Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Appalachian Trail Museum to Open
At Pine Grove Furnace State Park

The Appalachian Trail Museum, a decade in the making, has reached an agreement to occupy the Old Mill building at Pine Grove Furnace State Park in Pennsylvania. The grand opening for the museum, which will be the first hiking museum in the county, is expected to be on National Trails Day, June 5, 2010.

The 200-year-old grist mill, in the historic district of the park, is within two miles of the current midpoint of the Appalachian Trail. The building is immediately adjacent to Pine Grove General Store and near the Ironmasters Hostel, both popular stops for hikers. The store is the location for the Half Gallon Club in which hikers attempt to eat an entire half gallon of ice cream in a single sitting.

Over the next year the inside of the building will be renovated to conform to the uniform construction code and to be adapted for use as a museum. The building is owned by the park and currently contains some displays and in the past served as a visitors’ center but has been lightly used for years.

Restoration work will be done largely by volunteers under the leadership of the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club’s North Chapter “Yankee Clippers” crew. Other members of the trail community have volunteered to help and additional volunteers are welcome. Work is expected to begin this fall and be completed over the winter.

Preparations for the initial exhibits are also underway. Exhibits initially will occupy one floor of the building until additional renovations are completed. The opening exhibits are expected to feature the Earl Shaffer Shelter and artifacts from other early hikers including Grandma Gatewood. Also planned is a children’s discovery area to introduce children to the A.T. and outdoor activities. The museum will include an inside and outside story telling center to welcome hikers and give visitors a chance to hear directly about trail experiences. The museum’s current exhibit, featuring the artifacts of Myron Avery and Benton MacKaye, is expected to remain in Harpers Ferry.

The museum also will display on computers the more than 12,000 thru-hiker photos taken at ATC headquarters in Harpers Ferry since 1979. The photo project, with support from a grant by the Quimby Foundation and in cooperation with ATC, includes a website where all the pictures will be accessible.  The website is expected to be completed this summer and can be reached through the ATC site, www.appalachiantrail.org. Terry Harley-Wilson, the museum’s vice president and curator, arranged for the individual scanning and preservation of each photo. More information and forms granting permission to display individual photos are available by writing to atmuseum@yahoo.com.

At first, the museum will operate on weekends in the spring and fall and five afternoons per week from Memorial Day to Labor Day. This schedule is intended to match current park visitation patterns. Also, the building currently has only a portable space heater. The museum society is looking for volunteers to staff the building and others to do programs such as talks, nature walks and demonstrations of outdoor skills with an emphasis on programming for children. The museum society is continuing to collect artifacts. More information is available at the museum’s website, www.atmuseum.org, and info@atmuseum.org.

This summer the museum society launched a fund-raising campaign to pay for materials for the building renovation and for exhibits. Contributions can be made to the A.T. Museum Society, which is an independent, tax exempt charitable group.