Museum of Modern American Bottle Caps

On my office board is this satirical comic extolling the new “Museum of Modern American Bottle Caps.” While hysterically funny, it strikes at the core challenge of museums–audience desires. So, what do you look for when you visit a museum?                     –Joan Mummert

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High-Tech History

Did you read that and do a double take?  Think history can’t be high-tech?  Well, think again! 

As part of a multi-year strategic planning initiative, YCHT staff is working to incorporate new technologies into many of the ways our visitors interact with the history we tell at our museums and historic sites.  If you’ve visited the Trust’s newest exhibit Front Porch to Front Lines: York County Goes to War, you’ve seen one of our first projects that focus on new (and old!) technologies.  From touch screen computers and televisions to the recycled Kardex machine that holds countless artifacts, we’re working hard to connect our guests with history in fun, interactive and innovative ways.  We’re even talking about the possibility of developing apps, QR codes and a mobile website – how’s that for a high tech history?

Big deal, you say.  How expensive can an app be?  It seems like everyone has one these days!

In a word: very.  So what do we do?  We hit the lottery! 

Just kidding.  Oftentimes in situations like this we research local, state-wide and national grants that fit our project’s parameters.  Much of my April was busy with doing just that as I researched and wrote a grant application that will help the Trust update its technological infrastructure and fund the creation of new technologies like QR codes we can use in our exhibits and a mobile website and apps we could potentially use for our walking tours.  Though the process can oftentimes be time-consuming and long, writing grants is one of my favorite things to do in my job.  It allows me a way to really connect on the ground with the work my colleagues do here at the Trust, which is something I’m not always able to do as a fundraiser.  It’s truly energizing work that keeps me connected to our mission and the folks we serve.  I’m not going to lie; it’s also exciting when you see the acceptance letter come in the mail! 

Stay tuned – I’ll let you know what the result of this grant application is soon!

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“Adam’s Eden: The Fanciful World of Adam Pfaltzgraff”

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Lunch with the Librarians Features Family Bible Conversation

The inaugural Lunch with the Librarians featured interesting conversation about family Bibles. Discussion began with how and where Bibles were printed, in what language and their importance to the family. In many households, a Bible was the only printed material in the home and was used for reading lessons.

Bibles and other religious books were some of the first and in many cases only books listed on estate inventories. Examples taken from last will and testaments have been shown references that the ‘large German family book’ was left to a particular child.

To the genealogist, they sometimes can provide the only source of an ancestor’s birth, marriage or death. It was also interesting to compare what the family may have ‘stored’ inside the pages of the Bible. Not only is family information recorded within its pages, but photographs, letters, pressed flowers and hair can be found. One participant brought in her ancestor’s 1819 Lancaster printed Bible and shared its story. Within its pages were religious tracts and scraps of paper.

Since the Bible is one of the primary places where family records are written, the South Central Pennsylvania Genealogical Society and the York County Heritage Trust were inspired to create an annual Bible documentation day. On Sunday afternoon, May 6th, from 1:00 to 4:00 the second annual Family Bible Documentation Day will be held at the Historical Society Museum and Library at 250 East Market Street. Bring in your family Bibles to have them documented and copied. This information will be then placed in the extensive family files held in the library and available to future genealogists.

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Best Spring Outings for Kids in York County

First a confession: this blog post is blatantly self-promotional. There, I’ve said it. Furthermore, it probably goes against every “how-to” and “write a great blog post” article you have ever read. Not one of those articles says, “step up to your keyboard and tell the world everything you can think of that’s great about your organization/your program/your product/yourself.”

So this may not be the world’s best rule-following blog post, and it certainly won’t win any awards for deep interactive on-line conversation. Nonetheless, I felt that today, right smack in the middle of school field trip season and scouting outing time of the year, some folks might be looking for interesting things to do with school-age kids right in their own back yard.

Even better, they MIGHT even be looking for things that most of those kids had never done before in spite of the fact that they are educational, fun, AND right around the geographical corner. Seems there is a lot of this going around: why don’t we take advantage of the myriad of wonderful things that there are to explore right here in York County? But that’s another blog post…

So as not to blog on and on and become excessively wordy (another blog no-no), let’s just get to it! Here are four fabulous and fun outings for your own kids, your school group, or your activity group (and, surprise, surprise, they are all at properties of the York County Heritage Trust!):

1. Go to the Agricultural & Industrial Museum, 217 West Princess Street, in downtown York, and get a taste of the farming and industry that has been part of York county history! The building is in the old Motter Printing plant, and so there is space for farm equipment (naturally), fire trucks and antique cars, a Conestoga Wagon, steam engines, a 1937 Aeronca K airplane, and a 3-story gristmill. You won’t be disappointed!

2. Take a Murals of York walking tour. A map is available at, along with a children’s activity link. There are 30 murals, depicting many facets of York County life and history; check them out!

3. Visit the Colonial Complex at 157 West Market Street. There you will find the Colonial Courthouse, the General Gates House, the Golden Plough Tavern, and the Barnett Bobb Log House. Political intrigue, tavern life and a family home – all available in a single visit to this site on the corner of West Market Street and North Pershing Avenue in DowntownYork.   These four buildings reflect both private and public lives in earlyYork.   The Golden Plough Tavern, built in 1741, presents the significant role a tavern played in a community as a hotel, restaurant and source for news. The General Gates House (c.1751) reflects the year 1778 when General Horatio Gates occupied the house while the Continental Congress met inYork.  You can visit a reconstruction of the Court House where the Congress met during York’s nine-month tenure as Capital of the United States just across the street from the Plough Tavern. The Barnett Bobb Log House, built with squared timbers, shows family life in the 1830s.

4. Take a little boy or girl who is fascinated by the life of firefighters and/or fire trucks to the Fire Museum, 757 West Market Street.  It’s tucked away on a corner in West Market Street, and parking is challenging, but what a little gem! Fire engines, sirens and old-fashioned alarm systems all await you at the Fire Museum. Stationed in the historic Royal Fire House, the museum holds collections from the more than 200 years of fire-fighting in York County including horse drawn fire carriages, vintage fire trucks, firefighter uniforms, photographs and much more. 

Just do it! Take a small friend to a museum for the afternoon! See you at the Trust!

–Melanie Hady, Director of Marketing & Public Relations

York County Heritage Trust

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Where are YOUR Yearbooks?

Even though most of the patrons that use the York County Heritage Trust Library & Archives are genealogists, the library holdings include so much more. One criterion for accepting materials is that they must have a York County collection. And what better connection is there than the high schools, current and past, in York County?

A few years ago, the Trust asked the public for assistance in filling in our collection of York County high school yearbooks. Generous donors brought in copies of Dallastown’s Spectator, Kennard-Dale’s Fawn and Susquehannock’s Calumet, to name a few. How many yearbook names can you remember?

As school districts formed, some high schools closed. Gone is Codorus High School and their yearbook, the Glen Echo. Also a distant memory is the Les Memories of Manchester High School and the Spartan from New Freedom High School. Are there other gone-but-not-forgotten high schools in your memory?

Yearbooks are located in our reading room and are available for browsing during our regular hours, Tuesday through Saturday, 9 am to 5 pm. For details about using our Library or to donate yearbooks, please contact me at

—Lila Fourhman-Shaull

Director of Library & Archives

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The Seasons of Public History

When studying the events, people, and episodes of the past it is difficult not to find evidence of the cyclical, habitual forming nature of human development.  Most often, it seems natural changes of the seasons, drove most of these “traditions.” At the same time, I find it interesting in indentifying how many of these “historic” habits we still follow.  For instance spring cleaning, customarily an annual event to thoroughly clean one’s home (or office, more on that later.) The expression itself has a multitude of historical precedents, but for most of North America, it stems from eighteenth and nineteenth century practices of using the warmer months of March and April to air out buildings, remove built up winter dust, and otherwise “cleanse” structures with a fresh  coat of whitewash. Another modern example is daylight saving time. Albeit, this specific topic deserves serious historical investigation, but in short, is a cyclical custom (for most of theU.S.) Serious investigation would answer the “why,” as the popular conception that it is for farmers is somewhat inaccurate. Actually, it seems to have negatively altered farmers’ own cyclical habits, rising with the sun regardless of clock time, but challenges their work by forcing them to follow the natural timing of things (sunrise, sunset) with the preferences of others, say those buying crops on a daylight saving time schedule. Who knew? At any rate, the custom is probably best explained from the more recent development (1895) of extending “after work hours” sunlight. (Ben Franklin also gets credit, but like many of his great lines, he is horribly misquoted. Most of the public failed to appreciate his sarcasm in speaking about the all night “partying” characteristics of the 1770s French.) I digress, back to the point again; the warm, outdoor conducive weather of spring seems to be the driving point.

Spring appears, more than any other season, as that time of fresh renewal, growth and desire to start again. It’s that “rebirth” after winter that seems to have the greatest impact on people.  Another quick historical reference; if one were to analyze solider accounts from the 18th and 19th centuries, one might (I for one do) grow tired of reading how intensely boring winter camps and quarters were. Some soldiers eagerly awaited the arrival of spring, for the new campaign season, chance to march and get active, and of course fight in new battles. I find this to be quite an interesting sentiment, in the larger scheme of things.  However, I do appreciate the sense of urgency. Most public historical sites, as is the case with the Trust, operate seasonal buildings. We close three sites after Thanksgiving (the Bonham House, the Colonial Complex, and the Fire Museum) and reopen each seasonally in late March.  During the time in between we have our own version of “winter quarters.”  We spend time revising out interpretations, planning and coordinating our cyclical programs with new concepts, activities, speakers, and programs and even a little bit of site reorganization. We too, also have our own brand spring cleaning. Typically as an organization we will take time to clean each site prior to the opening. I always look forward to these days, one from the break in the day-to-day winter/office cycle, and from the sense of team building that occurs between the staff. It can also be “fun” when thought of as a learning experience. As one of my former supervisors would say, cleaning at a historic site is “historic preservation in action…. at the grass roots level.”  “Grass roots,” also has a literal meaning (say weeding a brick line in front of a property for example.)

From my professional stand-point, I look forward to spring and site re-openings as it is the chance to tell visitors about the new information we discovered, offer new and improved tours, host this year’s event, and educate new school groups. We often see first time visitors right after our initial openings, but still have our share of repeat visitors interested in reconnecting to a site, historical topic, or eager to have a new experience in a familiar setting.  This is actually one of my favorite aspects of the study and interpretation of history. The fact that content and stories can always be revisited, argued, or looked at differently. The same is true for a physical site. No two visits, tours, or experiences are ever quite the same. Spring welcomes that opportunity to rediscover the past with new perspectives.  It is for this reason that I think of spring as the “harvest time” for public history (rather than fall.)   Hope you can make it a habit to visit our sites!

————-Dan Roe, Director of Education

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