeton, Potter County, acquired a historic building this year, thanks to a partnership between PHMC and the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation & Natural Resources (DCNR). As noted on the Lumber Museum’s website: “The log cabin that was home to DCNR Forester Bob Webber and his wife Dotty for more than 54 years was originally located on a remote ridge top in the Pine Creek Valley, near the community of Slate Run. The Webbers loved living in this 500-square-foot rustic space with no electricity or plumbing and were always welcoming to friends, hikers, and other guests curious about their unique ‘off-the-grid’ lifestyle.”

Bob Webber was responsible for the establishment (sometimes with his own two hands) of numerous forest trails in the region. After he passed away in 2015, forestry officials and other interested parties began to plan for the cabin’s future. Lumber Museum site administrator Joshua Roth, Lumber Museum Associates president Bob Miller, and other PHMC staff worked with district foresters and DCNR managers to dismantle the cabin and relocate it to the museum. An accessible path was cut, and a trail was cleared to tie the cabin into an existing network of hiking trails. The cabin was dedicated in its new location during the museum’s Bark Peelers’ Festival in July. Still to come are interpretive exhibits in the cabin to help tell the Webbers’ story of conservation and living with nature.

 

The Molly Maguires

This past year marked the 50th anniversary of the filming of The Molly Maguires (released in 1970), a dramatized portrayal of labor and social issues in Pennsylvania’s anthracite coal region in the late 19th century. During the summer of 1968, film production took over a small coal patch town near Hazleton, Luzerne County. Well past its heyday, the town retained its 19th-century streetscape and many of its buildings. The production company buried electrical lines, added signage to some buildings, and constructed a reproduction coal breaker that still looms large on the landscape. Attention and interest generated by the film (something of a commercial failure despite a stellar cast that included Sean Connery, Richard Harris and Samantha Eggar) led to the town becoming Eckley Miners’ Village (eckleyminersvillage.com) in the early 1970s (see “Coal Patch, Take Two: The Preservation of Eckley Miners’ Village,” Spring 2016).

 

Local residents in the area of Eckley worked as extras on The Molly Maguires. They are pictured here with costume designer Dorothy Jeakins and director of photography James Wong Howe. PHMC

Local residents in the area of Eckley worked as extras on The Molly Maguires. They are pictured here with costume designer Dorothy Jeakins and director of photography James Wong Howe. PHMC

Eckley made maximum use of this milestone to celebrate its connection to the film and generate publicity and support. Several showings of the movie took place in the area. This year’s Patchtown Days event was devoted to the film with screenings, dramatic recreations of scenes in their locations around the village, and a host of other activities, including a Sean Connery mustache contest.

 

21st Century Museums Initiative

Like many museums and historic sites around the country, PHMC is addressing issues of diversity, equity, inclusion and access in a more systemic way and has begun an initiative to explore these issues across all program areas. The goal is to be sure that PHMC is serving all Pennsylvanians and all visitors to the state, welcoming them to explore its sites and museums and to add their own stories to the mix. That includes finding ways to connect history to current issues and to identify and remove barriers between potential visitors and the sites. In the Bureau of Historic Sites & Museums, we moved ahead on several fronts in 2018.

In April, we joined forces with the Museums for All program, a collaboration of the Association of Children’s Museums and the Institute of Museum and Library Services. Under this program, holders of Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards pay a discounted admission fee at participating Pennsylvania Trails of History sites. We know that family visits to museums in childhood are important to establishing the museum-going habit later in life. The Museums for All program helps to make museum visits accessible to more families.

On a related note, the Pennsylvania Heritage Foundation granted funds generated on Giving Tuesday 2017 to support school visits to Old Economy Village in Ambridge, Beaver County. The grant paid for admissions fees and transportation for students in two local school districts that would not have been able to afford to visit.

Three regional workshops in August brought together staff and volunteers from all Pennsylvania Trails of History sites to present the goals of the initiative and for participants to begin to envision and articulate their role in welcoming new and existing audiences. We touched on topics that will be the basis for additional work and training going forward, such as customer service and using census and other data to determine who our current and potential audiences are. We also discussed the need to think about how we tell our sites’ stories and the need to examine what we may be leaving out. At the end of each workshop, site staff and volunteers and BHSM staff began sketching out action plans. 2019 promises to be a year of further exploration of these important issues. We’ll keep you posted.

 

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