Museum Memories

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The May program page has info for this weekend and the remainder of the month. Please check it out if you’re looking for something to do.

Everyday is “something” day on the Internet, usually many different “somethings.” Tuesday, May 16, was Museum Memories Day (#MusMem). I tweeted that my earliest museum memories were of the Pink Palace Museum in Memphis (now part of a larger museum system in the city where I was born and where music pioneer W.C. Handy gave birth to the blues). I have many happy memories of my mother walking my brother and me there to see things that were familiar (we always followed the same route through the museum, as I recall), including the hollowed out log that had holes in it for you to stick your hand in and feel the taxidermied, I want to say, skunk (or weasel? or badger?). But there were changing exhibits, too – I remember a pair of red shoes from the Wizard of Oz (not the same pair the Smithsonian is conserving?). It was also a place that at an alarmingly early age (7, I think) I walked by myself to meet friends from school to wander around the museum and grounds. I felt at home there. It was my place. And although I have not been there in more than 40 years, I have no doubt that it helped to shape my sense of self, not to mention my career choice.

I have many other museum memories – museum visiting is both a cause and an effect of working in the museum field. Tons of visits to museums and historic sites with family and friends, rarely a vacation that doesn’t include one or more. Some visits are milestones in my relationship with my husband (“marching bellhops” to see if he’s reading). I won’t bore you with all of them here. But all of this to say that sometimes a theme is in my head as I read through social media posts and newsletters from sites on the Trails of History. That was the case this week, so here are some of the things that stuck out at me.

Ephrata Student Historians 2009
Ephrata Cloister Student Historians 2009 (photo E Bertheaud)

Two items in the April issue of the Ephrata Cloister Associates newsletter spoke to the idea of museum memories and the lasting effects museums can have on our lives (even the lives of people who don’t choose museum work as a career – shocking, I know). First item: Volunteers Randy and Jolene Newcomer celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary while helping visitors enjoy the buildings and exhibits on Charter Day (March 12). The two met while in high school when they were both Student Historians at Ephrata. That’s a long-term commitment to history! Second item: While on their honeymoon in October 1983, Neil and Liz Cotter toured Ephrata Cloister. Their guide was a local student, volunteering on weekends while attending nearby Millersville University. Thirty-three years later, they visited again and were greeted by that same young man (I can say that because I am older than he), now Ephrata’s museum educator and a seasoned interpretation professional. The Cotters recognized Michael Showalter as having been their guide and when they returned home, they sent along a picture of him that they had taken on their previous visit. (And Michael now leads the Student Historians program, so we’ve come full circle back to the first item.)

Inspired by my newsletter reading, I went looking for memories of our sites that visitors had shared on social media. Needless to say, there were many. I picked a couple to share:

And a third post that I’ll use to remind you that from Memorial Day to Labor Day, PA Trails of History sites will be participating in the Blue Star Museums program, which provides free admission to active duty military personnel and their families. PHMC sites offer this all year round; participating in the Blue Star Museums program helps us get the word out to eligible families. In March of this year, Willy Paulino wrote a review on the Anthracite Heritage Museum’s Facebook page noting that as a military spouse, he was able to take his kids to visit for free. “Great way to give back! Thank you guys for your support!” Thank you to the Paulinos and all the military families who serve our country.

And thank you to the museums and historic sites, on and off the PA Trails of History, who help people every day to create their own lasting museum memories.