Over time, the manager’s responsibilities continue to grow and for a small Museum, the variety is staggering. In a single season, we arrange for pumping sewage, repairing gutters, deciding on a scanning machine for paper records or a new payment system, comparing a laser system for our new 3D map vs. a projection system, determining sufficient insurance as well as recruiting, training and motivating dozens of volunteers from varying backgrounds who engage in widely varying tasks.
While we don’t have any Indiana Jones treasure hunting moments, we do have to employ lots of psychology in collecting treasured artifacts. Most people are quite attached to the gear they used on the adventure of a lifetime, or the memorabilia of their hostel and they want assurances that it will be well cared for and treated with the same importance that they assign to it. We take that trust seriously.
Still, we can’t promise to display most items any time soon. Museums typically display two to four percent of its collection at one time. Sometimes we feel ghoulish in approaching family members who’ve lost a loved one, but if we don’t contact them quickly, our revered artifacts may end up in the dump in days.
Other times we have to locate important artifacts or decide whether something that a donor considers a rare and critical artifact, is worthy of adding to our collection. This can be difficult when the item in question is a t-shirt with quarter size-holes and is frayed almost beyond recognition or a worn-out chain saw.
My colleagues made fun of me for highlighting a small stack of documents from as long ago as the 1930s. The documents were in pristine shape and precious. I wanted the items in the hands of our librarians as soon as possible because I trust their handling. And if these artifacts aren’t added to our collection when offered and treated properly, they will likely be lost to history.
It is a relief to consider these questions in 2022 as we regain a sense of normalcy after two pandemic years that were anything but normal. The highlight of the Museum season was introducing our interactive relief map of the A.T. The work of four years and a dozen vendors under the inspired direction of Museum Vice President Gwen Loose, visitors embraced the map, figuratively and literally. Unlike most exhibits, we encourage visitors to interact with the map at least lightly. As if to get a tactile sense of the whole 2,200-mile trail, it’s not unusual to see visitors draped over a corner of the map.
Howard Models of Ohio designed and built the map. Our longtime exhibit design firm, Graphik Masters of York, Pa, built the map platform. We will use five electronic monitors to amplify the story of the trail and the first went live with the map in July. Several vendors worked on the monitor along with many volunteers who contributed Trail pictures and explanatory text. Completing the project, at least for now, is a laser pointer system designed by Steve Paradis. Steve was formerly a director of the Museum as well as acting head of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. As a former thru-hiker, Steve’s boots have touched every part of the trail and add a unique understanding to his technical competence.
On Oct. 1, as we do for major milestones, we held a duct-tape cutting to inaugurate the exhibit. Bill O’Brien, a Museum board member, introduced this concept for our grand opening in 2010. What could be more appropriate for a small hiking museum than this versatile and enduring material? Major sponsors including Julia Chain of the South Mountain Partnership, Ashley Kurtz of the Cumberland Valley Visitors Bureau and Rush Williamson, a Potomac Appalachian Mountain Club volunteer, cut the tape.
The all-absorbing complexity of the map exhibit delayed some of our small exhibit plans but we hope to introduce some new things in 2023 including exhibits of historic trail tools and added artifacts to the Hikanation exhibit. Hikanation was a group which hiked across the U.S. in 1980-81.
Also, this summer, we added to the exhibits for Heather “Anish” Anderson and Walkin’ Jim Stoltz. Heather gave a talk in June on the grounds of the Ironmasters Hostel. One of the outstanding hikers of our era, Heather gave an inspirational talk. Big Hill Cider sponsored that event and later did a fundraiser for the Museum at their nearby cidery. The Museum is co-sponsoring another appearance by Heather in 2023 at Gettysburg College. That same day in June one of the Museum newest volunteers, Sarah Robison, also gave an inspirational talk about the transformational impact of her recent thru-hike.
Most summers we have fielded a full program of talks. The past two years we cut back sharply, but 2022 was a strong season. Late in August we hosted Anne Van Curen, an actress who portrays Grandma Gatewood. We had several speakers from Hikanation – Linda and Keith Wright and documentary film maker Alden Olmstead, whose father, environmental activist John Olmstead filmed Hikanation. Other speakers included David Donaldson, biographer of first thru-hiker Earl Shaffer. We experimented with different ways of recording the programs and hope over time to build this into a robust oral history project.
We’re planning a “Museum Author’s Corner” in our gift shop. The Museum has published six books including the Shaffer biography and one by the founder of Backpacker Magazine, William “Backpacker Bill” Kemsley titled One Step at a Time: A Geezer’s Guide to Living a Long and Healthy Life Through Hiking. We’ve published two trail journals by webmaster Alan “Gonzo” Strackeljahn: A Consistent Inconsistency and The Evolution of a Thru hiker; Then The Hail Came by George Steffanos; and Thru: An Appalachian Trail Love Story by Richard Judy. Also in the Author’s Corner will be Gwen Loose’s We Were There Too about early women A.T. leaders organizers and Tom Johnson’s From Dream to Reality, the definitive A.T. history.
This year we lost an early Museum leader, Maurice Forrester Jr. In addition to helping establish the Museum, Maurice for decades was a leader of ATC the Keystone Trail Association and was a passionate advocate for Pennsylvania’s forests. Most importantly, Maurice was a longtime friend, mentor and moral compass. We celebrated Maurice’s life on Oct. 1, in the new Hall of Fame room at Ironmasters Hostel with a gathering of family and friends.
That same day we inducted the 12th class of the Appalachian Trail Hall of Fame at the Pine Grove Furnace State Park Furnace Stack Pavilion. The four inductees were Jim and Molly Denton, Joann and Paul Dolan, Laurie Potteiger and Tom Speaks. The Dentons managed an A.T. relocation in southwestern Virginia, the longest in Trail history. The Dolans spearheaded the drive to protect the A.T. through Sterling Forest in New York. Laurie was ATC Information Director, a title which masks her long importance and unique service to the trail community. As a forest supervisor with the U.S. Forest Service, Tom did much to protect the A.T. route and corridor in the southern Appalachians. Hawk Metheny of ATC was MC and earlier inductee Warren Doyle gave a talk reflecting his 49 years of hiking the A.T. and educating hikers. An original board member, Noel DeCavalcante, a 1989 thru-hiker, was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award for his work on the Museum, ALDHA, where the served as coordinator and board member, and at ATC, where he initiated the Ridge Runner program.
Jim Foster, who inaugurated and leads the Hall of Fame, developed a room at the Ironmasters Hostel for the Hall of Fame. A versatile and dedicated volunteer, Jim also redid the Museum’s bylaws, heads our renovation committee and is one of our tech gurus. He has a prominent role, filmed at the Museum, in a new documentary on one of the trail’s youngest thru-hikers, Little Man, who completed the Trail at age 5 in 2021. Thru-hiker Bruce “Ishmael” Dunlavy, a talented builder and longtime volunteer, collaborated with Jim on many construction projects at the Museum and the hostel including the new Hall of Fame room.
The Museum’s collection is of critical importance to the Museum’s success in coming years as we mount new exhibits. Over the last three years dedicated volunteers Sandy Moyer, Jerry Johnson and Becky Foreman have catalogued and redesigned storage for our growing collection. All have also helped out in the library and with other tasks. The Museum collection was featured in the Green Tunnel podcast.
New head librarian Kurt Bodling became a 2,000 miler this year as he took over our 3,000-book A.T. research library. Also, this year we had a changing of the gardeners. Ann Bodling, Kurt’s wife, expanded her role to include the pollinator garden inside the ramp to the top floors. Ann had been taking care of our welcoming garden after longtime gardener Georgia Freet stepped down. Lori Preston, who had initiated the pollinator garden and published the “Latest Buzz” newsletter relinquished these responsibilities but continued with other Museum work.
For 2023, a major project the Museum is pursuing is the reconstruction of a stone shelter that Earl Shaffer built on North Mountain around 1960. Not long after the Museum opened, volunteers took apart the stone shelter and transported it to the Museum grounds under the direction of Karen Balaban. We are hoping to rebuild the shelter next summer in time to mark the 75th anniversary of Earl’s pioneering 1948 thru-hike. The Museum is cooperating with the Earl Shaffer Foundation and its representative, Mack Thorpe, on the project.
The Museum is also working with the Shaffer Foundation to revive the Katahdin Art Project as a joint fundraiser. Photographer and hiker Bart Smith, the first person to hike all 11 National Scenic Trails, took a dramatic photo of Katahdin. Before his death, Earl signed hundreds of cards to go with the photo and the project benefits the Foundation, the Museum and other hiking groups.
With the fading of the pandemic, the Museum stepped up its outreach in 2022, participating in the Carlisle Earth Day Celebration in April, Trail Days in May, in June Foundry Day in Boiling Springs, the Round Hill Festival, The Duncannon A.T. Festival and the Gettysburg Farmers Market. In August, we participated in a fundraiser at the Thirsty Farmer Brew Works with a dunk tank – a new role for the manager. In October the Museum had a table and workshop at the 40th anniversary ALDHA Gathering.
This year the Museum attracted some new and highly talented volunteers including a masters’ student, Jeff Houser, as an intern. Late in the season, we began an effort to launch four new committees to engage our new volunteers, offer more opportunities and meet the growing workload of the Museum. The initial committees we discussed are Exhibits, Fundraising, Finance and Outreach. In future years we hope to add additional committees. Anyone interested in joining this effort should contact Manager Julie Queen.
At the Ironmasters Hostel, under the leadership of Hostel Keeper Missy Shank, we continued to work to make the hostel more friendly to visitors. Among the changes we’ve instituted are stocking toilet paper for the Trail in the hiker box along with Pepto Bismol for those who complete the Half Gallon Ice Cream Challenge. We also try to separate snorers from quieter sleepers. Many visitors have responded by filling our visitor register with high compliments for the hostel.
The Museum continues to tightly control finances and has been healthy all through the pandemic thanks to veteran treasurer Jay Sexton and assistant Nan Lowe. Under the direction of Membership Secretary Robert “Red Wolf o’ da Smokies” Croyle, the Museum completed a fundraising campaign in December, 2021 and began a new one to fund new exhibits and continued upgrading of both buildings. Red Wolf was honored at the ALDHA Gathering as only the fourth ALDHA member to celebrate the 50th anniversary of his thru-hike. Red Wolf hiked the Trail in 1971 and was one of the first 40 hikers to complete the A.T. in a single season. He was also one of the first flip floppers, beginning his hike at Bear Mountain, the original stretch of the A.T.
We thank our many volunteers, our supporters throughout the trail community, our hardworking board and our two dedicated managers and we look forward to another great year in 2023. For those who are in a position to support the Museum’s continued growth and operations, we appreciate any financial contributions. Follow THIS LINK to contribute. Your support makes the Museum the success we all enjoy.
Julie Queen, Museum Manager, 717-486-8126, email@example.com
Missy Shank, Ironmasters Manager, 717-486-4108, firstname.lastname@example.org www.ironmastersmansion.com
Robert “Red Wolf o’da Smoky’s” Croyle, membership secretary, email@example.com