The Fort Pitt Museum, located in the heart of historic Point State Park, is gearing up for an active summer with a new exhibit, weekly Living History demonstrations and events, and its second annual art show.
On May 22, the Fort Pitt Museum will unveil a new exhibition, Captured by Indians: Warfare and Assimilation on the 18th Century Frontier, devoted to the Indian ritual and ceremony of captivity. During the 18th century, Indians adopted captives (both Indian and non-Indian) into their families to replenish the loss of their own, often caused by war and disease. Forcibly taken from the battlefield or a settlement, captives were brought to Indian villages, where they ran a gauntlet to initiate the adoption ceremony. Many of these captives told their stories, known as captivity narratives. These narratives became a popular form of literature and entertainment that continues today.
The Fort Pitt Museum’s new exhibit will bring to life the stories of captives from the 18th century frontier. One of these captives, Massy Harbison, was taken from her home in Freeport, Pa. on May 22, 1792 and escaped her captors.
Captured by Indians will feature original copies of captivity narratives and several historic artifacts including:
- Indian War Club – Left at a cabin in present-day Tennessee in 1774 by Logan, the Mingo leader.
- Prisoner Ties – 18th century ties used to bind captives.
- Ligonier Door – A door with intact bullet holes sustained when a father shot through it in retaliation against Indians who were attacking his family’s home during the American Revolution.
The exhibit will also dedicate a section to today’s living descendants of captives and their ancestral connection to the 18th century.
In addition to the exhibit, visitors will have the opportunity to learn more about individual captives while they explore the museum. Admissions staff will supply visitors with an interactive guide that aids in telling a particular captive’s story. Visitors will learn the fate of that captive when they visit the new exhibit.
The Fort Pitt Museum Cannon Crew will fire the museum’s reproduction British 6-pounder cannon on several summer weekend dates: June 13 and 14, July 11, and Aug. 8.
During the July 11 and August 8 cannon demonstrations, visitors will have the opportunity to test their own skills with a water balloon cannon. Between demonstrations, the Fort Pitt Cannon Crew and other costumed staff and volunteers will be present to answer questions about artillery, Fort Pitt, and life in the 18th century.
In addition to cannon firings, the Fort Pitt Museum will offer a Living History demonstration every Saturday during the summer. The first Saturday of each month will feature a fife and drum corps with musical performances scheduled throughout the day. On the third Saturday, costumed staff and volunteers will be outside preparing 18th century foods. The fourth Saturday will focus on a specific 18th century trade. On June 27, visitors will learn about powder horns and buckskins. Blacksmith Jymm Hoffman, of Hoffman’s Forge in Ambridge, Pa., will be on-site with his reproduction 18th century traveling forge on July 25. To wrap up the Living History season, on August 22, skilled carpenters and timber framers will be on-site to teach visitors about their tools and the labor required for building structures.
For a full listing of events and dates, please see our
Living History page.
Fort Pitt Museum’s contemporary art show, History Inspires…Again, will open during the Three Rivers Art Festival.
The multimedia show will feature local Pittsburgh artists and their works that have been inspired by 18th century Western Pennsylvania history. This year’s theme will focus on Indian captivity to complement the museum’s new exhibit.
Artists to be featured include:
- Maura Doern Danko – A painter and educator. She creates colorful abstractions of experiences, observances, and captured moments in time.
- Jaime Cooper – An oil painter nationally renowned for her work in still life and portraits. One of her concentrations is to focus on historical imagery and figures.
- Nate McDonough – A graphic novelist and comic artist. Drawing from personal experiences, science fiction, and the obscure, he has created and continued his quarterly commix Grixly. McDonough has also produced and collaborated with other artists on five graphic novels.
During the show’s run, visitors will be able to vote for best in show. The show will close in mid-July.
Kathleen McLean is the education manager at the Fort Pitt Museum.