Plastic Waters at Erie Maritime Museum

Events on the Trails of History between now and the end of April can be found in the usual spot.

Earth Day was Wednesday, so this post from Linda Bolla at the Erie Maritime Museum is timely. The traveling exhibit "Plastic Waters, from the Great Lakes to the Ocean" will remain on view through May 25. A series of related programs is planned at the Museum and other sites in Erie.

The Erie Maritime Museum's new exhibit, "Plastic Waters, from the Great Lakes to the Ocean," opened April 1st. As we celebrated Earth Day this week, it gave those of us who live on the shores of Lake Erie another opportunity to reflect on both the connectedness of all of the earth's waters, as well as our roles as front line stewards of the Great Lakes, 20% of the world's fresh water.

The core exhibit is the result of a partnership between the 5 Gyres Institute, studying the impact of plastic marine debris in our oceans, and the Alliance for the Great Lakes, who have augmented and sponsored this traveling exhibit since September 2014. What sets Erie Maritime Museum apart as a host site is the number of local partners who have created complementary displays, and, although totally unplanned, how these local partners echo the themes of the traveling exhibit.

Penn State University Behrend Campus students are currently conducting microplastic studies of Lake Erie waters at the mouth of Four Mile Creek. The students' work will add to our knowledge of this new threat to fresh water.

Microbeads and fragments found and photographed by PSU Behrend students

Exhibit panel explaining studies conducted onboard Niagara by Dr. Sherri "Sam" Mason, 2012

A boat hull found during a Presque Isle beach cleanup in March eerily mirrors the exhibit boat hull pulled from the Pacific Ocean by 5 Gyres after the 2011 Japanese tsunami.



98% of the post tsunami marine debris observed was plastic. This statistic is reflected in the findings of PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) at Presque Isle, who developed their own very graphic display for the exhibit from items collected during their annual Adopt-A-Beach programs.


Much of the exhibit focuses on single-use (throwaway) plastic that turns up in Lake Erie. PA Sea Grant and International Coastal Cleanup developed educational displays focusing on alternatives to single-use plastics. Even when these plastics are properly discarded in recycling bins, the majority still end up in landfills, due to a lack of capacity in municipal waste recycling programs. The exhibit also features artwork made by local students using beach clean-up finds and single-use plastics. Accompanying student writings reflect on the need to redesign our throwaway society--profound thoughts for Earth Day, and every day.

Art mask made from coffee lid stoppers

Belle Valley Elementary School 4th graders studied the endangered Lake Erie sturgeon and made this artistic representation reusing foamcore and plastic bottle tops.

A Mercyhurst Prep student made this collagraphic print [I had to look that up - AKF] from plastic garbage collected on an Erie-area beach last fall

Mercyhurst Prep students used acrylic paint and single-use plastic items to create multi-media artworks (above and below)

Celebrating Volunteers and Museums

Be sure to check out the April program listings for things to do on the PA Trails of History.

As National Volunteer Week winds down, we are getting ready for our annual Volunteer of the Year Awards ceremony tomorrow (well, we've been getting ready for a while now, we didn't wait until today--not for all of it anyway). The State Museum of PA will host staff and volunteers from all over the Trails of History as we recognize individuals for specific contributions during 2014. This is one of the high points of our year at the PHMC, a chance to celebrate the work we do together to preserve and present the Commonwealth's heritage. And another chance to say "thank you" to all of our volunteers for more than 112,000 hours of service in Fiscal Year 2013-14. Look for more information in the Trailheads feature in the summer issue of Pennsylvania Heritage Magazine.

Last year's honorees for service in 2013 with Commissioners, Site Administrators, and Associate group board members (photo by Don Giles)

Another cause for celebration this coming week is the 40th birthday of the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania on Wed., April 22. The original museum building, designed by Stotz, Hess & MacLachlan, was the first in North America designed specifically as a railroad museum. During its lifetime, it has expanded at least twice, and plans for the coming few years include new exhibits and a roundhouse for storage and display of rolling stock. On April 25, the museum will open its 2015 changing exhibit, "Riveted Jacket of Many Colors: A Photo History of GG1 No. 4800," a locomotive also known as "Old Rivets."

Original plan for Railroad Museum of PA (forgive the wonky slide scanning)

I usually don't include info in Trailheads that doesn't relate pretty directly to the Trails of History. However, I spent a couple of hours the other night watching this year's entries for "Museum Dance Off 2: Electric Boogaloo," and I just have to share. Organized by an insider-y blog called "When You Work at a Museum," this is the second year of what I think started out as a lark. Last year's Dance Off really created some buzz and so now we have the sequel. Great dancing? Umm, no. Well, mostly no. But it's an international array of staff and volunteers showing off their museums and some dorky enthusiastic dance moves. You don't have to watch them all at once; voting will be in groups for round 1, starting on Monday, April 20. There are some trends - "Uptown Funk" (or parodies of it) and "You Can't Touch This" are popular music choices. And if you've been around since the 80s and 90s, you'll recognize a lot of the dance moves. Anyway, it's really joyful (one from NZ is kind of dark) and a great way to celebrate museums, whether you work in one or just like going to them. You'll find links to all the videos and instructions on voting on the blog. Enjoy!

Catching Up

Please be sure to check out the April program listings to see what's happening on the Trails of History.

This just in! On Monday, April 6, the PA House of Representatives passed a resolution (introduced by Rep. Kathy Rapp, R-Forest) honoring Col. Edwin Drake on the occasion of his 196th birthday. The folks at Drake Well Museum also celebrated the occasion on March 28 with a special program of family activities.

Many thanks to all of you who followed along or tweeted with us during #MuseumWeek (March 23-29). Bushy Run Battlefield, Ephrata Cloister, Landis Valley Village & Farm Museum, Pennsbury Manor, Washington Crossing Historic Park, PHMC, and I (plus lots of followers and program partners) spent the week sharing behind-the-scenes photos and much, much more. Sean Adkins, PHMC's information specialist, pulled together a bunch of the tweets on Storify, if you want to see a selection. I'm already looking forward to next year!

Exhibit installation at PA Lumber Museum (photo by Lauren Jaeger)

The Pennsylvania Lumber Museum reopened for the season on April 1 with a shiny new building, and work continues on the installation of the new core exhibit, "Challenges and Choices in Pennsylvania's Forests." The work of many people over a long period of time, this exhibit tells many stories about how people have shaped the forests of this state and about how the forests have shaped the people--from the history of the lumber industry to the birth of conservation and professional forestry, to current best practices and management for sustainable mixed use. The official opening for the exhibit is scheduled for May 15-16.

More exhibit installation at PA Lumber Museum (photo by Rachel Yerger)

You may have seen or heard that a frozen water main had wreaked havoc at Eckley Miners' Village, causing them to remain closed to the public for about a month (including Charter Day). The pipes have been cleared and the site is back in business. They plan to try to reschedule the March 22 "meet the authors" event, and we'll keep you posted. On May 15, they will dedicate a new state historical marker for the patch town, which celebrated its 160th anniversary last year.

It's just barely started to feel like spring, but it's not too early to think about summer camp. Registration is open at a number of Trails of History sites, and at least one week of the Barons and Builders camp at the Railroad Museum of PA is already filled. History camps are on the schedule at Anthracite Heritage Museum, Brandywine Battlefield, Daniel Boone Homestead, Drake Well Museum, Joseph Priestley House, Landis Valley Village & Farm Museum (for grown-ups as well as kids), Pennsbury Manor, Pennsylvania Military Museum, Railroad Museum of PA, Somerset Historical Center, and Washington Crossing Historic Park.

Balustrade from the Cadwell House hotel, Lancaster (photo by AKF)
Landis Valley Village & Farm Museum's new changing exhibit has opened. "1865: Lancaster County at the Close of the Civil War" chronicles life in the region in the year the Civil War ended and one of the museum's founders, Henry Landis, was born. Included in the exhibit is a balustrade from Lancaster's Cadwell House hotel that was touched by James Buchanan, Horace Greeley, Abraham Lincoln, and Teddy Roosevelt; you can touch it too. The exhibit will be on view through December.