The Chester County Historical Society spotlights the area’s diverse heritage with its latest exhibit, Many Nations | Chester County, which opens Feb. 10 and runs though the end of the year. “The focus is about the diversity of Chester County through the lens of migration over 300 years,” says curator Ellen Endslow. “We’ll be touching on the initial contact between the Lenape and the Europeans.”
In her research, Endslow pored over church and census records in the county archives. She discovered that William Penn’s Quaker influence is most evident in the southern part of the Chester County, which tends toward British ancestry. The middle of the county skews more German, and there’s also a large Irish contingent. “Our goal isn’t to tell the whole story of migration,” she says. “It’s to give a look at it so we can expand our stories, so that people in these more recent communities of migration feel this is a place they can connect to.”
Those ancestries, along with many others, will be represented in the exhibit’s artifacts, which date back to the late 1600s. Highlights include a chest from Sweden (pictured above), pottery with British influence, household appliances like pasta makers and wine barrels, a Hungarian Easter bread bowl, and statues of Hindu deities, along with a wealth of photographs. The exhibit will also feature oral histories of living Chester County migrants. “How do they feel like part of the community? What traditions do they hold onto? It’s a lot of fun, and it’s a privilege to hear these stories,” Endslow says.
The exhibit kicks off a series of other events, including a bimonthly passport series that focuses on a particular region of the world. This month, it’s East Asia. Also look for periodic genealogy workshops.