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Back in the olden days

Ellie Yang ‘27

Apr 19, 2024

The Conococheague Institute (CI) is a hands-on regional learning center established in an 18th-century historic farmstead in Franklin County, Pennsylvania. CI’s 30-acre site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and has undertaken a mission to “develop and foster awareness, understanding, and stewardship of the cultural and natural history of the Appalachian frontier of Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia.” 

The property’s history extends back to the early 1730s and the original site has become a learning opportunity for visitors today. CI’s museum life began with site tours and now allows visitors to engage with 18th-century history and natural beauty. Matthew Wedd, Executive Director of CI, is the main face of the organization. Wedd said, “All donations, grants, and accounts are undertaken by me. Maintaining a good relationship with donors and community partners is paramount.”

Mercersburg and the Conococheague Institute have established meaningful connections over a period of years, especially through the Community Engagement program. “Mercersburg and Conococheague have had a relationship longer than my own time at CI, through Community Engagement and volunteer projects, but the relationship took off in August 2021, when Emily Parsons reached out to me as part of her new role as Director of Community Engagement,” said Wedd. Soon after, a partnership was established involving students who participated in a variety of activities ranging from cemetery restoration, historic preservation, tree plantings, and gardening. Wedd noted, “The Community Engagement program has a huge impact on our site, not just by providing so many willing hands for larger projects, but by enabling us to be able to schedule these activities regularly.”

The CI also partnered with Mercersburg to launch their intensive program which received national recognition and allowed the establishment of public programs and summer camps at CI. This award-winning program is called “Full on Frontier: Can you Live 18th Century” “Matthew and I put together the CE connection and we worked on the Intensive,” said Emily Parsons. Wedd added, “The program also raised CI's awareness to donors, and resulted in a $1,000,000 endowment contribution split between the Conococheague Institute and Mercersburg Academy from alumnus Robert M Kurtz, Jr. ‘52.”

One of the students who has worked extensively with the organization is Selena Feng ‘24, who did an internship for the CI last summer. Feng explained, “I’m another set of hands or another maroon shirt there to help out and answer questions.” The opportunity allows students to get to know hundreds of people who visit over the summer and lets them take a look at events such as Fall Frolic and Archery programs. “The impact I’m most proud of is teaching kids about history and watching their eyes sparkle in excitement,” said Feng. 

The CI offers a plethora of opportunities and allows people to explore the depths of Pennsylvania's colonial history and participate in frontier-themed activities. 

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