Friday, July 22, 2011

Gaining Appreciation Through Experience

As part of our original vision for Landis Valley Village and Farm Museum, or “Landis Valley Barn Museum,” as we once called it, visitors can often see tools used to do the chores commonly done by Pennsylvania Germans around our home, as well as the art created and games played in leisure time. Washboards, yokes and buckets, scherenschnitte, clothing irons, and fraktur all have a place in the collection. Visitors are not to touch them, though. Just look, possibly smell, and quietly imagine the lives revolving around these artifacts.

Nowadays, washing machines have replaced the women who scrubbed at the boards all day. No longer do children have to use a yoke to carry water-filled buckets around their necks, for the electric well pump has delivered them from this chore. Mattresses are not only bought—versus homemade—but they are filled with springs, foam, and/or cotton, not straw. Books, like the ones by Laura Ingalls Wilder or my father’s own diary, can give one an intimate glimpse of the actual people who labored to get these chores done, but a sentence, a photograph (such as the one above, which I took at my grandfather's (George Diller) house in the 1880s), and the artifact itself still lend a sense of detachment to the task itself. It was done many years ago…

There are some days during the year when these artifacts star in an interactive experience, Hands-On History Days, when the past imprints itself onto the memory and our visitors come away with a renewed appreciation for the modern way of life. On August 2, from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m., Landis Valley invites all of our visitors, not just the children, to get your hands dirty and wash linens on a washboard, carry water on a yoke, fill a mattress, help with the quilting and the ironing, and still have time to take lessons at the one-room schoolhouse. Those who get their chores done can pass some leisure time playing games like Hoop and Stick or Grace, taking a wagon ride, or quietly indulging in the creation of keepsakes like fraktur and scherenschnitte.

Hands-On History Days are an homage to where we are today by dealing a firm dose of the labors and pleasures of yesterday. Look at the artifacts with an impartiality begotten by modern society now, then study them after your chores are done with an appreciation of the hard work it took to wash clothes, stuff a mattress, or create a beautiful fraktur. Then relax and let the horses carry you on a leisurely wagon ride around my beautiful home.

Upcoming Hands-On History Days:

Tuesday, August 2

Thursday, September 22

Thursday, October 13

Thursday, October 27

Thursday, November 10

The day begins at 10 a.m. and lasts until 3 p.m. The cost is $10 for anyone (and we mean any and all visitors) ages 6 and older. Children 5 and younger are free.

Recent Events:

Civil War Day was a huge success, with coverage on Fox43. Here is a clip featuring our own Tom Martin being interviewed by Melanie Gardner.

The Food and Spirits Festival featured celebrity chefs Fabio Viviani and Rocky Fino, as well as chefs and representatives from local restaurants, breweries, wineries and more. All in all, it was a great experience, with pleasant weather and great food and beverage all around. The event introduced this beautiful place to local residents who had never heard of it before and to chefs who viewed it as a unique venue for a tasting festival. We welcome them all with relish.


  1. Where did that photo of the washing women come from? I recognize it, because I grew up on the farm where that photo was taken. Any possibility there are other photos or information related to it?

  2. Henry K. Landis took many images of the working men and women around his home. The women pictured above were employed by George Diller and the photo was taken by Landis in the 1880's. You can find the image and others in the book, "The Landis Family Album" by Dr. Irwin Richman. You can get it on or at the Landis Valley Museum Store:

    Thanks, toddandrew, for your interest in the photo and our museum! What did the farm look like when you lived there?