New Exhibit to be Unveiled at 150th Anniversary Kick-Off Celebration Event

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The Berks History Center is pleased to announce the grand opening of 150 Objects of Berks History, a new temporary exhibit that celebrates 150 years of preserving Berks County’s history at the Berks History Center. The exhibit will open during the Berks History Center’s 150th Anniversary kick-off celebration, the Charter Day Jubilee, on July 12, 2019 from 6pm-9pm, located at 940 Centre Avenue, Reading, PA 19601.

Since 1898, the Berks History Center (BHC) has been dedicated to building a groundbreaking collection of artifacts, artwork, manuscripts and library materials. Today, the BHC’s diverse holdings feature more than 20,000 objects related to all facets of Berks County’s rich heritage. Curated by BHC Curator, Bradley K. Smith in honor of the organization’s 150th Anniversary, 150 Objects of Berks History will showcase 150 rarely-seen items from the BHC collection that tell compelling stories of Berks County’s unique past. Thanks to a generous donation by the Focht Family Foundation, the BHC’s Palmer Gallery was newly renovated for the exhibit opening.

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“This exhibit showcases an assortment of obscure artifacts that were discovered during the Collections Management Initiative, along with select items from our library collections,” says exhibit curator, Bradley K. Smith. “Because of the breadth of materials in the BHC collections, it was a challenge to select only 150 objects. However, each object helps to tell an important story about Berks County’s history, including stories about its people, its unique sense of community, its industries and commerce, its notable connections to national events, and of course, its commitment to valuing and preserving history.”

The opening of the new 150th Anniversary exhibit coincides with a historic milestone for the organization: the Charter Day Jubilee marks the anniversary date of when the organization’s charter was first signed in July, 1869. We invite you to join us for the opening of 150 Objects of Berks History at the BHC’s 150th Anniversary kick-off event, the Charter Day Jubilee, which will be held from 6-9pm in the BHC Museum.

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Party like it’s 1869 and enjoy an evening of enchantment and entertainment with BHC’s special “museum theatre” featuring historical characters and storytellers throughout the museum. Berks historical figures such as Widow Finney, Rhea Duryea, and George Durell will come alive and share their Berks history in the 13 galleries and exhibits of the BHC museum. Participants will also enjoy hors d’oeuvres, a champagne toast, a silent auction, special guests, and musical entertainment. A cash bar featuring a specialty “throwback” cocktail menu will be provided by Pollen Consolidated. Participants will also have an opportunity to enjoy BHC’s exclusive 150th Anniversary beer, brewed by Oakbrook Brewing Company.

Tickets to the 150th Anniversary Charter Day Jubilee are $25.00 and can be purchased by calling 610-375-4375 or click here to purchase online. Food, musical entertainment, a champagne toast, admission to the museum theatre and the 150 Objects of Berks History exhibit are included in the cost.

The Berks History Center’s 150th Anniversary is supported by a number of Berks County businesses who recognize the importance and value of historical preservation in Berks County. The Berks History Center would like to thank its 150th Anniversary sponsors:

  • M&T Bank
  • Conrad Weiser Society, C.A.R.
  • Faye & Co
  • Oakbrook Brewing Company
  • The Tillman Team of Remax
  • Stokesay Castle
  • Pagoda Skyline
  • Tom Smith, Retirement & Medicare Specialist
  • Wyndam Advisors
  • White Star Tours
  • Poore Group of Morgan Stanley
  • Tompkins Financial
  • Pennsylvania Historical Museum Commission
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Berks History Center Celebrates Its 150th Anniversary

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The Berks History Center (BHC) invites you to celebrate its 150th Anniversary this year, starting with its kickoff event, the Charter Day Jubilee on July 12, 2019 from 6:00-9:00pm at the Berks History Center Museum, located at 940 Centre Ave. Reading, PA.

Incorporated in 1869 as the Historical Society of Berks County, the BHC is one of the oldest organizations of its kind in Pennsylvania. For a century and a half the goal of the BHC has remained consistent; to preserve the history and heritage of Berks County and to inform, educate and inspire our community regarding that history.

Today, the BHC welcomes over 6,000 visitors, including students, homeschoolers, senior groups, and more. To maintain the archives and museum collection and provide access to visitors, a small, professional staff is aided by dedicated volunteers who give thousands of hours of assistance simply because they’re passionate about Berks County’s history. In addition to its staff and volunteers, the BHC’s efforts are supported by a committed membership exceeding 1,200.

BHC tells the stories of Berks County’s history through its research library and museum collections, some of which are displayed in 13 newly renovated galleries and exhibits including the Trades to Industry Room, Transportation Room, PA German Room and Building Berks exhibit. The continuing efforts to improve our stewardship of Berks County history were recently recognized by PA Museums, Pennsylvania’s statewide museum association, with an Institutional Achievement Award.

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“The BHC is very proud to have served the citizens of Berks County for 150 years and we excited to celebrate this milestone with our community, says Executive Director, Sime Bertolet. “This year we are hosting several special programs and events to commemorate our anniversary that will educate, entertain and inspire our friends.”

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The first major event celebrating the BHC’s 150th Anniversary will be the Charter Day Jubilee on July 12, 2019 from 6:00-9:00pm at the Berks History Center Museum, located at 940 Centre Ave. Reading, PA. The event commemorates the day The Historical Society of Berks County was organized in July 1869 and will serve as the kick-off to the BHC’s anniversary year. The Charter Day Jubilee is a community celebration where participants will enjoy historic reenactors, hors d’oeuvres, live music, a champagne toast, and a cash bar in the BHC Museum. Food and bar service will be provided by Pollen Consolidated. Tickets to the jubilee are $25.00 and can be purchased by calling 610-375-4375 or visiting berkshistory.org/event/jubilee

Also, please join us for the Hidden Treasures of the Oley Valley Tour on October 26, 2019 from 1:00-4:00pm, located at 3098 Friedensburg Rd, Reading, PA 19606. This unique historic house and property tour seeks to recreate the early pilgrimages of the Historical Society. Participants will have the rare opportunity to explore the historic Reiff Farm and the newly renovated Hartman Farm on a special property tour, which includes a visit to Berks County’s oldest tree, the Sacred Oak. Locally produced refreshments will be included. Tickets are $15.00 and can be purchased by calling 610-375-4375 or visiting berkshistory.org/event/hiddentreasures

The Incorporation Day Birthday Bash, which will be held on December 13, 2019 from 5:30pm-7:30pm, will celebrate the date the Historical Society was incorporated in 1869. Please join us for a good old-fashioned birthday party at the Berks History Center Museum, located at 940 Centre Ave. Reading, PA 19601. Enjoy birthday cake and other refreshments with longtime friends and supporters of the BHC. During this event the BHC will be recognized for its contributions to the community. This event is free to the public but reservations are required. Please call 610-375-4375 to RSVP.

The BHC will also hold a special Gala Dinner Fundraiser, to wrap up the organization’s anniversary celebrations in 2020. The details of this event, including location and date, are to be determined.

Other 150th Anniversary activities include:

  • Special 150th-Related Second Saturday Programs
  • Special Membership Offers throughout the Anniversary Year
  • A Special 150th Anniversary Craft Beer Brewed by Oakbrook Brewing Company
  • A New Exhibit Opening in July 2019: 150 Objects of Berks County’s History

Looking Forward in 2019: A Message from the Director

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To all our good friends and supporters of Berks History Center (BHC), Happy New Year!

I hope you all had a safe, happy and healthy holiday season and that you are making it through the winter of 2018-19 in good spirits. Though we still have a bit of winter left to endure, I think it’s safe to say, “the back of this winter is broken!”

A lot’s been going on, so let’s catch up.

Members Only Holiday Happy Hour and Behind the Scenes Tour:

I’ll begin by thanking all of those who attended the BHC’s January 10th Members Only Holiday Happy Hour and Behind the Scenes Tour. I was astounded by the show of support we had from our membership at this event. Over 120 people attended and got the chance to see what the staff, volunteers and interns have accomplished as we go about preserving Your Berks History! It was an evening of conviviality shared by a membership that understands the importance and is proud of its heritage. All of us at the BHC thank you for your support of what we do. I also want to thank the tour volunteers for the evening and the staff of the BHC for their hard work especially BHC Curator Brad Smith for his attention to detail that allowed us to coordinate a total of eight groups of 10-12 people departing on tours every 10 minutes with little to no confusion or congestion. It was a sight to behold! I also wish to thank Dana Lonaberger for volunteering her time as bartender and providing us the recipe for Pompey’s Punch. Thank you!

2018-2019 Strategic Plan:

Next, let me update you on the BHC’s Strategic Plan I wrote about in my winter 2018-19 column. Facilitated by the Philadelphia consulting firm Schultz & Williams, we have made considerable progress, and from the data collected so far, along with feedback from the half-day board/staff retreat held on November 30, 2018, the central strategic planning questions the BHC looks to answer include:

  • Who do we want to be?
  • Where are we going?
  • How do we get there?

To answer these questions and create a strategic plan that addresses them, six working groups made up of BHC trustees, staff and community stakeholders were organized. Each of these working groups was tasked with focusing on key planning issues, and collectively they are working together to complete the work that is so critically important to the outcome of the planning process.

 The areas of concentration for the working groups include:

  1. Mission and Relevance
  2. Programming, Exhibits, Partnerships and Collaborations
  3. Image/Community Engagement and Membership
  4. Location and Facility
  5. Financial Stability
  6. Leadership and Board Development

The groups began by working independently, meeting at least once, but it was understood that in many cases their work was dependent on and impacted the work of other groups. As an example, whereas the principal work of the Financial Stability Work Group was to set up a sustainable business model for the entire organization, a significant portion of the budget it constructs will fund the initiatives that are created from the other working groups.

Upon completion, the tasks assigned to each working group will shape the reports they will provide Schultz & Williams. Schultz & Williams will then synthesize that information into a report that will ultimately be submitted to the Strategic Planning Task Force shaping the direction and substance of the final strategic plan. This should be finalized by late March or early April and we will be sharing the report with our membership to keep you informed on the course of action the BHC will pursue over the next 3-5 years.

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150th Anniversary/Events:

As exciting as the strategic plan is by itself, one can’t help but see its symbolic importance when viewed in conjunction with the BHC’s Sesquicentennial Anniversary in 2019-2020. The BHC is 150 years old, that’s remarkable and though there are other historical organizations that old and older, this is a huge milestone for us. From July 2019 through June 2020, BHC will be celebrating in a big way and I would like to tell you about some of the events and initiatives we have already planned.

So far, events include a Charter Day Jubilee on July 12th 2019 to commemorate the day The Historical Society of Berks County was organized in 1869, a Hidden Treasures of the Oley Valley Tour on October 19th recreating the early Pilgrimages of the Historical Society, an Incorporation Day Birthday Bash on December 13th 2019 to celebrate the date the Historical Society was incorporated in 1869, as well as special 150th Gala Dinner, (date to be determined).

These events, in addition to special 150th Anniversary membership offers and giving opportunities, a new museum exhibit, and a new publication by the BHC will serve to mark this milestone in the history of our organization. Together, the BHC’s 150th Anniversary and the strategic plan can be viewed as a “Rebirth” of one of our community’s longstanding institution and will set in motion the next chapter in our already long history.

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Palmer Gallery

My final topic for this column is the renovation of the BHC’s Palmer Gallery. This is something we have wanted to do for a while and following the dismantling of the World War I & Berks Exhibit, it was time to move on this assignment.

The renovations were made possible by a generous gift from the Focht Family Foundation and include: Removing the existing wall paper, prep-work and painting of the walls, ceiling and trim, in addition to the installation of new carpeting throughout the gallery. The project will be finished in plenty of time for the installation of our upcoming exhibit commemorating the HSBC/BHC’s 150th Anniversary Celebration.

All of us at the BHC wish to thank the Focht Family Foundation for their generous support and for assisting us in entering our Sesquicentennial with an exhibit gallery worthy of this auspicious occasion.

That’s it for now and I look forward to reconvening with you with the summer 2019 issue of The Review. Wishing you all the best, until then…