Berks History Center Awarded the PA Museums 2018 Special Achievement Award

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The Berks History Center is pleased to announce that PA Museums, Pennsylvania’s statewide trade association serving museum professionals and institutions, has awarded the Berks History Center (BHC) an Institutional Achievement Award for the BHC’s Collections Management Project.

Each year, PA Museums recognizes the special achievements of museums and historical organizations in Pennsylvania. The PA Museums Institutional Achievement Award distinguishes the BHC for establishing and maintaining standards of excellence in the BHC Museum. The award specifically recognizes our Collections Management Project, an initiative that aimed to inventory, organize, and evaluate the BHC’s entire collection of museum artifacts.

The project began in August 2016 when Bradley K. Smith, former Senior Curator of the Pennsylvania State Museum, was contracted to undertake the project through generous support from the Edwin Barbey Charitable Trust and other friends of the BHC. The project involved several phases beginning with an inventory of the entire collection, a process that took several months and revealed nearly 30,000 artifacts.  The inventory was followed by a justification process, which compared the inventory records against catalog, accession, loan, deaccession, and other institutional records. The project was completed with a reconciliation phase, which sought to review the discrepancies uncovered during the justification process in an effort to solve problems.

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Curator Bradley K. Smith and Intern Erin Benz conducting the inventory in the BHC Museum

The BHC’s Collections Management Project was one of several institutional leaps at the BHC in recent years and the initiative now serves as a springboard for ongoing improvements in the BHC’s collections management practices. Curator Bradley K. Smith, now a full-time staff member at the BHC, is establishing full physical and intellectual control over the BHC’s collections. In other words, we are improving the knowledge of exactly what artifacts are in the collection, where they came from, how they were used, and where they are currently stored.

As explained by Bradley K. Smith, “The Berks History Center has been collecting historic artifacts for more than a century. Preserving these artifacts for present and future generations, and making them available to the public, is a critical component of our mission. Completing the Collections Management Project enhances our ability to realize this facet of our mission, and it will facilitate the creation of richer exhibits, programs and publications. We take our role as community stewards very seriously, and we consider it an honor to be recognized by PA Museums for our efforts.”

By conducting a collections management initiative in the BHC museum, and subsequently in the BHC Research Library archives (2019), the BHC will be fully equipped to share Berks County’s most important history with our community. Getting our collections organized means that we can tell more accurate, relevant stories about the history that matters most.

“We are very excited about this award and we are proud of the work that Curator Bradley K. Smith, his volunteers and the BHC staff have done on this project to be recognized by our peers in the museum profession. We couldn’t have achieved this award without the support of the Edwin Barbey Charitable Trust,” says Executive Director, Sime Bertolet. “We are deeply grateful for the Trust’s commitment to our mission for preserving Berks County’s historic legacy.”

The PA Museums Institutional Achievement Award will be presented to the Berks History Center at the PA Museum’s Annual Conference on April 15, 2018 in State College, PA.

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About PA Museums

PA Museums is Pennsylvania’s statewide trade association serving museum professionals and institutions. Based in Harrisburg, PA Museums was founded in 1905 and during its long history was known as the Pennsylvania Federation of Historical Societies and the Pennsylvania Federation of Museums and Historical Organizations. PA Museums creates and supports the museum community in Pennsylvania through advocacy work, professional development programs, information sharing, and an annual awards program to recognize exemplary work in the Commonwealth.

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The 3rd Annual Berks History Conference Focuses on Berks County Foodways

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The Berks History Center invites you to attend the 3rd Annual Berks History Conference on April 21, 2018, located at 940 Centre Avenue, Reading, PA 19601.

The Berks History Conference is an annual gathering for history enthusiasts that features a series of lectures on Berks County’s history. This year’s conference will focus on Berks County Foodways and will cover a variety of topics that explore Berks County’s unique culinary traditions including: local cuisine during the American Revolution, agriculture and its influence on culture and history, whiskey distilling in Berks County, and the foodways of the PA Dutch.

The Berks History Center welcomes four distinguished conference speakers: Alan G. Keyser, PA Dutch Foodway Historian; Bradley K. Smith, Berks History Center’s Museum Curator; Dr. Irwin Richman, Professor Emeritus of American Studies & History at Penn State; and Dr. Clarissa F. Dillon, Historian & Demonstrator.

“The Berks History Conference is a unique opportunity to explore Berks County’s vibrant cultural traditions through an academic lens,” said Sime Bertolet, Executive Director, The Berks History Center, Reading, Pa. “We are pleased to host four esteemed historians who will share their research and interpretations of a cultural activity that we all enjoy: food!”

This year’s conference is part of “Berks County Foodways” a year-long series of events and a digital community storytelling project at the Berks History Center. The Berks History Conference is sponsored by The Berks Packing Company, Inc. and Sweet Street Desserts.

Tickets are $25 for students, $50 for members, $60 for non-members and can be purchased by calling 610-375-4375.  Berks History Center is also offering a special new member fee for $95 that includes admission to the conference and a discounted membership to the Berks History Center. Lunch is included for all participants. Call 610-375-4375 to register or click here for more information.

Berks History Center Celebrates Berks County Foodways This Year

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The Berks History Center invites you to celebrate the Foodways of Berks County with a year-long series of events and a digital community storytelling project. The Berks History Center is located at 940 Centre Ave. Reading, PA 19601.

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, foodways are the “eating habits and culinary practices of a people, region, or historical period.” Throughout 2018, the Berks History Center (BHC) will explore this compelling human experience by focusing on the foodways that are important to the people of Berks County. BHC will do so through themed programming, including Second Saturday programs and the Berks History Conference, as well online communications.

Second Saturday programs will include topics such as brewing history in Berks County, the history of culinary and medicinal herbs, butchering and traditional meat preparations and more. The BHC’s 3rd annual Berks History Conference on April 21, 2018 will feature 4 informative lectures by historians and food scholars on Berks County’s food history. Visit www.berkshistory.org for more information on BHC’s foodway-themed programs and events.

In addition to events and programs, the BHC launched a digital storytelling project that aims to highlight the diverse culinary experiences and food traditions alive in Berks County. BHC will share local foodway stories, including stories from the BHC staff and the community, on their blog, e-newsletter, and social media channels (follow @berkshistory). The BHC invites the people of Berks County to participate in the storytelling project by submitting stories about their family food traditions. For example, BHC’s first Berks County Foodway storytelling project story explored the personal history behind Education Curator Vicky Heffner’s favorite birthday dish: PA German Pig Stomach. To participate, send photos, recipes, information and video through the #MyBerksHistory project on BCTV’s SoLo app or email publicity@berkshistory.org.

Thank You! A Message from the Director

 

Dear BHC Members, Friends and Berks County History Enthusiasts,

Happy Holiday! I derive no greater sense of satisfaction than when I get to say thank you; that is my most rewarding duty as the director of the Berks History Center (BHC). When I am afforded that opportunity it’s generally because someone or some organization has supported the BHC, allowing us to continue to fulfill our mission to preserve your #BerksHistory. For that reason, I am devoting this special blog article to thanking all those who have supported the BHC in so many ways.

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Lori J. Johnston from Thompkins VIST Bank presenting us with EITC support for the Berks History Center’s Educational programs.

I will begin by thanking those companies that support the BHC through the Pennsylvania Commonwealth’s 2017 Educational Improvement Tax Credit program, otherwise known as EITC. With the funds provided through the EITC program the BHC installed new exhibits, developed new educational programs, as well as provided transportation for approximately 6,000-7,000 school children from the Reading Area School District, and other districts around Berks County, to visit our museum and learn about the rich cultural heritage of their community. The kind of support necessary to bring those students to the BHC wouldn’t be possible without the EITC support we receive. With that said, I wish to thank East Penn Manufacturing, Tompkins Financial, M&T Bank and BB&T Bank for the EITC Grants they have made available to the BHC!

You may have noticed that my column in the fall issue of The Historical Review was devoted to the BHC’s Annual Report, and therefore, I was not able to personally thank those individuals and organizations that supported our two major fundraisers; the 2017 Magical History Tour Pt. V and 4 Centuries in Berks Historic Property Tour. Like previous years, both were fun events that drew large crowds and demonstrated the strong community bonds the BHC engenders.

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A crowd of nearly 1200 enjoying the 5th Annual Magical History Tour concert!

The 2017 Magical History Tour Pt. V took place on August 19th and this year’s concert was the best attended to date with approximately 1,200 participating! There were eight great bands that played from 2:30p-10p making for an amazing happening! Keep in mind that the musicians in these bands practice countless hours, in addition to playing at the concert itself! All their time is donated and they receive no monetary compensation. That’s a big gift to our organization and all of us at the BHC are very appreciative. After all, without the musicians, what would MHT be? So, a big thank you “shout-out” to all the bands and musicians that played at MHT Pt. V; and an especially big thank you to Dave Kline who not only played at the concert, but also organized the entire music lineup which included:

  • Hot Ice
  • Dave Kline and the Review
  • MaKooch
  • Gary Melton & the Rock ‘N Soul Revival
  • Thunder
  • Pawnshop Bound
  • The John King Band
  • Judd Burkert

Musicians were not the only “rock stars” at MHT. There were many other organizations behind the scenes that helped make MHT a great fundraiser. I would like to identify them now and thank them for their support. Our MHT sponsors included:

  • Reading Eagle
  • WEEU
  • Pretzel City Productions
  • M&T Bank
  • Reinsel Kuntz Lesher LLP
  • White Star Tours
  • Penn Avenue Music
  • Fraser Advanced Information Systems
  • The Poore Group/Morgan Stanley
  • Land Displays
  • T102

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Now, we move on to the 4 Centuries in Berks Historic Property Tour. It’s hard to believe, but 2017 was the BHC’s 12th year as steward of the annual 4 Centuries in Berks Historic Property Tour. This year’s tour was held on October 7 and featured the historical architecture of Muhlenberg Township. There were eight lovely properties and I thank all the homeowners and volunteers, without whom the tour couldn’t take place. I’d also like to thank all the tour-goers for supporting the mission of the BHC by coming out to enjoy the tour. As this is a real BHC team effort, I want to recognize all the BHC staff members and board volunteers for the great job they did and especially to Vicky Heffner for coordinating the homeowners, volunteers and pre-tour breakfast, as well as Alexis Campbell for the work she did marketing the event. I will also add that the BHC is very appreciative of the financial support from our 4 Centuries sponsors. We are highly reliant on our sponsors to make this event a successful fundraiser, so we can continue to carry out our mission to preserve Berks County’s history. I want to extend a sincere thank you to this year’s tour sponsors. Included in these ranks are our long time Signature Sponsor;

  • M&T Bank

and our Patron Sponsors;

  • Enersys
  • Herbein + Co.
  • The Highlands of Wyomissing
  • Kautter & Kelly Architects
  • Penske
  • William G. Koch & Assoc.
  • Xfinity

I also wish to thank Land Display for the in-kind work they provided for advertising the tour.

In conclusion, I must add that while we love hosting the Magical History Tour and the 4 Centuries in Berks Historic Property Tour, I feel I must make you aware that the largest portion of public support that the BHC receives, is from its Annual Giving Appeal which goes out every year in October and again in mid-March. This October 2017 Annual Giving Appeal letter was written by Phyllis Kelly (thank you Phyllis!!) and is generally responsible for bringing in over $46,000 a year as it did in Fiscal Year ended June 30, 2017. Gifts to the Annual Giving Appeal are above and beyond individual and family memberships to our organization and are extra gifts given by members and benefactors that truly believe in the mission of the BHC and its importance to the community. To all who have given, thank you, we couldn’t survive without your support. To those of you who have not yet given, I ask and encourage you to dig down into that pile of mail you’ve been meaning to go through and find the BHC’s Annual Giving Appeal letter and make your contribution. Or you can click here to support the Berks History Center this year. All gifts are important and very much appreciated no matter what their size. Thank you for your support.

Sincerely,

Sime Bertolet, Executive Director

Make Your Mark on Berks History

 

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The Berks History Center has joined #GivingTuesday, a global day of giving that harnesses the collective power of individuals, communities and organizations to encourage philanthropy and to celebrate generosity worldwide. Berks County is home to countless individuals who have made an impact on our local history. Make your mark on Berks history this year by supporting the Berks History Center on  November 28, 2017 for #GivingTuesday. 

#GivingTuesday is held annually on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, following the widely recognized shopping events Black Friday and Cyber Monday. #GivingTuesday kicks off the holiday giving season and inspires citizens to collaborate by improving their local communities and giving back in impactful ways.

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On November 28, 2017, the Berks History Center invites you to “Make Your Mark” on Berks County’s history by supporting the Berks History Center on #GivingTuesday. Generous patrons and friends are encouraged to give to the Berks History Center throughout the day online at www.berkshistory.org and from 2:00-7:00PM at the Berks History Center Museum located at 940 Centre Avenue, Reading, PA 19601, where the Berks History Center will host a free open house.

Visitors are invited to enjoy free tours of the museum, children’s activities, a new museum scavenger hunt and, #UNselfies with the faces of Berks County’s history. The #GivingTuesday open house will run from 2:00-7:00PM and is free of charge as a gesture of appreciation for our friends and supporters.

The Berks History Center’s goal is to raise $10,000 on #GivingTuesday for a number of facilities improvements and operational costs including humidity control improvements, educational materials, preservation supplies and research equipment. All donations will help the Berks History Center continue its mission to preserve and share the historical legacy of Berks County for generations to come through educational programming, museum exhibits and the BHC Research Library. Click here for more information and to “Make Your Mark” on #GivingTuesday.