Friday, March 7, 2014

Pat Johnson shares her experience, love of spinning & gardening, and her very important role at the Ephrata Cloister

Pat Johnson is one of many of our dedicated volunteers! She shares her love of fiber while demonstrating spinning during Community Days and special programs. Each Tuesday afternoon you’ll find Pat delightfully greeting our visitors to the Ephrata Cloister as one of our many front desk associates. Additionally she helped to design, harvest, and photograph last year's dye garden with her guild.

Pat Johnson

Tell us about your experience as a volunteer:
 I would take a day off and participate in community days, I would volunteer for Founders Day, and it’s been off and on for a long time. It’s been since I retired I’ve been able to come more often and help at the front desk.
One of our guild members who also volunteers here, her son is a student historian, got the idea to have an 18th century dye garden! I was on the committee, and was part of the planning and took pictures of the garden for the guild. I’m looking forward to doing some dying from the plants we grew there this summer. We’ve been harvesting all throughout the summer! 

The Dye Garden in 2013 at the Ephrata Cloister
What do you enjoy most about your volunteer experience?
I love demonstrating spinning! I was a member of the Associates and occasionally volunteering and then I found out about other needs such as your front desk position! I enjoy talking about people finding out where they’re from. 

Tell us a little bit about your Spinning demonstration:
I love explaining the process and sharing the importance it played in the lives of the people in the 1700s. There are very often men that are fascinated about the spinning wheel itself, and the kids are fascinated by fiber.  If you were going to have fabric to make your clothes, it takes about a year from the minute you plant the flax seed till it grows, is harvested, later processed, and woven to make linen. Now, if you’re spinning wool, you need to have a sheep, and while it might be quicker to shear the sheep and start spinning but remember you have to care for the sheep. These are some of the kinds of things I talk to our visitors about.

Pat Johnson on the Art of Spinning:
For me with spinning, it’s a journey not the destination. The fact I make yarn, and a pair of mittens is just icing on the cake, it is the spinning itself that I thoroughly enjoy. I love talking about it and teaching others to spin.  I’ll teach anyone to spin! Given the opportunity I love to pass it on, a friend taught me so I’m teaching other people. 

How long have you been a Spinner?
Not near long enough, about 12-13 years. I put it off too many years; I wanted to spin all my life, ever since I read Rumplestiltskin.

What are you looking forward to most this year at the Ephrata Cloister?
 I’m looking forward to the winter history class. I was unable to attend last year but after my retirement I was able to sign up for it. The architecture program was one of my favorites! They did a lot of talking about the placement of the chimneys and the era of the house, there were lots of little things like that. The class reemphasized for me how many different periods of architecture are featured in our town of Ephrata. 


If you'd like to become a Front Desk Associate like Pat Johnson, contact the Historic Ephrata Cloister at 717-733-6600 and we'll be happy to share more information about our position.  

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

A Day of Maintenance at the Ephrata Cloister

There's a playful and creative side to our life behind the scenes at the Ephrata Cloister.
To highlight a day in the life of our Maintenance Foreman, Mike Wagner adapted the lyrics to Que Sera Sera written by Ray Evans (but made famous by actress Doris Day) to illustrate a typical day at the Cloister.

On my way to work I decided to work on two window panes, they needed scraped and glazed.

After disarming the site.

I turned on my computer to check my e-mail and I found out the internet was not turned on.

My day is starting like an old song by Doris Day (Que Sara Sera)

I went down to the Visitors Center to plug in the internet so we unplug the internet overnight in case there is a surge. (I. T. is checking, to see if they can get us a new one).

I will work on the windows when I get the internet back on (Que Sara Sera)

When I went in the Visitors Center I saw a note on the counter of the Point of Sale that said the phone line burned up under the desk. I checked it out and it was shorted out.

I will work on the windows when I get the phone working (Que Sara Sera)

I went up to the shop and found another phone cord and went back down to the Visitors Center and plugged it in and got the phone back on line.

I then checked my mail box since I was in the Visitors Center and found that the bank statement was delivered and it needed to be balanced.

I will work on the windows when I get it balanced (Que Sara Sera)

When the bank statement was balanced I gave it to Elizabeth (The Site Director) to approve and send it to Harrisburg.

I was then ask to help set up the auditorium for the meeting on Tuesday.

I will work on the windows after I help set up the auditorium (Que Sara Sera)

Now it’s lunch time.

I will work on the windows after lunch (Que Sara Sera)

After lunch a truck brought the surge protector and battery backup that no one let us know was coming. So I had to help get it unloaded.

I will work on the windows after the truck is unloaded (Que Sara Sera)

I then remembered I needed two extensions cords and a timer for the coffee pot in the auditorium for the meeting.

It’s getting late so I decided to use the rest of the day by working on a Hazardous Substance Report Form for Harrisburg.

I will work on the windows tomorrow (Que Sara Sera whatever will be will be, our future not ours to see Que Sara Sera)

Adaptation by Mike Wagner, Maintenance Foreman, The Historic Ephrata Cloister

Friday, February 14, 2014

Ned Foltz & Sam Shoemaker visit the Student Historians

 On February 6, Ned Foltz and Sam Shoemaker from Foltz Pottery shared their talents at making PA German Redware with our student historians! Ned has been making redware for over 50 years in Reinholds, just north of Ephrata PA- check out his website

Each of his unique plates are made with clay from the PA area. Years ago he used to find clay in the Herzog Valley and the Denver area and process the clay at his studio. His plates are hand formed, shaped over a form. A cogglewheel is pulled over the lip of each surface providing the rough textured edge. Each plate is partially dried with two coats of a slip (aka liquid clay).  The students replicated Ned & Sam's own process as they traced his tulip design on top of the slip- they used a pencil which lightly transferred the design onto the slip. Ned brought multiple designs of tulips for each student to use but each student made their own creative adjustments to the design.  The students used scratching tools to pull away the liquid clay slip from the plate- this process is called Scraffito, referring to the scratched surface. Ned and Sam took our plates back to their studio for firing. We're excited to receive our plates back in a few weeks & we'll share those pictures with you!

Thank you Ned & Sam for being so generous with your time and talents and we look forward to sharing what we've learned with others!

Friday, January 31, 2014

18th Century Inks & the Colors of Ephrata's World

 Yesterday was our first day of Winter History Class, our series of adult lectures about PA German and German American history! We started our season off learning about 18th century inks from our Museum Educator, Michael Showalter!

We learned so much about colonial inks! Michael brought in a wide variety of samples of powders, minerals, and raw ingredients that were used in the 18th century- including fragments of Isenglass, the dried swim bladder of a fish. In the 18th century it was used as a binder. Today Isenglass is used in the beer brewing process.

Did you know that there are two recipes for making ink that were printed here at the Ephrata Cloister? Thanks to Brother Obed, the first documented school master of Ephrata Cloister, we know two recipes! Brother Obed (a.k.a. Ludwig Hocker) included two recipes for ink in his Short Useful School Booklet printed here in 1786. He includes a recipe for iron gall ink and red ink.

Brother Obed's ingredients for making black ink are: 1/2lb of gall, 1/4lb of copperas, 1/4lb of gum arabic, 1/2 oz Alum (not the same type as used in baking), 1/2oz of salt, cider vinegar and rain water.

Brother Obed's ingredient list for red ink is: 3 pints of sour beer, 4oz of ground redwood (likely Sappanwood or Brazilwood from SE Asia or Central America), and 4oz of alum (again, not the kind we use in baking).

Copperas, or iron sulfate, and redwood, Sappanwood, were available to purchase from colorshops in Pennsylvania. Copperas was used in the production of black inks and Sappanwood was used to make red inks.

The Fraktur artists at Ephrata and likely in other parts of SE PA likely purchased dried pigments from suppliers in Philadelphia, Lancaster, and other cities. Peter Miller who ran the brother's print shop corresponded frequently with Christopher Marshall in Philadelphia. Christopher Marshall and his son operated an apothecary and later a colorshop in the city and sold items such as cochineal, vermillion, copperas, lampblack, and galls in 1746- these were raw ingredients needed for the production of ink. Is Marshall the source of pigments for the Ephrata Cloister? We don't know, but it's certainly worth exploring the possibility!

Each week we'll be learning something new in Winter History Class. Coming up on February 6, Dr. Jeff Bach from the Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies at Elizabethtown College will present on the newly translated Eckerlin letters. The Eckerlins left Ephrata in 1745 and lived in the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia but corresponded with fellow Brethren here in Ephrata. Learn more on February 6, from 9-noon at the Ephrata Cloister. For a complete winter history class schedule and to register, please visit 

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Part 2: More Reflections More Objects

In our last post, we reviewed the objects Madelyn brought to our meeting of the Student Historians and reflected on the objects our grandparents owned, changes in photographic technology, and lastly, how we become informed about history. This week we're reminded how objects can be a reflection of pride and personal growth. 

What are some of the objects that you own that evoke a sense of personal pride?
Shaniece with a copy of the Comic Book Artist
Shaniece brought in the script of The Comic Book Artist by Pat Lydersen. This play represents her introduction to theater! She was visibly excited to share with us her copy of the Comic Book Artist and when she was cast in her very first main role. Her positive early experience in theater encouraged her to continue in theater arts, she's participated in at least 16 productions since the 5th grade! As we learned more about Shaniece's experience in the Comic Book Artist, it inspired a discussion about how objects reflect personal pride. This was an object that wasn't passed down from generation to generation like a family heirloom, but one that evoked her pride and her passions- objects can be biographical. Shaniece enjoys theater and performs not only for the Ephrata Cloister (she starred as Phoebe Gibbons during our 2013 Lantern Tours season) but also at the Ephrata Performing Arts Center and Ephrata High School. Her conversation about theater encouraged others to share their interests in the performing arts.

An ordinary object can be a catalyst for learning opportunities and unique conversations- they tell stories about personal histories and the history of others. Sometimes when we look, smell, or touch an ordinary object, our actions might spark personal memories, a creative idea, or evoke a sense of pride. These are just some of the ways in which objects- including museum artifacts- can be incredibly powerful.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Part 1. Ordinary objects tell amazing stories.

An ordinary object can be a catalyst for learning opportunities and unique conversations- they tell stories about personal histories and the history of others. Sometimes when we look, smell, or touch an ordinary object, our actions might spark personal memories, a creative idea, or evoke a sense of pride. These are just some of the ways in which objects- including museum artifacts- can be incredibly powerful. In our recent meeting of our Student Historians, our students brought in objects from home to share with others.

As you read the summaries about the objects our students brought to our meeting, take a minute or two to reflect on something you own. Next time you're with a group in a museum, lean in and listen to a conversation visitors are having about an object on exhibit- discover how something so simple as a rolling pin or a teapot on exhibit can quickly become the catalyst for unique conversations and learning opportunities.

Madelyn with a copy of an 1897 edition of Martin G. Brumbaugh's Stories of Pennsylvania.

Madelyn couldn't resist bringing in more than one object to share with us. She brought an early Kodak Hawkeye Brownie camera and two books: Stories of Pennsylvania by Martin Brumbaugh, and Report from Tokyo, written by the US Ambassador to Japan in 1942.

The Hawkeye Brownie camera was owned by her Grandfather; when she sees the camera on the shelf she not only is reminded of her grandfather, but how the process of photography has changed today. She wondered how he used it and what he photographed. She even allowed each of us to hold it and note what differences there are between a modern digital camera and a vintage camera. We even learned that many of us have camera collections and are interested in photography. The word Hawkeye on the front of the camera also caused her to chuckle and think of a former teacher, "When I look at the camera, it reminds me of one of my former teachers whose nickname was Hawkeye".

The two books she brought with her were purchased at a public library book sale and garage sale. As she opened them for us she remarked, "The smell of old books remind me of my grandfather's house", and further described her curiosity with the books as they both documented a particular history and perspective in American history. Brumbaugh who wrote Stories of Pennsylvania was the former governor of Pennsylvania from 1915-1919.  Stories of Pennsylvania was written and designed for classroom use. Madelyn pointed out there was a Brumbaugh involved in the history of the Cloister; Martin Brumbaugh was the father of G. Edwin Brumbaugh, who led the architectural restoration of the Ephrata Cloister from 1940 through 1960. Her last object, Report from Tokyo, a book written by the U.S. Ambassador to Japan in support of the war effort, surprised Madelyn as she said "you can read about history, [referring to a standard high school social studies textbook] but how often do you see something like this?!".

Madelyn's objects and our reflection on them made us think about so many things. We thought about objects our grandparents owned, changes in photographic technology, nicknames we have for teachers, and lastly, how we become informed about history.

Thank you Madelyn for making us ponder all of these great things! 

Stay tuned this week for Part 2: more reflections more objects.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

An #ExtraGive Feature: a Story of Charity at the Ephrata Cloister

For a special treat, the character of Dr. Scott will be returning to the site on Friday November 22 at 6:30pm as part of the Ephrata Cloister Associates annual meeting & our ExtraOrdinary Give festivities!

In February 1776, Dr. Moses Scott in New Jersey had just sat down to a meal when he learned that the invading British Army was headed toward his home. He quickly escaped, but the enemies confiscated the medical equipment and supplies Scott had bought with his own money. 
Moses Scott was not one of the curious tourists who came to Ephrata looking to view the unusual lifestyle of the Cloister’s celibate Brothers and Sisters. He and the other soldiers must have left with a new found respect for the charity this community always shared with those in need.

It’s not surprising he soon joined the patriots and lent his skills to American cause. The winter when George Washington was at Valley Forge, Dr. Scott found himself 60 miles away in charge of a temporary hospital in the German religious settlement of Ephrata, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.

The Revolutionary War hospital located at Historic Ephrata Cloister has always been a subject of interest and source of many legends. Records are sketchy, but we know there were probably about 320 men sent to Ephrata! 60 were interred in the Mount Zion Cemetery- you can visit the monument today. Contrary to legend, archaeology has shown that the buildings which housed the sick men were not destroyed after their departure in 1778. When Ephrata’s Peter Miller later wrote that the winter was “spent comfortably and many hours with edification of spirit,” we might imagine that Dr. Scott spent time in casual conversation with Peter.

After a second difficult winter in the military hospitals of Morristown, Dr. Scott left the service in 1780. He returned to his private medical practice in New Brunswick, New Jersey, but he did not retire from public life. Instead, he was active in the New Jersey medical society and served as an elder of his church. 

The stories and treasures of the past need your help to continue their preservation. Help make LancasterCounty’s Extra Give extra special for Historic Ephrata Cloister on November 22. For a special treat, the character of Dr. Scott will be returning to the site on Friday evening as part of the Ephrata Cloister Associates annual meeting. It’s your chance to engage in the past and help insure its future.
The views contained within do not necessarily reflect those of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC), Historic Ephrata Cloister or Ephrata Cloister Associates, as a whole, nor the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

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