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

If disaster strikes, what happens to the Commonwealth’s irreplaceable public records and historic documents is of critical importance. Last fall, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) staged a “mini-disaster” at the State Records Center in Harrisburg. Several staff members of the PHMC’s Bureau of Archives and History staff attended a two-day NARA disaster preparedness and response workshop that accompanied the mock drill. Linda Avetta, Michael Sherbon, Cindy Bendroth, and Brett Reigh completed the intensive training exercise that included identifying vital records, developing a disas- ter recovery plan, and hands-on experience in salvaging damaged records. Tawyna Wagner of the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources also participated in the drill.


The American Historical Association (AHA) honored PHMC historian and internship coordinator Linda Shopes with the Troyer Steele Anderson Prize at its 121st annual meeting in January. The award recognizes Shopes’s “tireless effort on behalf of public history.” The citation accompanying the award states, in part: “As a member of the Committee on Women Historians from 1995–1998, as an elected member of the Council from 1999–2002, and as chair of the Task Force on Public History from 2001–2005, she brought unfailing energy, vision, and political skill to several key issues confronting the AHA and the profession. Her determined leadership, advice, and encouragement reshaped the way the Association related to public history.”


With planning that began in January 2006, The State Museum of Pennsylvania’s artist-illustrator Michele Ensminger and exhibit designer Elizabeth Pellegrini, under the direction of museum curator Beatrice Hulsberg, created “Inaugural Chic: Gowns of Pennsylvania’s First Ladies.” Fourteen exquisite gowns are on exhibit through Sunday, April 29. The earliest gown in the exhibit was worn in 1887 by First Lady Mary McAllister Beaver for the inauguration of her husband, Governor James A. Beaver. The most recent, a deep blue satin gown, was worn by First Lady Judge Marjorie O. Rendell for the first inauguration, in 2003, of her husband, Governor Edward G. Rendell. For Governor Rendell’s second inauguration, on January 16, The State Museum extended its hours to enable visitors to see “Inaugural Chic.” The First Lady was among those who visited the museum and congratulated staff members for their work on the exhibit. Philadelphia textile conservator Nancy Love assisted with the preparation of gowns.


For hard-to-find expertise, the PHMC’s historic sites and museums routinely share resources. Old Economy Village in Ambridge, Beaver County, alarmed by a serious preservation problem, needed to look no further than Mark Ware, an educator at Somerset Historical Center. The Harmonists, original inhabitants of Old Economy Village, left behind eight large mid-nineteenth-century wine barrels, or tuns, that are deteriorating. Ware, who possesses thirty years of experience in the time- honored craft of coopering, has made reproductions of butter churns, buckets, and smaller casks, but says conserva- tion of the wine casks is much more challenging. Conservator Brian Howard will attempt to stabilize the tun in the poorest condition to prevent collapse until Ware can implement techniques for its preservation. Ware is assisting with the handling, assembling, disassembling, and repairing the coopered casks. He is working on the project with Bob Hainzer of the Somerset Door and Column Company, a firm, Ware says, that can apply computerized assistance to labor-intensive tasks at a lower cost. Ware cited the company’s experience with wooden columns and says, “Round columns . . . are essentially very long coopered casks.”


More than twenty-five hundred individuals convened in Pittsburgh last fall for the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s annual conference. The PHMC’s new traveling display made its debut at the event. PHMC staff led various conference workshops on community preservation, the Federal Rehabilitation Investment Tax program, and cultural and historic resource management. The PHMC collaborated with the National Trust and other organizations, including the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation, to host the event. The new mobile display helped draw people to the PHMC booth. Among PHMC staff answering questions was Scott Doyle, a historic preservation specialist for the PHMC’s Bureau for Historic Preservation.


The PHMC has received an award from the National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers (NCSHPO) during the organization’s fortieth annual meeting held in Washington, D.C., from February 26 through March 1. According to Pennsylvania’s Deputy State Historic Preservation Officer Jean Cutler, the NCSHPO selected the PHMC project, “About Preservation: Preserving Pennsylvania’s Historic Schools,” as the winner of the New Initiatives award for the 2007 NCSHPO Awards for Excellence in Historic Preservation. Cutler and PHMC Executive Director Barbara Franco spoke at the conference and accepted the award.


The Pennsylvania State Farm Show in Harrisburg is the largest indoor agricultural event in America. Six thousand animals and eight thousand exhibitors shared twenty-five acres under one roof in early January for the ninety-first annual show. Keith Heinrich (center), a historic preservation specialist with the PHMC’s Division of Archaeology, was among staff members who discussed archaeology in Pennsylvania for visitors of all ages. PHMC archaeologists and volunteers, using authentic early Native American techniques, painstakingly recreated the dugout canoe.


At the PHMC Maintenance Conference held in November 2006 at Ephrata Cloister, Tom Blair, supervisor of maintenance at Old Economy Village, accepted the 2006 Electric Hammer Award. Blair’s colleagues nominated him to receive the award for his outstanding service to the site. Blair has worked at Old Economy Village for twenty-one years. Old Economy Village will host the annual conference in November 2007.


At The State Museum of Pennsylvania, Harrisburg, Linda Powell is carrying on the programs of the museum’s planetarium. The PHMC named Powell planetarium director following the retirement of Jeff Smith last October. Planetarium operations have had a seamless transition as Powell announced a full series of programs for 2007 certain to please children, educators, and the public. Powell says that the new digital planetarium projection system is an exciting addition and provides superior exploration of the cosmos, special visual effects, and other stellar visuals when compared to older, conventional planetarium systems.