To A Better Future
2017 is upon us, and this is the time of year many of us embark on new journeys, from better caring for our physical or spiritual wellbeing, to attaining new educational or career goals. There is a lot of work ahead of us in 2017 here at the York County History Center to prepare for our big move to the Steam Plant. Fundraising, architect selection, collection evaluation, financial planning, and keeping you abreast of what lies ahead are all in the works. One of the most important tasks in 2017, however, will be finalizing our Interpretive Plan and choosing a museum design firm to bring this vision to life.
What is “Interpretation?” This is the process by which we bring history to life: selecting items for display, writing labels, designing individual exhibits, planning the over-arching themes and narrative of an entire gallery or the entire museum, being on hand (often in costume) to talk about topics highlighted in exhibits in more detail, and bringing in special speakers and hands-on activities to broaden your understanding of what you see and hear in the museum. Interpretation goes beyond simply informing you of the facts and figures of history. It brings together the diverse stories and experiences of history from everyone in our community into an engaging, thought-provoking chronicle of our history.
Interpretation bears a heavy burden, because in the process of deciding which stories to include in our county’s chronicle, we run the risk of excluding the marginalized and often overlooked members of our community and their unique histories. If we ignore these members of our community and how important historical events have impacted them, our history is skewed, incomplete, lopsided, and more mythology than history.
One of our goals in the new Interpretative Plan is to bring forth these voices, offering you a well-rounded, more accurate picture of our past. An important step in that direction is the York County History Center’s latest publication, The Ground Swallowed Them Up by renowned local historian Scott Mingus, which uncovers the little known history of the Underground Railroad in York County. Sitting on the Mason Dixon Line, York County was at the threshold of slavery and freedom. Local citizens, whether for religious, moral or political reasons, aided slaves on their voyage north, hiding them in houses and barns, providing transportation by rail and wagon, offering food and clothing, and thwarting the efforts of headhunters determined to capture runaways and return them South in exchange for reward money. York County wasn’t a final destination, though; it was too close to the South for the comfort of anyone wanting permanent freedom. Instead, York County was a portal through which an untold number of people passed on their way to points in New England and Canada where freedom was more certain.
In early 2017, the York County History Center will feature a number of programs centered on African American history and family. We’ll kick things off on Sunday, February 5th with speaker Dr. Eric B. Holmes, who’ll present “The Amazing Discoveries and Frustrating Difficulties of African American Genealogical Research: The Story of a Family from the Northern Neck of Virginia.” Dr. Holmes will share his insights on the trials and tribulations of African American genealogy research, gathered from years of researching his own family history. His talk is part of South Central Pennsylvania Genealogical Society’s monthly lecture series.
February’s Second Saturday program brings us author Judy Wolfman, who’ll recount the true story of Henry “Box” Brown, a slave who shipped himself from Virginia to Philadelphia in a box half the size of a coffin. Brown’s 27-hour journey was successful, and he went on to become an abolitionist speaker.
Later that month, get ready to groove to a selection of African American spirituals and gospel music, played on our very own Tannenberg organ on Thursday, February 23rd.
Best of all, we’re excited to bring you a special Underground Railroad Symposium during a two day event on March 31st and April 1st. The Symposium will kick off on Friday, March 31st with author Scott Mingus presenting highlights from his recent book, and a special opportunity to have him sign your copy of the book. On Saturday, April 1st, a guest panel of experts on slavery in Pennsylvania and the local Underground Railroad network will share their knowledge of this important era of American history and how it impacted York County. This is a rare opportunity to hear from several scholars of this fascinating story all in one weekend.
Stay tuned for details about these and other exciting events coming your way in 2017 at the York County History Center!