Meadowcroft’s October Fall Finale program marks the last full weekend of our general public season, but we continue to welcome field trips until mid-November. As we approach the end of our season, a common question we get from visitors with a puzzled look on their faces is, “What do you do over the winter?” The majority of the museum interpreters you know and love (think: blacksmiths, schoolmasters, and others) are seasonally employed, which means Meadowcroft trims down to a staff of four heading into the off-season months of December through April.
Although the winter closure is due to the outdoor nature of our museum, the respite gives three of our departments (Maintenance and Facilities, Visitor Services, and Education) an opportunity to tackle larger projects that can’t be done during the hustle and bustle of our regular season. Every year after closing, exhibits are winterized for months of dormancy. The cabins in our Frontier Trading Post get tarped over to add extra protection from moisture and sunlight, which accelerate the deterioration of the building materials. Visual aids from the Monongahela Indian Village are brought indoors and maintained. The matting is removed from the wigwams, and new saplings are added to the frames as needed to get a head start on preparations for putting it all back together come spring.
While Meadowcroft’s Education department is working outside to get things set for riding out the winter, the Visitor Services department is working inside to get the gift shop in order. The inventory is gathered and counted, while shelves and display cases are deep-cleaned and reassembled. Once finished, we can turn our attention to debriefing on the past season. Education and Visitor Services work together to prepare the final attendance reports, visitor demographic analyses, and visitor feedback to get a clear understanding of how the season went and what should be done in the future. Using that information, we spend the winter taking reservations, scheduling events, and coming up with new programming.
Busiest of all during the off-season is the Maintenance and Facilities department, which has the opportunity to create the mega-sized messes their large-scale projects typically create. In years past, the off-season has enabled us to bring in contractors for major projects that give our historic structures the TLC they so desperately needed. Already this off-season, we’ve been able to fix the path at the Miller Museum and cut a new trail to finally connect the Frontier Trading Post to the “On the Move” exhibit. Although Meadowcroft does close for the off-season, there’s plenty of behind-the-scenes action that makes it one of the busier times of the year.
Meadowcroft will open for its 52nd season on Saturday, May 2, 2020.
Andrew Donovan is the education and program manager at Meadowcroft Rockshelter and Historic Village.