Throughout the month of April, The State Museum of Pennsylvania will present a series of programs on the state’s historic landscapes using the hand-drawn, bird’s-eye views of Pennsylvania cities and towns by Thaddeus Mortimer “T.M.” Fowler featured in the exhibit Every Thing of Interest Shown: T.M. Fowler’s Pennsylvania Bird’s-Eye Views, 1885-1905, currently on display.
Fowler’s views offer a treasure trove of information for historians and those concerned more generally with the fate of Pennsylvania’s historic industrial and urban landscapes. Speakers for this “Learn at Lunchtime” series will discuss the ways these “snapshots in time” help visualize previously obscured landscape elements and how that information can be used in documentation, planning and revitalization efforts.
Programs are scheduled for 12:15 PM on Friday, April 13, 20 and 27 and are included with museum admission.
The first of the three-part program will take place on Friday, April 13. Historic preservation specialists from the State Historic Preservation Office, Bryan Van Sweden and Shelby Splain, will discuss the uses of Fowler’s maps in historic preservation. When combined with other resources, these views can offer architects, planners, and preservation advocates clues about how these communities grew and developed and how the townscapes, residential and commercial buildings, and regional industries have changed over time. Program participants will explore such topics as historic architecture and African American community building in late 19th-century Pennsylvania.
On April 20, John Hayden, an engineer with Reynolds Energy Services in Harrisburg, will discuss the past, present and future of Pennsylvania’s industrial communities. Fowler’s views were highly regarded for their accurate depiction of not just buildings but also infrastructure – the industries and transportation systems that allowed these towns and cities to grow and prosper in the decades after the Civil War. By drawing on satellite imagery and other resources, Hayden will discuss some of the ways that Fowler’s views can be used to guide municipalities as they look to modernize their local economies and build on their past.
On April 27, in the final program of the series, Kurt Bell, archivist from the Pennsylvania State Archives, will explore how Fowler’s views can be used to document and interpret the history of Pennsylvania’s vast railroad network in the late 19th century. The presentation will look at a few case studies of Fowler maps from Pittsburgh, Scranton, Altoona, Columbia and elsewhere to illustrate the details of yards, tunnels, depots, bridges, track rights-of-way, and parallel transport systems such as canals, turnpikes, and stagecoach routes. Bell’s presentation will also look at the broader geography of railroads in Pennsylvania and their relationship to the many communities that they served and helped shape.
The exhibit Every Thing of Interest Shown: T.M. Fowler’s Pennsylvania Bird’s-Eye Views, 1885-1905 showcases roughly 30 panoramic bird’s-eye views of Pennsylvania communities as they appeared during the late 19th century.
During the span of his nearly 50-year career, Fowler produced more than 400 panoramic maps of cities and towns across the U.S. – more than that of any other American view maker. Of that total, more than half were of Pennsylvania communities. Pennsylvania has more bird’s-eye views than any other state.
The exhibit, located on the first floor of The State Museum, runs through Sunday, May 6.
The State Museum of Pennsylvania, adjacent to the State Capitol in Harrisburg, is one of 24 historic sites and museums administered by the Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission as part of the Pennsylvania Trails of History. The State Museum offers expansive collections interpreting Pennsylvania’s fascinating heritage. With exhibits examining the dawn of geologic time, the Native American experience, the colonial and revolutionary eras, a pivotal Civil War battleground, and the commonwealth’s vast industrial age, The State Museum demonstrates that Pennsylvania’s story is America’s story.
Museum hours are Wednesday through Saturday 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM and Sunday 12:00 PM to 5:00 PM. Admission is $7 for adults (ages 12-64), $6 for senior citizens (ages 65 and up), and $5 for children (ages 1-11).
MEDIA CONTACT: Howard Pollman, 717-705-8639