Summer’s the time to get out and explore new destinations, and Pennsylvania is rich with opportunities to unlock new discoveries.
Whether you’re headed to Center City Philadelphia, Hersheypark, Presque Isle or Pittsburgh’s three rivers, why not add a little of the humanities to your getaway? Beyond the tourist destinations are a whole slew of smaller cultural centers and organizations that offer the chance to experience lesser-known histories, engage with the community and learn more about the people and culture of our diverse state. PA Humanities funded 92 of them through the PA SHARP — Sustaining the Humanities Through the American Rescue Plan — program, helping them to recover and grow from the pandemic, and now’s your chance to see them for yourself!
Check out this list of just a few potential stops on your summer road trip then hop in the car, fire up our new podcast done in partnership with Keystone Edge called “We Are Here,” then crank the sounds of summertime favorites with our crowdsourced Spotify playlist and enjoy the ride!
If you’re visiting the Hershey/Lancaster area…..
- By 1790, Pennsylvania Germans made up 40 percent of the population of the southeastern part of the commonwealth, bringing with them a distinct culture including folk traditions, decorative arts and language. The Landis Valley Village & Farm Museum in Lancaster is the largest Pennsylvania German museum in the country and includes a number of buildings, two of which were built between 1815 and 1840, as well as a visitor center and a variety of different collections. The current exhibit, “Pennsylvania Germans: Their Lives Through Color,” demonstrates how they expressed their culture through color in furniture, textiles, ceramics and more and was funded in part through a PA SHARP grant. See the Landis Valley Museum website for more details.
- The Arts at Millersville promotes a culture where everyone is engaged in the community and the world, and as part of that they oversee the Ware Center in downtown Lancaster. The Center is a hub of cultural activity in the community and hosts Lancaster First Friday activities as well as special events including the Lancaster International Piano Festival from July 15-22 and “Julia Caesar,” presented by The People’s Shakespeare Project, Aug. 3-6. Find more information here.
If you’re in nearby Gettysburg…
- Check out the Children of Gettysburg 1863 museum for a unique, family-friendly look at the Civil War battle through the eyes of children, teens and young adults who lived in the town before and after the fighting. This hands-on, interactive experience will give a different perspective to the history of Gettysburg itself and the battle. If you’re there on a First Friday, the museum offers special children’s crafts to go along with events in town, and select weekends feature outdoor living historians. Children 12 and under get in free with a ticketed adult. For more information visit here.
If you’re in Pittsburgh….
- For a look at what life was like for one of the wealthy magnates of the Pittsburgh steel industry, take a tour of Clayton House, the former home of Henry Clay Frick, at The Frick Pittsburgh in the city’s East End. Ninety-three percent of the artifacts in the house are original. The Gilded Age mansion isn’t all the museum has to offer, however. Frick was also a collector, and the lush and peaceful 5.5-acre grounds include an art museum and car and carriage museum as well as a greenhouse and cafe. Certain Friday evenings throughout the summer have live music and food trucks and are popular events in the community. Visit The Frick Pittsburgh for details.
- Down the street from The Frick is Rodef Shalom, a designated historic landmark in the city and home to a Biblical Botanic Garden. The garden is meant to replicate ancient Israel with a waterfall, a desert and a bubbling stream as well as biblical plants. The current exhibit is called “The Healing Garden” and includes plants that are mentioned in the Torah for their healing qualities, such as aloe, almonds and pomegranate. For more information and a self-guided audio tour visit here.
- For a unique museum experience, be sure to check out The Mattress Factory in Pittsburgh’s historic Mexican War Streets neighborhood. Not to be confused with the place you’d go to purchase a bed, this Mattress Factory houses a collection of contemporary art and site-specific installations. Be sure to check out the Greer Lankton installation and learn more about the artist and the museum’s extensive collection of artifacts related to her and her work. Find their website here.
If you’re in Erie……
- “Out of Many – Stories of Migration” is just one of the current exhibits at the Erie Art Museum and the series centers around the work of five photographers working out of Pittsburgh and using Pittsburgh’s story as a “lens through which to examine the broader American immigration and migration experience.” If you’re in town on a first Thursday check out the Highmark Art After Dark music series with a tour of the galleries and drinks at 5 p.m. and live music starting at 6 p.m. Second Sundays are a day for families to create together at the museum. Visit Erie Art Museum for more information.
- A Shared Heritage will take you on a driving tour of African-American history throughout Erie County, including the homestead of Harry T. Burleigh, acclaimed soloist and classical composer, the Hotel Pope, which served as a hub of African American musical culture for 50 years, and stops on the Underground Railroad. The project is a collaboration between Mercyhurst University and community partners including The Jefferson Educational Society, the latter of which is presenting “History and Healing: Spotlight on African American Heroes” on Aug 3 in Erie. The free talk will feature the three architects of A Shared Heritage highlighting “some of the key figures, stories and places associated with the region’s African American history and reflecting on the power of our shared past to foster deeper understanding of the challenges that continue to confront both our region and a divided nation.” Visit Jefferson Educational Society and A Shared Heritage for more details.
If you’re in the Philadelphia area….
- Explore the story of Paul Robeson, the son of a former slave and an actor, orator, athlete, lawyer, singer, author, scholar, activist and linguist, at the Paul Robeson House & Museum in West Philadelphia. From an All-American football player, five-sport athlete and valedictorian at Rutgers to popular entertainer, Robeson fought against injustice and advocated for civil rights around the world and often paid the price. Learn more about him in the exhibit, “Paul Robeson: His music, his movies, his message” and sign up for a tour here.
- Located in Germantown, Cliveden House has long been known as the site of the Revolutionary Battle of Germantown, for its historic architecture and for being the country house of attorney Benjamin Chew. Acknowledging the Chew family’s history with slavery, Cliveden seeks to bring that difficult past to light through program such as “Finding Black Families: Stories from The Chew Family Papers” and the exhibit “Preserving & Adapting Their World: The Women of Cliveden.” For more information visit their website.