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.

As 2013 draws to a close it’s time to look back at several of the highlights we covered in the Trailheads blog this year. As always, the historic sites and museums along the Pennsylvania Trails of History faced challenges with patience and perseverance, as paid and volunteer staff worked to provide engaging programs, tours and exhibits for visitors and for their local communities. The ongoing effort to preserve the Commonwealth’s material heritage, including objects, archival collections, historic structures and landscapes, takes place primarily behind the scenes, although we are making greater use of both traditional and social media to share this work with the public.

The following is just a snapshot of the work occurring daily along our Trails of History. Please join us and be a part of next year’s activities and events.

 

New Buildings

On Charter Day, observed by PHMC on March 10, 2013, local and state officials and invited guests including a reenactor portraying General George Washington celebrated the opening of the new visitor center at Washington Crossing Historic Park at Washington Crossing, Bucks County. Technically an expansion of the old visitor looks and feels like a completely new building. The entrance has been moved and a new visitor services space opened up where offices used to be, the auditorium has been refurbished and new exhibit galleries added with a spectacular view of the Delaware River. Collections storage was created by enclosing a courtyard and installing new compact shelving.

Not long after the grand opening at Washington Crossing, ground was broken for the expanded visitor center at the Pennsylvania Lumber Museum at Galeton, Potter County. The project will nearly double the facility’s square footage, provide a fully accessible ground-level entrance and create a multi-use community room for meetings and events. New exhibit space, including a gallery for changing exhibits, will share the history of the lumber industry, the conservation movement and contemporary sustainable forestry practices complementing the logging camp, Civilian Conservation Corps cabin, locomotive displays and sawmill on the grounds. Construction continues and we look forward to a grand opening in time for the annual Bark Peelers’ Convention in July 2014.

 

Anniversaries

The commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War continues. The State Museum of Pennsylvania opened its refreshed and updated Civil War gallery with two new exhibitions, Objects of Valor: Commemorating the Civil War in Pennsylvania and Stories from the Homefront: Pennsylvania in the Civil War, which incorporates exhibits from the PA Civil War 150 Road Show, a mobile museum. Although none of our PHMC destinations is devoted specifically to the Civil War, a number of them interpret the time period. Civil War-themed events at Landis Valley Village and Farm Museum, Eckley Miners’ Village, Old Economy Village and the Pennsylvania Military Museum helped visitors understand different aspects of the war and how it affected life in the Commonwealth.

The bicentennial of the War of 1812 also continues. September 10, 2013, marked the bicentennial of the Battle of Lake Erie, in which the U.S. Brig Niagara and her commanding officer Oliver Hazard Perry played a decisive role. Flagship Niagara spent much of this past summer at tall ships events around the Great Lakes, and the city of Erie (where the brig was built) held a parade, a birthday celebration for Perry and a contest to see who could grow the most Perryesque side-burns. The Flagship Niagara League and the greater Erie community collaborated to host Tall Ships Erie 2013 the weekend after Labor Day, with nine tall ships, music, historical presentations, and a parade of sail with Governor Tom Corbett as grand marshal. Niagara returned to Put-in-Bay, Ohio, on September 10 for a special wreath-laying ceremony at the site of the battle, honoring all those who served and died on that day 200 years ago.

The Bushy Run Battlefield Heritage Society planned a series of events culminating in the 250th anniversary commemoration of the 1763 Battle of Bushy Run in August. The battle reenactment is held each year at Bushy Run Battlefield, but this significant anniversary warranted special attention. The society raised funds for a new monument honoring the Native Americans, Highlanders and frontier rangers who took part in the battle. The bronze monument was designed by painters Robert Griffing and John Buxton, known for their depictions of conflict and frontier life during the French and Indian War and Pontiac’s War, and sculptor Wayne Hyde. Members of the Seneca Nation of Indians participated in a ceremony on August 4 to unveil and dedicate the memorial.

 

A Sampling of Items of Interest

Regular readers of the Trailheads blog know that most of the posts are collections of news items, event photographs, program wrap-ups and information submitted by museums and historic sites along the Trails of History. Enjoy!

Landis Valley Village and Farm Museum’s changing exhibit for 2012, The Golden Age of an American Art Form: The Lancaster Long Rifle, was so popular that the museum extended the closing date to June 2013. Copies of the handsomely illustrated exhibit catalogue sold well, visitors traveled expressly to Landis Valley to see the many examples exhibited in one place and PA Museums, a statewide organization for museums and historical organizations, honored The Lancaster Long Rifle with an award of merit.

The furnace stack and other structures at Cornwall Iron Furnace were the focus of a restoration and stabilization project. Built in 1742 and renovated in 1856–1857, Cornwall is the only surviving intact cold-blast furnace in the Western Hemisphere and a National Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark (among other designations). The furnace went out of blast in 1883 and was given to the Commonwealth in 1932.

The project to construct a new exhibit building at the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, inspired by historic roundhouses, passed an important milestone when the design was approved by the Strasburg Township Planning Commission.

 

Social Media

Ephrata Cloister worked with Ephrata High School students to develop a series of short videos on the compound’s history. The videos explore fraktur writing, the Martyr’s Mirror (a highly important 18th-century book printed at Ephrata), architecture and Ephrata’s connection to the American Revolution, and are available on the site’s YouTube channel.

Looking ahead to Pennsbury Manor’s 75th anniversary as a historic site in 2014, staff launched a campaign on Facebook to gather memories of the historic site from visitors past and present. Since many of you have visited, please contribute memories of your experiences.

At the Pennsylvania Military Museum, staff turned the drudgery of collections care into an opportunity to share information with the public. Using techniques developed by conservation consultants, videos were created to show proper ways to clean and care for historic weapons and historic combat rations. The museum shared the videos on YouTube and Facebook and frequently posts event photographs and videos for the public.

 

The author thanks individuals on the Pennsylvania Trails of History who shared information for the weekly posts and helped to make Trailheads possible. Any errors or omissions are the author’s alone.

 

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.