5 Reasons You Should Go on the 4 Centuries in Berks Historic Property Tour

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1. It’s an Adventure

The 4 Centuries in Berks Historic Property Tour is a map to your local history. Discover historical treasures right in your own backyard and travel through 4 different time periods along the way! As you drive through the rolling hills of Western Berks you will spend the day escaping into Berks County’s bucolic vistas and exploring the past. The map is already drawn for you. Just jump in the car and drive!

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2. Be a Nosy Neighbor (Without Actually Trespassing)

Ever drive past an old house or a gorgeous estate and wonder what it’s like inside? The 4 Centuries Tour is your chance to see what no one else has seen! Step inside private homes and secluded mansions to explore what life is like on the inside.

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3. Discover Your Berks History

Expand your knowledge of local history firsthand. Learn what it was like to live in Berks County in the 18th, 19th and 20th Centuries and uncover the architectural marvels of the 21st Century. All in all, you will drive away with an appreciation for the unique legacy of Berks County.

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4. Make Connections

Fall is the time for fun with friends. The 4 Centuries Tour is a chance to try something different. This day-long adventure is an exciting way to connect with your local history while sharing the fun with your closest friends. With over 400 people in attendance, who knows, you might even meet some new people along the way!

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5. Support the Preservation of Your Berks History

We know that you care about preserving Berks County’s history. So do we! The 4 Centuries in Berks Historic Property Tour is the Berks History Center’s annual fundraiser that celebrates the efforts of local property owners, who work to preserve your local history. We invite you to join us as a tour-goer to appreciate our county’s historic legacy and support the Berks History Center’s efforts to preserve your Berks County’s history in the BHC museum and research library.

Explore the architectural treasures of 12 historic properties in Heidelberg Townships tomorrow on the 4 Centuries in Berks Historic Property Tour!
Tickets $35.00. Click here for more information or purchase tickets the day of the tour at:
Wernersville Train Station located at 20 E. Penn Avenue, Wernersville, PA 19565.
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Berks History Center Hosts Premiere of Groundbreaking Book: Working Girls

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The Berks History Center and Glitterati Publishing invite you to an exclusive, first-time ever presentation and book signing of Working Girls: An American Brothel, Circa 1892, The Secret Photographs of William Goldman by Robert Flynn Johnson on Monday, September 10, 2018 at the Berks History Center, 940 Centre Ave. Reading, PA 19601. The program will begin with a reception and book signing at 5:00pm followed by a presentation by the author at 6:30pm.

Working Girls is a historical, artistic and sociological interpretation of the personal collection of 19th century professional photographer and Reading native, William Goldman. In his program, author and Curator Emeritus at the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco, Robert Flynn Johnson, will detail his research and how he came to unearth the collection of more than 200 vintage photographs that artistically capture a group of women who lived and worked at a brothel in Reading, PA.

 

The Berks History Center is honored to host this premiere event, which precedes the official book launch and exhibition opening that will be held later that week in New York City, NY. The launch of Working Girls will be held at Rizzoli Bookstore in NYC on September 12, 2018, and the opening of an exhibition of the William Goldman photographs will be held at the Ricco / Maresca Gallery,  W 20th St  in Chelsea, NYC on Sept 13, 2018.

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In the book, Johnson, a noted photography curator, uses these photographs to detail their historical and sociological importance in the history of photography, alongside essays from feminist scholars Ruth Rosen and Dennita Sewell that provide an insightful historical overview of these images in context of the period in which they were taken.

“We are thrilled to have an opportunity to share Johnson’s groundbreaking book and photograph collection with Reading and Berks County,” says Executive Director, Sime Bertolet. “While the focus of the book explores and interprets both the artistic vision of photographer William Goldman and the lives and historical context of the women in the photographs, we feel as though Working Girls has unearthed an unseen aspect of Reading and Berks County’s story that was previously lost to history. As the stewards of Berks County’s heritage we believe it is our duty to provide a space for all facets of Berks County’s history to be explored and discussed.”

Working Girls is the result of over a decade of research, which began when the author first visited an art fair and became captivated by the beauty and originality of a group of 19th century photographs of women. Curious to know more about these women, Johnson began an investigation into their origin, authorship and purpose.  However, it wasn’t until 2015 when Johnson’s research led him to the Berks History Center, after he discovered a photograph of a woman posing with a copy of the Reading Eagle. Berks History Center Research Library staff, along with local historian George M. Meiser IX, assisted Johnson with his research.

The cost of the Working Girls program is $8.00 for members and $10.00 for non-members. Reservations are recommended as seats for this exclusive program are limited. Due to subject matter and content, this program is age restricted to 18 and older. Call 610-375-4375 to reserve your seat or click here for more information.

The cost of Working Girls is $60.00. The Berks History Center is accepting pre-sales for the hardcover book, which will be available for pick-up on September 10th from 5:00-8:00PM during the program and following the event during regular museum hours. Call 610-375-4375 to order a copy of Working Girls.

Your Berks History is Coming to Penn Street in Downtown Reading!

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The Berks History Center and the Reading Downtown Improvement District Authority are pleased to announce the launch of Berks History on Penn, a collaborative, community art installation that explores the history of downtown Reading through photographs from the Berks History Center’s collection. The exhibit will be located in the windows of the Callowhill building on the corner of 5th and Penn Streets.

Berks History on Penn will be installed by the Reading Downtown Improvement District Authority (RDIDA), the Berks History Center (BHC) and students from the Reading Muhlenberg Career and Technology Center on Monday, June 11, 2018. The project is funded by the Penn Street Arts Grant program of Berks County Community Foundation.

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Photograph of Penn Square, looking east, circa 1925 from the collection of The Berks History Center, Reading, PA

Following installation, Berks History on Penn will be on exhibit through the end of 2019 pending sale of the building and can be enjoyed during a number of events on Penn Street including the MidDay Café on July 25th; Downtown Alive concert series June 20th, July 18th, August 15th, September 12th and 19th; First Friday Downtown Beer Gardens July 6th, August 3rd, September 7th; and the Penn Street Market every Thursday through the end of September.

As a partner with RDIDA and the Penn Street Market, the BHC will attend the Penn Street Market as a community vendor every Third Thursday of the month, starting with the kick-off the Berks History on Penn social media project on Thursday, June 21, 2018. During the BHC’s kick-off Third Thursday at the Market, the BHC will launch a community-wide selfie contest on social media. Participants are encouraged to snap creative, history-inspired selfies in front of the Berks History on Penn photographs and share on social media using the hashtag #BerksHistoryonPenn. Participants will then be entered into a special giveaway drawing. Each month, the BHC will award drawing winners special prizes including: history books such as the Passing Scene, free BHC memberships, free passes to BHC’s 2nd Saturday programs, or tickets to the 6th Annual Magical History Tour concert.

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“Partnering with the RDIDA has been an organic and successful collaboration.” says Executive Director, Sime Bertolet. “In their work to create a vital, vibrant, productive, and commercially active environment in downtown Reading, RDIDA has championed the value of our community’s rich history as an essential element of what makes the city of Reading such a great place to live, work and play. The Berks History on Penn project is an opportunity to garner interest and increase visitation to the Downtown Improvement District while showcasing the rich history of downtown Reading.”

Charles Broad, Executive Director of the Downtown Improvement District, pointed out that the collaborative effort is yet another way to boost center city’s vitality.

“This is a creative use of vacant space in the heart of the city,” Broad said. “It’s going to stir up a very positive buzz and help promote the marketing of these valuable properties in the heart of Reading.”

Stay tuned for more information about your Berks History on Penn!

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.

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