A passion for the past: The Pasto Agricultural Museum

Jerome K. Pasto, curator and namesake of the Pasto Agricultural Museum at Penn State, demonstrating how to hold a horse-drawn potato cultivator, in 1995. The museum will kick off its 2015 fall open-house series, held home football game Sundays, starting Sept. 13. Credit: Pasto Agricultural MuseumAll Rights Reserved.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — In 1974, the alumni of Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences began an extensive project to gather and preserve pieces of agricultural history.

With a mere $1,500 in donations from alumni, and a few display cases in the Agricultural Administration Building on the University Park campus, a museum officially opened to the public on Aug. 22, 1979, during Ag Progress Days.

Jerome K. Pasto, professor of agricultural economics and associate dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences, was the museum's first curator. Pasto had joined the faculty in 1950. An accomplished scholar with a worldwide reputation, his contributions to the field of scientific agriculture were prodigious. He also enjoyed a lifelong interest in antique farm and home equipment.

The museum's initial collection of more than 150 items came largely from his personal collection — the first exhibit displayed an 1895 foot-powered milking machine, a horse-powered treadmill, and a 1917 reaper, to mention a few. The museum quickly became an integral part of Ag Progress Days events and Penn State's educational mission.

In 1980 Pasto retired as professor and dean, and at that time the University named the museum in his honor. He continued as volunteer curator until 1999, retiring from the position after 20 years.

Today the Pasto Agricultural Museum features about 1,300 rare and unusual farm and home implements from the era before the advent of electricity and gasoline-powered engines. It is located on the Ag Progress Days site at the Russell E. Larson Agricultural Research Center at Rock Springs — 9 miles southwest of State College on Route 45 — at 2710 West Pine Grove Road, Route 45, Gate K.

Every fall, the museum offers a series of Open Houses on the Sundays after home football games. Each event features a different part of the collection and offers a "hands-on" experience for visitors of all ages. The first one is scheduled for Sept. 13, with the theme of "Invention and Technology and Simple Machines."

Former Pasto Museum curators Darwin Braund (left), Jerome Pasto (center), and Daryl Heasley (right), with current curator Rita Graef. Credit: Pasto Agricultural MuseumAll Rights Reserved.

Last Updated September 10, 2015