A Standing Ovation for Museums!

A programming note: the Pennsylvania Military Museum, the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, and Washington Crossing Historic Park will be open Sunday, April 20, on their usual Sunday schedules. All other sites on the Trails of History will be closed.

Okay, so I don’t think I’m prone to giddy outbursts on this blog (and I have a strict limit on the use of exclamation points). Those of you following Trailheads this winter may have thought that Eeyore had taken over (and sometimes I felt that way, too). So when I tell you what a thrill it was (yes, a thrill) to see a bunch of librarians give a bunch of museum folks a standing ovation the other evening, I hope you’ll believe me. It made my nerdy little heart swell with pride.

Family Museum Pass Participants
Trails of History Sites: 2nd & 3rd from R, Railroad Museum of PA, Al Giannantonio  and Charlie Fox; 4th from R, Landis Valley Village & Farm Museum,  Timothy Essig; 6th from R, Ephrata Cloister, Rebecca Lawrence
This past Wednesday, at its annual meeting, the Library System of Lancaster County (LSLC) recognized and thanked the participating sites in the Family Museum Pass Program. The three Trails of History sites in Lancaster County were among those honored (I was there as a guest). I spoke with several librarians about how much they and their library patrons love the museum passes. There are often waiting lists for the passes, and they’ve seen kids get really excited at the circulation desk when they realize they get the pass for a week. Over the past year, more than 2,000 visitors have used the passes to visit Ephrata Cloister, Landis Valley Village and Farm Museum, and the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania. (Landis Valley joined the program in 2008, Ephrata in 2009, and Railroad in 2013, so there have been more visitors than that overall.)

I have to admit that I thought of the Trails of History sites as beneficiaries of the museum pass program. The program helps get the word out about our programs at no cost to us and brings family audiences to our doors who might otherwise not pay a visit. Anecdotal evidence indicates there has been some payoff in terms of memberships, repeat visits, and positive word-of-mouth (a very powerful factor in decisions to visit museums). I felt grateful that the Library System was including all of our sites and that the Lancaster County Community Foundation supported the program. I still feel that way.


But at the awards presentation, LSLC Administrator Bill Hudson described the participating museums as partners in the effort to serve the families of Lancaster County and thanked them all not only for being part of the program but for showing up to be recognized. It was clear that LSCS is extremely (and justifiably) proud of the Family Museum Pass Program. The capper for me was that once all the museum partners had been called individually up to the front of the room, they received a standing ovation. It was a "wow" moment for me.

While I’m gushing on about this, I will mention that library patrons in Erie County can check out passes for admission to the Erie Maritime Museum. Let’s hope this idea can spread throughout the rest of the state. And I would be extremely remiss if I didn’t thank Renee Christiansen, youth services manager at LSLC, for her energy and all the librarians and museum folks who believe in the power of museums and libraries working together.

Honoring Volunteers and More

This past Saturday at The State Museum of Pennsylvania, we said “Thank You” to PHMC’s Volunteers of the Year for service in 2013 with our annual awards ceremony and lunch. We are extremely grateful for all the volunteers who contribute their time, talents, and energy to support the sites on the PA Trails of History. The Trailheads feature in the upcoming summer issue of Pennsylvania Heritage magazine will highlight this year’s honorees. So for the moment, I will say “thank you” again and add a “thank you” to all the staff members who work so hard to serve the public and care for our sites.

Pennsbury Manor recently received an All Star Award for 2013 from Constant Contact, which provides email management services. In honor of Pennsbury's 75th anniversary as a historic site, the Arbor Day Foundation will donate 10 trees to Pennsbury for every person who joins through this special partnership (which costs only $10). It’s really easy to do and a great way to celebrate the fact that spring is finally here (and the anniversary of course).

Stuffed animals enjoying a photo op at Ephrata Cloister (photo by Rebecca Lawrence)
At the end of March, Ephrata Cloister debuted a new program for young visitors, their families, and their stuffed animals. The Stuffed Animal Sleepover invited kids to drop off a fuzzy pal who would spend the night and learn about the people and history of Ephrata. The children and parents returned the next morning to take part in some of the same activities. Upon arrival, each child received a packet of photos showing their stuffed animal in various buildings and then toured the site to share the experience. You can enjoy more stuffed animal photos on Ephrata’s Facebook page.

Daniel Boone Homestead’s inaugural Beerfest was well-attended, selling out all tickets ahead of time. From the photos on Facebook, it looks like a good time was had by all. Tickets are currently on sale for the Washington Crossing Brewfest on May 3 and for Pennsbury Manor’s Brews and Bites on June 14.

The Annual School of Coopering at Somerset Historical Center received some nice coverage from WeAreCentralPA.com, who invited Mark Ware into the studio for an interview. This weekend’s workshop is completely booked, but the waiting list for next year is already forming.


Way back in February, I shared a photo of a redware dish I decorated while visiting with the Student Historians at Ephrata Cloister. Artist Ned Foltz showed us how to scratch the design into the dish, then took our work back to his workshop to be glazed and fired. Well, I’m pleased to share a photo of my masterpiece. It’s amazing what you can do when a talented artist shapes the dish, sketches a design, provides the tools and instruction, and applies the glaze. Thanks, Ned, and thanks again to the folks at Ephrata for letting me be part of the class.

The April calendar was posted a couple of weeks ago, but here's what's happening this weekend:

Conrad Weiser Homestead
April 13: Weiser Interpretive Program—enjoy an afternoon of history. Noon-4 pm.

Daniel Boone Homestead
April 13: Pennsylvania German Easter and Spring Nature Program—lots of family activities, an Easter egg hunt, and a chance to learn about Pennsylvania German Easter traditions. Admission is $4 per person (age 3+). Noon-4 pm.

Drake Well Museum
April 12: Family Day—Today’s program features Kathy Newson, Titusville Historical Society, talking about getting started doing genealogy research (1-2 pm), as well as a scavenger hunt that explores the museum’s exhibit. Included in museum admission; special family rate – up to 2 adults and 3 children for $20. 9 am-5 pm.

Eckley Miners’ Village
April 12: Tour Guide Training and Volunteer Meeting—if you’re interested in volunteering with Eckley’s programs or learning to guide tours of the village, this is a good time to start. Volunteer meeting is at 10 am, tour guide training at 11. Eckley is also looking for a volunteer to serve as Volunteer Coordinator. Call 570/636-2070 to sign up or to learn more.

Ephrata Cloister
April 12: Spring Search—children can hunt for clues all over the site, getting stamps in their Heritage Passports and earning a prize and treat if they find all the clues. Admission for children ages 11 and younger, $1; adults (12-64), $10; seniors (65+), $9 (free admission for members of Ephrata Cloister Associates and Pennsylvania Heritage Foundation). 1-4 pm.

Erie Maritime Museum and Flagship Niagara
April 12: Little Mates Easter Egg Hunt—members of the museum’s Little Mates Kids Club are invited to tour the museum and ship, make Easter crafts, and visit with the Easter bunny. Not yet a member? You can join when you register for the program. RSVP deadline was April 4, so be sure to check ahead to see if tickets are available.

Landis Valley Village and Farm Museum
April 12: Paper Folding—part of the Museum Store’s “Folk Art and Friendship” series. Registration is required; call 717/569-9312. 1 pm.
April 12: Spring Benefit Auction—there’s a silent auction and a live auction, plus food and beverages for sale, to benefit the museum. Doors open 4:30 pm, live auction starts at 5:30 pm.

Old Economy Village
April 12: 19th-Century Foodways: Breadbaking and Cooking—learn how the Harmonists (and many of their contemporaries) prepared meals – you might even get to sample homebaked bread. Included in regular admission, so please go to the Visitor Center first. 11 am-4 pm (site open 10 am-5 pm).
April 12: Easter Egg Hunt—bring the kids for an old-fashioned good time. Rumor has it the Easter Bunny will bring along some friends for the children to visit as well. Designed for children 10 and younger. $5 per person (adults, too) includes refreshments. Paid reservations by April 9; call Holly Dofner, 724/266-4500 x102. 9-11 am (hunt starts promptly at 9:15).

Pennsbury Manor
April 13: Living History Theater—“The Funeral of Phineas Pemberton” sheds light on a man William Penn called “one of the best men of the Province” and explores funeral customs in 17th-century Pennsylvania. Included in regular admission. 1-4 pm.

Pennsylvania Lumber Museum
April 12: Spring Antiques and Collectibles Show—held at Pine Creek Inn (1637 Route 6 West) due to visitor center expansion project. 10 am-4:30 pm.

Generating History at the Erie Maritime Museum

Information on April events is in last week's post. Many, many thanks to guest blogger Linda Bolla for the text and photos today (the pun in the title is mine, so you can assign credit or blame as you see fit). The Erie Maritime Museum is located in the former Pennsylvania Electric Company (Penelec) Front Street Generating Station, which closed in 1991. Part of the legacy left to the museum when it opened in 1998 is the #3 steam turbine generator, one of the five formerly in operation at Penelec.

Carbon brushes newly installed on steam turbine generator

Power from the generator is collected on a rotating part of the machine called the “commutator.” Carbon brushes ride on the commutator as it spins, providing a sliding electrical contact. Volunteer Museum Guide (and retired General Electric Design Engineer) Rich Hall noticed that the carbon brushes, which should be visible in the exhibit, were missing. While the average visitor would not know this, the Erie Maritime Museum audience includes local workers and retirees from both Penelec and GE who are likely to notice this omission.

Rich networked with friends and colleagues at General Electric to identify the correct brushes this commutator used. Morgan Advanced Materials of Greenville, South Carolina, manufactured brushes to the GE design and donated them to the Museum.

On March 19, Rich Hall (left), with some help from
fellow Guide Ed Bolla, installed the brushes, completing the exhibit

Rich checks the carbon brushes

The very next day, Rich and Ed were on hand to talk
 with visitors about the improvement to the exhibit

Thank you to Rich Hall, William Bird of GE Turbine Generators (Schenectady, NY), and Walt Konstanty of GE Motors (Erie) for their help in identifying and providing specs for the brushes, and to Roland Roberge of Morgan Advanced Materials (Greenville, SC) for manufacturing and donating the carbon brushes.