Visitors to Fort Ligonier Days Oct. 13-15 can get a sneak preview of new exhibits being installed at Fort Ligonier.
Erica Nuckles, museum director of history and collections, is working with Capital Exhibits of Manassas, Va., to mount murals, upgrade display cases, better showcase artifacts and unveil a miniature, indoor fort, all part of upgrades the museum has added over the past year.
“These are new exhibits the public has never seen,” says Julie Donovan, museum director of marketing and public relations.
Museum officials worked with Capital Exhibits on this portion of the museum’s ongoing $13 million expansion and enhancement project,
“This is going to be a huge step forward in completing the museum,” Nuckles says.
The new exhibits will help better tell, Nuckles believes, the stories of the people who populated the fort 250 years ago.
Visitors to the 200 S. Market St. museum will encounter a reverse time line exhibit, taking them from the present back to the 1758 beginnings of the fort as they proceed into the building.
“It will start with today’s news and go back to the era of the French and Indian War to help put visitors in a mindset before the Civil War and the Revolutionary War. Women can’t vote. There is no Internet. There are no cars,” Nuckles says.
A mural and panel exhibit features Forbes Road and introduces General John Forbes and explains his mission.
“I call it kind of creepy beautiful. The forest was very dark, dense and eerie, compared to what we think of as forest today,” Nuckles says.
Fort Ligonier was the final post on the Forbes Road and the staging area in southwestern Pennsylvania to attack Fort Duquesne, a French citadel (which Forbes later named Pittsburgh).
A new sound pod in the History Gallery will allow visitors to “hear the progress of the battle happening” on Oct. 12, 1758, she says.
Children will find period clothing to try on and can pack a sack as if they were going on a military campaign.
A large, fort-shaped case will give visitors a preview of what awaits them as they exit the museum and see the reconstructed fort.
Artifacts and dioramas will be displayed under new glass cases.
“Until now, we were using the same cases since the museum began operations in 1962,” Nuckles says.
With the new Center for History Education, more museum space is freed up for displays, she says.
Exhibits will help visitors better understand artifacts found on site, including a large collection of shoe leather found in a streambed.
“One of my favorite parts of the new exhibits is 99 percent of a (frontier) woman’s shoe,” Nuckles says.
A Colonial Williamsburg crafter was able to put the pieces back together, to be shown along with a reproduction shoe.
The St. Clair Parlor, the only room remaining from “The Hermitage,” Arthur St. Clair’s Ligonier Valley estate, will be open to visitors for the first time, with new panels explaining St. Clair’s role in the French and Indian War.
The new George Washington Gallery will be devoted to artifacts from the nation’s first president, including a set of 18th-century steel-mounted saddle pistols inlaid with gold and silver, given to Washington by France’s Marquis de Lafayette, and Washington’s handwritten account of his years on the Pennsylvania frontier during the French and Indian War.
“We didn’t have space to exhibit those together,” Nuckles says.
The museum was recently notified that those pistols will receive the NRA’s National Treasure Gold Medal Award.
NRA spokesman Jason Brown says it is only the fourth time in more than 20 years that the award will be presented, likely at an upcoming NRA event in the state.
“We are very excited for people to enjoy the new exhibits. … We’re just thrilled,” Nuckles says.
Mary Pickels is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-836-5401 or [email protected] or via Twitter @MaryPickels.