Members of the Southern Lancaster County Historical Society had two reasons to create a series of films.
One was to make sure visitors to the Robert Fulton Birthplace could understand Fulton's place in history as well as provide brief histories of the narrow gauge railroad that once ran past the house and of the family that lived there and farmed the land for well over a century. The second is to make it easier to recruit volunteer tour guides - docents - to open the house to the public two days a week.
"They [the videos] make it easier to handle groups and they make sure the visitors understand what happened here and the people who made it happen," said historical society president Stan White.
The videos will also make it easier for new volunteers to help visitors.
The society has lost three or four docents in the past two years. Most have left because they have become too old to do the job, White said.
White borrowed a costume from Millersville University's theater department and dressed as family patriarch Joseph Swift would have looked in the 19th century and the early 20th century. Swift lived in the house at the site from 1839 to 1933.
The family owned the property until the late 20th century. Part of its land now houses Solanco's Clermont Elementary School and Swift Middle School. The film about the Swift family is the shortest, running just over 10 minutes. The video about the Lancaster, Oxford, and Southern narrow gauge railroad takes 14 minutes to see, and the one about Robert Fulton runs for 20 minutes.
"Most of the people who come here watch the films," White said.
The number of visitors to the site has not varied much in the past five years, society member Mike Roth said.
"We get a lot of out-of-state visitors who find it on a [smart phone] app," he said. The site also draws a steady stream of local visitors.
The birthplace has also been attracting an increasing number of antique car clubs that tour Lancaster County.
The historical society has been operating the birthplace for decades. The property was bought by Pennsylvania in 1965 and restored. The state transferred its ownership to the society in 2017.
The birthplace, in the 1900 block of Robert Fulton Highway (Rt. 222), is open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays and from 1 to 5 p.m. on Sundays. Admission is $5 for adults and less for children. There are discounts for family groups.