PHMC Highlights presents stories and information about PHMC programs, events, exhibits and activities.

PHMC leadership has recently been in the news. Executive Director Barbara Franco has been elected chair of the American Association for State and Local History (AASLH)
for a two-year term. AASLH, based in Nashville, Tennessee, traces its roots to 1904. It provides leadership and support for members who preserve and interpret state and local history to make the past more meaningful for all Americans. AASLH programs and services include technical resources, publications, professional development workshops and seminars, and an annual meeting. Chairman Wayne Spilove, of Philadelphia, has been appointed chairman of Historic Philadelphia, Inc., created in 1994 to oversee several historic properties, including the Betsy Ross House and Franklin Square, and works with historic districts and the hospitality community to build the tourism industry. Historic Philadelphia, Inc., promotes the appreciation of history for both residents and visitors through interpretation, interactive experiences, thematic tours, and evening programs.


Until he retired in October, Jeff Smith served for thirty-nine years as the captain of virtual trips to distant stars and planets for thousands of school students and families visiting the planetarium of The State Museum of Pennsylvania. During his tenure, Smith developed many educational programs and special interplanetary shows. He also oversaw the installation of a state-of-the-art digital planetarium. Planetarium assistant Linda Powell assumed Smith’s duties in November.


An archaeological team of the PHMC’s Bureau for Historic Preservation, led by James Herbstritt, has uncovered secrets of a 250-year-old historic site. An investigation at the site of Fort Hunter, built five miles north of present-day Harrisburg by the British in 1756, yielded artifacts as old as eight thousand years, including flints, animal bones, nails, and shards. From mid-September to early October, the team discovered evidence of the fort’s footprint, previously elusive to archaeologists, along with pieces of the original fort and post holes. Project participants included PHMC archaeological technician Deborah Miller, PHMC intern Bill Warring, and Elizabeth Leach, a student volunteer from Harrisburg Area Community College.


On Wednesday, October 18, visitor Barbara Wood and three friends arrived at Bushy Run Battlefield in Jeannette, Westmoreland County, just past 4:30 p.m.— only to learn that the historic site’s visitor center was scheduled to close in less than a half-hour. Sympathetic museum educator David Miller welcomed the group and took time to give them, says Wood, an “in-depth narrative of Pontiac’s War against the British.” The visitors also reported that, despite the cash register being closed for the day, Miller cheerfully completed a transaction and then gave them details on how they could complete a self-guided tour of the battlefield. For Wood and her friends, Miller turned what could have been disappointment into an enjoyable experience.


James O. Horton, Benjamin Banneker Professor of American Studies at George Washington University, met with representatives of Pennsylvania public history organizations in Harrisburg in October as part of the PHMC’s consultation grant project, “Telling Pennsylvania’s Civil War Stories: New Narratives from Old Collections,” funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities. Dr. Horton, one of four noted scholars participating in the project, provided provocative commentary on the relationship between slavery and freedom in American history and how these themes might be presented in upcoming Civil War Sesquicentennial programming (2011–2015). Project partners include Joseph J. Kelly, executive director of the Pennsylvania Humanities Council, Barbara Franco, PHMC executive director, and Horton.


Brandywine Battlefield Park in Chadds Ford, Delaware County, has been awarded honorable mention by the Pennsylvania Federation of Museums and Historical Organizations as part of its 2007 special achievement awards. The award recognizes Brandywine Battlefield for its annual conference, “Remember the Ladies,” held each June. The weekend event features reenactors, among them PHMC staff members and volunteers, lectures based on primary documents that give more insight into eighteenth-century women, workshops, and historic culinary recreations.


The 2006 Archives and Records Management Seminar, “Archives: Bridges from the Past to the Present,” conducted in October in Grantville, Dauphin County, brought together archivists, records managers, librarians, information technology managers, and administrators for seminars on a wide range of topics, including disaster response, record retention and digital asset management, vital records protection, the sale of copies of public documents via Web sites, enterprise approach for future projects, and customer service. Sponsored by the PHMC, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) Mid Atlantic Branch, the Pennsylvania Federation of Museums and Historical Organizations, the Keystone Chapter of AIIM, and the State Historical Records Advisory Board, the seminar included a keynote speech by L. Reynolds Cahoon, NARA’s senior advisor on electronic records. Also addressing the 260 seminar registrants were Pennsylvania State Archives staff members, including archivist Cynthia J. Bendroth.


Jim Houston, preservation construction specialist for the PHMC’s Bureau of Historic Sites and Museums presented a paper, “Side Lap Singles: The Ephrata Experience” in September at the annual conference of the Association for Preservation Technology International (APT), held in Atlanta. The paper chronicles the research and work that Houston and former PHMC staff member John Fugelso have conducted over several years with this unique Pennsylvania German vernacular roof shingle type. Following the conference Houston traveled to New Orleans to volunteer his time and skills for a program spearheaded by the Preservation Trades Network and the World Monuments Fund to restore historic houses and buildings in the Crescent City’s Holy Cross neighborhood, the Ninth Ward, and historic sections that had been damaged by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. He returned to New Orleans to provide technical advice, design assistance, and hands-on work during the tenth annual International Preservation Trades Workshop, “Rebuilding Hope — Reclaiming Heritage,” held in New Orleans in late October.


In September, the Pennsylvania Military Museum in Boalsburg, Centre County, hosted its inaugural Military History Time Line program. During the two-day event, living history reenactors portrayed American military figures of the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries. Active duty members of the Pennsylvania National Guard portrayed contemporary figures. Taking part in the program’s debut were former navy hospital corpsman and current museum educator Joe “Doc” Horvath, attired in early 1980s woodland camouflage pattern army uniform, and his daughter Alyssa, dressed as an eighteenth century camp follower of Cluggage’s Rangers, a group that gathered intelligence on opposing British and Indian forces during the 1770s.


A partnership among The State Museum of Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania State Archives, and the Central Susquehanna Intermediate Unit — funded by a three-year $1.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education — brings up to sixty schoolteachers each year to Harrisburg for a symposium and a summer institute focusing on Pennsylvania’s role in American history. Participants in this innovative program, “American History in Pennsylvania, Great Books, Great Documents, Great Places,” spend time with curators and archivists discovering important stories from the Keystone State’s history. In 2006, teachers learned about the American Revolution and the U.S. Constitution. Steve Warfel, senior curator of archaeology at The State Museum, and Linda A. Ries, archivist of the Pennsylvania State Archives, were featured PHMC staff speakers.


Jonathan R. Stayer represented the Pennsylvania State Archives at the Pennsylvania Genealogy Conference held in Pittsburgh in late September. Cosponsored by the Western Pennsylvania Genealogical Society and the Genealogical Society of Pennsylvania, the conference attracted hundreds of professional genealogists, family historians, and researchers. Stayer presented seminars on land records, military records, and the holdings of the State Archives. Registrants crowded the PHMC’s booth in an exhibitors’ hall to learn more about accessing the records of the State Archives and to purchase books on genealogy and history, including popular titles published by the PHMC.