Friday, January 10, 2014

2014 Farm Show Week Recap

This week we have a guest blogger, Judy Hawthorn. Judy is a retired technology and engineering teacher from Cedar Cliff High School and she volunteered several times this week at our Farm Show exhibit. Below are her thoughts on the event.

young visitor peering into the exhibit case of Valley Forge artifacts

It has been a wonderful week of meeting people who have enthusiastically embraced ‘The Archaeology of a Troubled Nation -1775-1865’ exhibit at the Pennsylvania Farm Show this year.   The State Museum of Pennsylvania, Section of Archaeology staff and volunteers spent the week answering questions about archaeology in Pennsylvania, new exhibits at the State Museum and generally discussing the period of the Revolutionary War through the Civil War.  Natural curiosity about what people were like in years gone by drew people to the exhibit and of course, the chance to sit in the ‘dug-out’ canoe was an opportunity that many never pass up.  By Friday, the exhibit drew over 40,000 people, down slightly from last year probably due to extremely cold weather.  But those who came were excited and inquisitive.

left to right: State Museum of PA Director David Dunn; Management Services Bureau Director Tom Leonard; PHMC Marketing Director Howard Pollman; PHMC Executive Director Jim Vaughan

The ‘dug-out’ was made in 2005 by the staff of the State Museum as part of their experimental archaeology program.  Archaeologists wanted to see how well the stone adzes would work and how long it would take the typical Native American group to construct a dugout using these tools.  The canoe has been a favorite at the Farm Show ever since.  Sitting in the “dug-out”, children imagine they are paddling up or down the Susquehanna River thousands of years ago, looking for deer along the banks or checking the eel weirs for fish in the river.  Some children marvel at the thought that the canoe was once a tree, hollowed by using stone tools and then floated in the river and lakes of Pennsylvania.  Others simply like sitting in something that is so much larger than they are.  The reactions from children were…priceless.  Many parents commented that they come each year to take pictures of their children sitting in the canoe.   Some teenagers said they were elementary school children when their parents first plopped them down in the canoe for a picture.  They have been back each year since and now bring their friends for a group picture.  Of course, as a volunteer and retired teacher, I am thrilled to help children understand the history of people living thousands of years ago in the same place where we now live.  They all listen intently and the ‘wheels’ turn, imagining how they would have paddled this large canoe with their friends or family.

family from Berks County area

The dugout on display is the third successful canoe made and it is a copy of an 800 year-old canoe that is on display at the museum that was retrieved from Mud Pond in Luzerne County many years ago.

young students from New Holland, PA

Another area of interest was the Cheval de frise excavated from the Delaware River in 2012.  The cheval de frise was an implement of war used by the Continental forces to prevent ships from sailing up river during the attack on Philadelphia in 1777. In another exhibit, young people peered in the showcase that housed lead shot with tooth imprints.  Looking closer, they learned what the colloquial saying “bite the bullet” truly meant.
students from Bloomsburg University

From the Revolutionary War to the Civil War, items on display were of interest to all who stopped by.

students from Susquehanna High School

The State Museum of Pennsylvania’s exhibit at the Pennsylvania Farm Show is an annual event where a sample of the Commonwealth’s artifacts are shared with the public.  If you haven’t been able to attend the Farm Show then make it a point to visit the State Museum.  There is something for everyone to see, learn and experience.
young visitors from Willow Street, PA

For more information, visit or the Hall of Anthropology and Archaeology at The State Museum of Pennsylvania .

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