On Nov. 1, the Appalachian Trail Museum completed its 11th season. The biggest surprise is that we had a season at all.
This was an unusual season but it turned out much better than we expected in the spring. At noon on Friday, March 13, the day before our annual Spring Cleanup, we learned that Pennsylvania Parks were closing all their facilities and we had to suspend operations.
Not until June 13 could we open and to do so we had to make big adjustments, installing plexiglass, stockpiling masks and cleanser and removing hands on exhibits, particularly in the Children’s Museum. This was also the first season for the Museum to operate the adjacent Ironmaster’s Hostel. It’s not easy to run a hostel when your primary customers --- hikers and groups --- were discouraged or illegal. Even so, we have had a steady flow of visitors to the Museum and hostel. After we took over the Hostel early this year, we discovered several items of deferred maintenance. During the shutdown we were able to work on some of these. We hope to get to several more over the coming winter.
While attendance is down from previous years and we had more limited hours, we were still surprised that both facilities came to life this summer. At the Museum, Ron Bungay and his crew completed work on the second floor. The floor was so bright and shiny that we hated to let any visitors walk on it. After more than a decade of work by many dozens of volunteers, the entire building is now ready for occupancy. In 2021 we plan to open two of our most significant exhibits to date.
On the first floor, we will install a replica of Benton MacKaye’s study --- his Sky Parlor from Shirley Center, Mass.--- where he did much of his writing and thinking over the years. Next October marks the 100th anniversary of the publication of MacKaye’s seminal article calling for the establishment of the Appalachian Trail. The Museum is joining with ATC and many other groups to observe the significant anniversary of MacKaye’s article: An Appalachian Trail: A Project in Regional Planning.
ATC has transferred to the Museum many MacKaye artifacts, which will be publicly displayed for the first time. Among the objects will be MacKaye’s desk, books and a stuffed bird, a Bittern, which dates from his youth as a budding naturalist. The exhibit will give visitors to the Museum a chance to ponder the remarkable life of the A.T.’s founder. Over the course of his long life MacKaye had a major impact on Americans’ attitude toward nature, preservation and recreation and among other achievements was a founder of the Wilderness Society.
The second major exhibit is a huge interactive 3 D map of the Appalachian Trail, which will be the centerpiece of the Museum’s second floor. We have been working on the exhibit for several years and it is intended to give visitors new to the A.T. a good representation of the scope and features of the Trail. The map will be supplemented with computer monitors to walk visitors through the Trail, its natural features, surrounding large landscapes, and features such as bridges, shelters and trail towns. The map will also highlight the work of the 31 trail maintaining clubs
Lorrie Preston continued to work on her garden inside the ramp to the second floor. The garden is alive with native plants, butterflies and insects and is a beautiful addition to the grounds of the Museum. Lorrie also writes a newsletter about the garden called: The Latest Buzz From the Gardens of the A.T. Museum. The garden is alive with many pollinators, birds, butterflies and insects, beautiful flowers and native plants intended to attract all sorts of visitors.
The research library continued to grow and now tops 3,000 books, periodicals and other rare items. Among the libraries’ most precious items are books owned by Benton MacKaye and Myron Avery, original correspondence between Benton MacKaye and Richard Judy (author of the novel “Thru,” published by the Museum), and an issue of the National Geographic from 1949 with the article on Earl Shaffer’s thru-hike, with the issue autographed by Earl.
The library has been set up to academic standards by founding librarian, Linda Patton, a retired librarian from Florida State University. In addition to donating her own collection of 726 books, Linda developed a unique catalogue system for the library because of its special collection. Other sizable donation were by David Crooks, who contributed more than 600 books, and Roger Williamson, who donated more than 300. The collection keeps on growing and will continue to do so as rapidly as donations of books and money permit.
This is the second season for Manager Sam Shank and new hostel manager, Missy Shank, Sam’s mother. The virus has deterred volunteers this year but if you’d like to help out over the winter, we can use volunteers to help with our archives and you’ll be safely isolated there and doing an important service to the Museum.
Meanwhile, we are looking forward to an exciting season next year, which, with luck, will include a Hall of Fame banquet on May 1 in Carlisle. Normally we would have inducted the new members of the Hall of Fame in May 2020. They are: Chris Brunton of Harpers Ferry, W.V.; the late Thurston Griggs of Baltimore; Warren Doyle of Mountain City, Tenn.; and the late Walkin’ Jim Stoltz of Helena, MT.
For 2021 we currently have 552 Appalachian Trail Museum members. Red Wolf keeps our members up to date with APPALACHIAN TRAIL MUSEUM UPDATES, the weekly, emailed newsletter of the Museum and the A.T., with many beautiful trail photographs. If you have items of interest, please send them to him at the email below. There have also been more than 402,000 visits to his Appalachian Trail Museum thread on whiteblaze.net.
We are in the midst of a multi-year fundraising campaign to cover the costs of the exhibits and help with operations and we thank our supporters for their generosity. The campaign, which runs through 2021, has a goal of raising $350,000 and will ensure that we can complete all the exhibits for the Old Mill and fund our ongoing operations. We still need $114,000 to meet our goal. Last year our financial support, because of the pandemic, was $30,000 less than the previous year. We need your vital support now to continue all our activities in 2021. Your contribution can place your listing on the current campaign’s permanent Museum plaque ~ see the FORM for details. If you wish to know your current donation level on this plaque, email Red Wolf, and he is happy to respond to your inquiry.
As always, we are grateful for the support that the Museum has received over the years and we are excited about our plans for next year. Those hopes are tempered by the difficulties and hardships of this year and the greater than normal uncertainty about any plans for next year. We remain optimistic but realize that our efforts may take longer to achieve than we hope and regardless of the situation will keep striving to improve the Museum for our supporters and visitors.
If you believe that our work is important, please consider making a year-end gift to the Museum. CLICK HERE to do so.