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Pa.'s best offbeat museums, rager house, and PA Local Live

Plus, a pile of radioactive dishes in Wayne County.

Welcome to PA Local, a free weekly newsletter about the great people, amazing places, and delicious food of Pennsylvania.

February 17, 2023
Inside this edition: Sing state, highway habitat, living history, 'stories from St. Metz,' Vaseline glass, and an off-the-beaten-path look at Pa. museums.
🏆 TEST YOURSELF: Another big week of Pennsylvania news is in the bag. Test your grip on the latest headlines from Harrisburg and around the state with this week's installment of The Great PA News Quiz.
A Pennsylvania-centric trivia question.
Documentarian Ken Burns returned to Gettysburg this month for a film festival held at a local, century-old theater that has hosted world leaders and the world premiere of Ted Turner's Civil War epic Gettysburg.

What's the name of the theater?

(Keep scrolling for the answer, but don't miss all the good stuff in between. Like what you read? Forward this email to a friend.)

Support Spotlight PA's vital journalism and for a limited time, all monthly gifts will be matched 12X!We have some big news. One of our biggest supporters, the Lenfest Institute for Journalism, has offered to match all monthly gifts to Spotlight PA at their ANNUAL VALUE. That means they'll give us 12X your monthly gift!

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Newsletter Editor
Support Spotlight PA's vital journalism and for a limited time, all monthly gifts will be matched 12X!
Our five favorite Pennsylvania stories of the week.

» One thing worth sharing: State Rep. Joe Ciresi (D., Philadelphia) wants to set up a commission to find a new state song for Pennsylvania. Here's our look at the contested one we have currently

» One thing worth knowing: State Rep. Mary Jo Daley (D., Montgomery) is again pitching a feasibility study of conservation corridors that would link natural habitats over highways here and look cool doing it.

» One thing worth doing: Remember our recent piece on "The neighborhood the Pa. Capitol destroyed"? We're hosting a free, virtual event on the subject next Thursday, Feb. 23 and you're invited.

» One thing worth watching: This WPSU mini-doc on two brothers who moved in with their dad (and a mountain lion) post-divorce and turned a quaint Centre County church into a rager house.

» One more thing worth watching: A big collection of uranium-infused Vaseline glass, which takes on an otherworldly glow under black light, is on display in Hawley and, sources say, not deadly to be around.

» COVID-19 UPDATE: Your guide to finding resources on cases, vaccines, and tests

» Regulators, casino lobbyists met before key decision
» Tracking how Penn State's THON millions are used
» Tracking Josh Shapiro’s biggest campaign promises
» 5 ways Pa.’s marijuana laws could change in 2023
» Shapiro camp: Sixers game was 'political meeting'
» State College seeks LGBTQ protection partners
» Pa. sues to keep medical marijuana data secret
» Why election problems plague Luzerne County
Stoogeum creator Gary Lassin poses with wax figures of the Three Stooges.
Stoogeum creator Gary Lassin with the boys. (Akira Suwa / Philadelphia Inquirer)

To this day my mother tells anyone who will listen that I wrote a story in grade school about being locked inside the American Museum of Natural History overnight with dioramas springing to life. It was a decade before they made a movie about it. I have yet to receive any royalties. 

Today I'm writing about Pennsylvania museums no one has ever included in a screenplay, though maybe they should. Here are five examples of Pennsylvania's offbeat, excellent, and overlooked collections. 

Smog Museum

In 1948, smog containing fluorine killed 20 people in Donora, a town about 20 miles south of Pittsburgh, and sickened scores more.

It was the worst air pollution disaster in U.S. history, prompted national outrage, new environmental protections, and jumpstarted the fields of environmental and public health research, per Smithsonian.

An extensive collection of related archival materials is on display at the Donora Smog Museum, which is open Saturdays.  

The Stoogeum

The "world’s first and largest museum of Three Stooges memorabilia," is located in Ambler, Montgomery County, and appointment-only.

The 10,000 square foot, three-story building draws thousands of visitors annually and contains over 10,000 pieces of Stooge stuff.

Via The New York Times:

Life-size bellhop statues of the Stooges usher you in, and galleries are filled with memorabilia: movie posters, magazine covers, a 1980s video game, comic books and displays of new acquisitions. There’s a ceramic cat made by Moe, rare family photographs of Curly, and Larry’s driver’s license.

Center for PostNatural History

Created by Carnegie Mellon University art professor Richard Pell, the Center is dedicated to the many ways humans have toyed with nature and animals — from the dawn of domestication to genetic engineering:

"The postnatural world is presented through diorama, taxidermy, photography and living exhibits, from engineered corn to Sea Monkeys to modified Chestnut Trees to BioSteel™️ Goats."

It's located in Pittsburgh and open Sundays.

Science History Institute

Often overlooked among Philadelphia's higher-profile exhibition halls, this museum boasts one of the world’s best chemistry-related collections.

Atlas Obscura describes a rare experience laying bare the sometimes dark histories of alchemy with an events lineup ranging "from carnivorous plant feeding to monthly drop-in tours and WikiSalons."

House of Houdini

Scranton's Houdini Museum claims to be "the only building in the world" dedicated solely to the magician and contains exhibits on his life and artifacts, including his straitjacket, handcuffs, and stage props. 

Houdini was no stranger to Scranton, a vaudeville proving ground not far from New York City where he performed several times. 

Looking for more unusual Pa. museum recs? See Atlas Obscura's list. It has a zombie museum in a mall, the largest collection of religious relics outside the Vatican, a cigarette lighter museum, and one accessed by coal cart.

Colin Deppen, PA Local editor 

Support Spotlight PA's vital journalism and for a limited time, all monthly gifts will be matched 12X!

"As I've been sitting behind this desk today, I've had to look at that."

—Gov. Josh Shapiro on the Kansas City Chiefs flag hanging in his office, the price of a losing wager with Missouri's governor on last week's Super Bowl

Our favorite photo of the week submitted by a PA Local reader.

Migrating snow geese on a stopover at Middle Creek nature preserve in Lancaster County, as seen by Elliott C. Send us your photos, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.

A large flock of geese over water, framed by a clearing.
The answer to this week's Pennsylvania-centric trivia question.
Ken Burns came to Gettysburg this month for a film festival celebrating his work at Gettysburg College's historic Majestic Theater. 

According to the venue, President Dwight D. Eisenhower and First Lady Mamie Eisenhower owned a nearby farmhouse and regularly attended Majestic performances, often in the company of world leaders.

The theater also hosted the North American premiere of Federico Fellini's Satyricon in 1970, and the world premiere of Gettysburg in 1993.

Find playlists shared by Burns on his recent visit here.

Thanks for reading PA Local! We'll see you back here next week. But first ... send us your feedback. What did you like? What didn't you like? 
Support Spotlight PA's vital journalism and for a limited time, all monthly gifts will be matched 12X!
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