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.
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.
Housed in the stately 19th-century mansion of former governor Reuben E. Fenton, the Fenton History Center connects visitors of all ages to the rich history of the Jamestown area with museum tours, archeological outings, and children's programs. Visitors unearth mysteries about their family past through the genealogical and local history research center, or study their hometown's place in America's story with a wealth of exhibits. The museum's mementos include everything from a funeral card for Prince Louis Napol?on to letters from soldiers serving in the Civil War and World War II to photos of Lucille Ball, who was born in the city in 1911.
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.