Libraries may be bursting with books, but they offer much more to their card holders – including free museum admission with the Experience Kits program!
This summer, libraries in Allegheny, Washington, and Fayette Counties in Pennsylvania, and Jefferson County in Ohio will offer their card holders free admission to nine historical sites: Senator John Heinz History Center, Duncan & Miller Glass Museum, Fort Pitt Museum, Historic Fort Steuben, Meadowcroft Rockshelter and Historic Village, Merrick Art Gallery, Old Economy Village, Somerset Historical Center, and West Overton Village & Museum.
Each “Experience Kit” provides library card holders with free admission for up to four people per visit, as well as educational support materials and itinerary suggestions tailored to the site. It’s essentially a pre-planned road trip, ready to go when you are. Kits can be checked out for one week at a time, and some libraries even allow patrons to select their specific week – a perk for visitors or family vacations.
This program stems from the original collaboration between the Heinz History Center Affiliate Program, which includes more than 125 regional historical societies and organizations dedicated to preserving their local history, and Whitehall Public Library. As of 2022, the initiative has since expanded to include over fifty libraries throughout four counties, and nine historical sites.
Paul Zuros, Executive Director of Historic Fort Steuben, is eager to welcome library card holders to the site. "A collaboration with the library is a natural fit...we both want to encourage learning."
Sarita Asawa, Community Outreach and Programming Coordinator of the Public Library of Steubenville and Jefferson County is new to the project and excited to be included in the program this year.
“Many of our patrons visit Pittsburgh museums,” Asawa said. “We’re extremely happy to extend tickets that highlight lesser-known museums and increase our patron access to cultural activities.”
According to Sarah Scott, a librarian at Whitehall Public Library, the program has grown in value since she started the initiative in 2017.
“With each year of this project, we are able to offer more for our communities,” said Scott. “It has been fun finding new opportunities to explore, and the positive feedback we receive from patrons is incredibly rewarding.”
Later this year, the libraries and historical sites will offer free virtual spotlight lectures that showcase the significance of the sites and a few of the remarkable relics found in their collections. In conjunction with these adult programs, the libraries will offer virtual storytime programs with fun and engaging activities for children.
Robert O. Stakeley, the History Center Affiliates Program Manager at the Senator John Heinz History Center, agrees with Scott and Asawa and adds, “It’s been great to see this program grow and evolve over time to include more libraries and to incorporate so many different and diverse museums. With the current price of gasoline limiting travel, this program provides everyone with an excellent opportunity to explore what our region has to offer within a short driving distance.”
As an added incentive this year, anyone who visits at least three sites before October 31, 2022, can enter to win one of five amazing raffle baskets.
For more information about the Experience Kits, contact your local library.