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Historical, cultural landmarks partner for 'Free Museum Day' in Ligonier Valley

| Wednesday, April 23, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Roberta Smith, executive director of  the Ligonier Valley Historical Society shows off some of the newly arranged 1840s-styled bedrooms at The Compass Inn in Laughlintown. The rooms will be included in the second- floor tour at the inn when the museum officially opens for the season in May.
Brian F. Henry | Trib Total Media
Roberta Smith, executive director of the Ligonier Valley Historical Society shows off some of the newly arranged 1840s-styled bedrooms at The Compass Inn in Laughlintown. The rooms will be included in the second- floor tour at the inn when the museum officially opens for the season in May.

Ligonier Valley museums will partner together to offer a free- admission day on May 4.

For the seventh year, the public is invited to visit six local historical and cultural landmarks. Special programs and various activities will be conducted throughout the day.

“This event started in 2008 in conjunction with Ligonier 250 as a way to thank our community for their support,” said Annie Urban, executive director at Fort Ligonier. “I believe it was only Fort Ligonier and Compass Inn as participants in the first year. Since then, it has grown significantly, with six partner museums joining together to promote the museum experience in the Ligonier Valley.”

Originally, the free admission was only offered to residents of the Ligonier Valley. The free admission was later extended to residents of Westmoreland County.

“Then, last year, we made it a ‘free museum day' for all,” said Urban.

Fort Ligonier fires up ovens for museum day

Visitors to Fort Ligonier will experience 18th-century colonial culture and customs. Craftsmen will present blacksmithing and musket-firing demonstrations while fresh breads will be baking in the field ovens. The fort, artillery park and museum will be open 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. that day. There will be special activities for children throughout the afternoon.

“Last year, we drew our biggest attendance since “community day” began,” said Urban. “At the fort, we welcomed over 600 visitors that day.”-

Compass Inn offers

19th-century arts, history

Experience arts and history at the Compass Inn Museum. Visitors will tour the first floor of the inn, see blacksmith and cook house demonstrations have the opportunity to make a 19th-century craft. The second floor of the inn and the barn will be closed because of renovations, however, the stagecoach will be visible. The inn museum will be open 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Lincoln Highway artisans demonstrate crafts

In addition to touring the Lincoln Highway Experience museum, visitors will observe Handmade along the Highway artisans demonstrating crafts 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Musical entertainment will be provided. The award winning “Through the Windshield” film will be showing throughout the day. Lunch will be available at the Miss Meatball Food Truck.

Kids make tracks to Ligonier Valley Railroad Museum

The Ligonier Valley Railroad Association's restored Darlington Station museum will feature artifacts on display including lanterns, marker lamps and an interactive map of the Ligonier Valley Rail Road. The 1905 Bobber Caboose will be open for touring.

“We had about 400 visitors last year, at least half of whom were children. Kids like rides and the caboose is always an attraction, young and old,” said Bill Potthoff. “It's 109 years old. Most children have never seen one or been in one so it's something they remember. We are going to have a trackless train ride for kids for $1, as we did last year. It was a big success.”

The railroad museum is open 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on that date.

Heritage museum features a treasure hunt

Antiochian Heritage Museum curator and librarian Julia Ritter sees Free Museum Day as a chance for visitors to explore the rich variety of offerings in the area.

“We all open our doors for free for a day, and invite visitors to try something new — take their family somewhere for the first time, expand their horizons, maybe even come to the Ligonier Valley for the first time.” said Ritter.

The museum, located just six miles north of the Ligonier Diamond, at 40 Church Camp Trail in Bolivar, will be offering a treasure hunt which takes visitors through its two new exhibits: “Women with Icons: Photographs by Jocelyn Mathewes,” a series of contemporary portraits exploring the beauty and meaning of iconography and the Eastern Orthodox Church; and “Eternal Spring: The Art of Leila Chokheli,” a colorful display celebrating the joyous spirit of the artist, whose faith and artistic expression persevered even under Communist rule in her native Georgia.

Refreshments will be served in the museum lobby. The museum will be open 1 to 4 p.m.

SAMA gardens blossom for museum day

The Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art will present the “Scrap Redefined: Works by Mei Greer and Ronald Nigro” exhibition. It features 70 exclusive photographs and assemblage pieces showcasing the beauty found in discarded ordinary materials. Visitors may walk through the museum's gardens and participate in family-friendly, educational programs like a scavenger hunt, self-guided tours and puzzles. The museum will be open 1 to 5 p.m.

“The Ligonier Valley has a wealth of historic and visual art museums. Free Museum Day is a great time to view the diverse exhibitions and take advantage of the different activities at each museum,” said Sommer Toffle Museum coordinator. “We want everyone in the community and beyond to experience some of our great attractions.”

Urban echoes Toffle's sentiment and encourages anyone who has not been to the fort or any of the museums participating in the event, to take advantage of this free admission opportunity.

“Many times we hear the comment, “I didn't know Ligonier had that many museums.” said Urban.

Deborah A. Brehun is a staff editor for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-238-2111 or

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