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.
Settled between an 1839-built Greek Revival building known as the Old Customs House and a just-opened expansion building, the Erie Art Museum displays an expansive collection of American and international art and fosters artistic growth with a series of educational programs and thought-provoking shows. Along with free admission to exhibits, members enjoy invitations to exclusive special events, including a private preview of the 88th Annual Spring Show on Saturday, April 16. Discounted tickets to concerts and performances such as the Contemporary Music Series let membership-wielders explore the nether regions of audible art that allow for bobbing heads, tapping feet, and pumping fists. Members looking to live out dreams of becoming an artist can enjoy reduced tuition for the museum's art classes and workshops. Groupon buyers get a 15% discount off services from the Museum Frame Shop, and a 10% markdown on merchandise in the museum gift shop can help fill the registry for a wedding between an artist and the world's foremost collector of Pennsylvania-theme mugs.
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.
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.
Glass Growers Gallery covers its walls and pedestals with works by more than 100 regional artists and hosts regular art exhibits and other events. Functional pieces include pottery, jewelry, and lamps ($5+); prints ($5+) provide inquisitive onlookers with windows into worlds in which people and animals move in slower-than-slow motion. Glass Growers Gallery also creates commemorative wall reliefs, sculptures, and personalized awards to help illustrate customers' appreciation for coworkers, teammates, and fellow award enthusiasts.