The Erie County Historical Society doesn't preside over just one museum—it maintains five of them. Of course, four of the museums are relatively small-scale, seeing that they're housed in former homes. Two homes from the Civil War era, known as the Battles Museums of Rural Life, feature historical gems as well as gardens and outdoor trails. Alternatively, the Cashier's House showcases relics related to the CFO of Erie's federal bank branch, who built the townhouse in 1839. At Watson-Curtze Mansion, the resplendence of the industrial era in Erie shines. And the Museum of Erie County History, exhibits pay homage to local history from pre-settlement to present day.
The National Packard Museum preserves the Detroit-made Packards from 1903 to 1956, famous for their white-walled tires and art-deco chrome hood ornaments. The car of choice for statesmen and actors, the meticulously maintained Packards populate the National Packard Museum?s halls and exhibits. And they range from all eras, from the 1900 Model B to limousines, ambulances, and convertibles from the 1950s. Museum visitors learn how the Packard line advanced vehicular safety standards and how the company implemented design innovations, such as the steering wheel. Auto enthusiasts will also find the National Packard Museum replete with historical photographs, product catalogs, and company documents, which reveal plans to create a car that could be driven by super-intelligent muskrats by 1992.
There's a lot of history at Venango Museum. Even its building is a relic of the past?it opened as a post office in 1905, back when stamps only cost a smile. Today, it holds a place on the National Register of Historic Places, and its various exhibits profile the science, culture, and history that defines Oil City. The museum's Latonia Theatre contains a restored and working 1928 Wurlitzer Theater Organ, and a 1937 Cord automobile stands as the centerpiece of the Asphalt Nation exhibit. The museum's other permanent displays showcase oil-industry artifacts.
Though Wilford and Olive Arms haven't lived in their house for decades, the sprawling Arts and Crafts-style stone building still holds their story. Today, the original period rooms house the Arms Family Museum of Local History, where permanent and temporary exhibits interpret different facets of the estate's?and the surrounding area's? history. One explores the home's conception and construction with original photographs, sketches, and Lego models, while another unveils the history of radio-broadcasting in Mahoning Valley. The Valley Experience exhibit, meanwhile, showcases the Mahoning River region's cultural past, focusing on the daily lives of those who lived there, from the first Native Americans to European immigrants to African-American freemen.
By exploring the Jewish people’s emigration to and experience in America, the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage encourages reflection and tolerance in visitors. Before entering the museum, open since 2005, guests can marvel at its façade, constructed from more than 126 tons of hand-chiseled golden jerusalem limestone. A timeline of Jewish, American, and world history unfolds in the lobby, and an orientation film and a Finding Nemo remake exclusively starring gefilte fish screen in the 60-seat briefing theater. Touring collections grace the special-exhibition gallery, and the 7,000-square-foot permanent-exhibition space shares the stories of America’s Jewish immigrants—from their arrival to the aftermath of the Second World War—with interactive stations, films, and oral histories. Elsewhere, ritual objects, sacred scrolls, and fine art from The Temple Museum of Religious Art grace the walls of the light-filled Temple-Tifereth Israel Gallery.
To most, the garden featured in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is purely make-believe. But not to people who've smelled the chocolate-scented varietals blooming amongst hidden trails and a climbable tree house at the Hershey Children's Garden. This sweet-smelling garden is just one of the Cleveland Botanical Garden's 20 gardens, which encompass everything from 3,500 herb plants to lotuses and water lilies floating atop a 74-foot-long reflecting pool. Vibrant hydrangeas complement sculptures in an art garden, while the Guren Art Gallery's ever-changing exhibits spotlight new work inspired by botany and the power of pruning shears.
Shaded boardwalks and winding trails connect all these visual splendors, eventually leading visitors to the Eleanor Armstrong Smith Glasshouse. Divided into a Madagascar desert and a Costa Rican rainforest, the glasshouse showcases 50 types of butterflies, birds, reptiles, and amphibians, plus 350 exotic plants, including a colossal strangler fig. Experts shine a light on such specimens during botanical lectures, which are one of many educational programs the garden offers, ranging from gardening symposia to kids science classes.