News Column

Artifacts arrive at museum in Waterford

July 2, 2014

By Gerry Weiss, Erie Times-News, Pa.

July 02--WATERFORD -- It was no bigger than a quarter, and was more than 260 years old.

The lead bale seal installed this morning into a display case at the Fort LeBoeuf Museum was likely part of a transaction between French soldiers stationed here and Indians trading their furs for guns and food.

Janet Johnson, a curator with the Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission, handled the seal very carefully.

She pulled it out of an acid-free sleeve while wearing white cotton gloves.

"It's in very good condition," Johnson said today before the relic was placed in an exhibit.

Johnson and Janice Mullin, of the state's Bureau of Historic Sites and Museums, drove from Harrisburg on Tuesday to the museum on Route 19 in Waterford to deliver the seal and 19 other artifacts that were excavated from land occupied in the 1750s by the French Fort LeBoeuf.

The artifacts, which included knives, eating utensils and gun parts, were returned to the Fort LeBoeuf museum in time for what officials are calling a grand reopening on July 16.

The artifacts are on loan from the state to the Fort LeBoeuf Historical Society.

The museum, built by the state in 1970, closed in 2010 due to state budget cuts. Historical Society volunteers reopened the museum in April with the permission of the commission.

The return of the centuries-old artifacts comes on the heels of the state Senate and House in June approving a bill authorizing the sale of the Fort LeBoeuf Museum, Judson House and Washington Monument Park to the Historical Society for $1 each.

The bill is now awaiting the governor's signature, which is expected soon.

"The Historical Society invested a lot of time and resources and volunteer hours into the museum and to bringing it back up," Mullin said this morning before she and Jones drove back to Harrisburg. "They've shown great responsibility and real dedication and commitment to the site."

The museum in Waterford had about 50 items, 75 percent of which are replicas, before the 20 artifacts arrived.

"I hope it's a draw to bring more people in here," said Jim Edwards, vice president of the Historical Society. "It's part of the history of our area."

The artifacts included a main spring and hammer found in a musket, axes for chopping wood, gun flints, a pocketknife, and a metal ring that when sparked started a fire.

"It's exciting," Edwards said today. "It takes you back to the people who had these and were running around here 260 years ago."

Johnson said the state has another 100 artifacts stored by the commission that were excavated at the Waterford historical sites.

"If they want to borrow more, we can entertain that and keep the conversation open," she added. "This was to start the process. As they develop more exhibits here, we could provide additional artifacts relevant to the exhibits."


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Source: Erie Times-News (PA)

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