From the Executive Director

PHMC plays a large role in preserving and sharing Pennsylvania history, but of course, this is not work we do alone. Pennsylvanians rely on a host of local organizations to help keep the history they care about alive. As part of its budget each year, PHMC receives $2 million for its Cultural and Historical Support Grants. This somewhat bureaucratic-sounding line item translates into meaningful...
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From the Executive Director

Civil rights, voting rights and race relations. These are all topics of conversation today, as they have been for more than a century and a half across the United States, including here in Pennsylvania. But without a shared knowledge about the history of these topics, it becomes harder to have meaningful and productive conversations. This summer we are opening a new exhibit at The State Museum...
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From the Executive Director

Last weekend at The State Museum of Pennsylvania, I met a member of the Delaware Tribe (the Lenape). He grew up in Oklahoma, where his tribe is located today, and this was his first visit to Pennsylvania. Prior to coming to Harrisburg, he had visited the Delaware Water Gap. I was captivated as he talked about seeing the Delaware River for the first time. The river looms large in Lenape history,...
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From the Executive Director

Throughout the pandemic, we at PHMC have had the opportunity to share Pennsylvania’s rich history with people well beyond our borders through virtual programming. Over the last year we have seen visitors join us from across the country and around the world. Although we have learned how important virtual engagement is, much of what we do remains grounded in the physical world. We have buildings,...
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From the Executive Director

For a long time, the Smithsonian Institution has called itself “The Nation’s Attic.” The name conjures up its role as America’s memory. Storerooms hold bits and pieces of the lives of Americans, famous and less celebrated. That metaphor also works for us here at PHMC. We consider ourselves to be like a Pennsylvania version of the Smithsonian museums, capturing the broad history of the...
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From the Executive Director

Over the past year, PHMC has been working on its new strategic plan. We have been thinking about what we are and what we need to be — for the Pennsylvanians we serve and as champions of history. Our mission is to discover, protect and share Pennsylvania’s past. We hope to inspire others to value and use our shared history in ways that are meaningful to them. In short, we see a future where...
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From the Executive Director

Although PHMC does not actively install historical monuments across the commonwealth, our Pennsylvania Historical Markers serve a similar purpose. Begun in 1914 and “updated” in 1946 with the advent of the blue-and-yellow, pole-mounted roadside plates, the markers represent an extraordinary public historiography (see “A Century of Marking History,” Fall 2014). They teach us not only about what...
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From the Executive Director

Our country is experiencing significant growing pains right now. The challenge we thought we had been facing solely with the COVID-19 pandemic has been compounded by an economic downturn, civil unrest, and an overdue conversation about race. History, which had taken a back seat to a STEM-focused world, now finds itself at the center of these conversations. History offers lessons about the past...
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From the Executive Director

I hope this letter finds you and your loved ones well. I am writing to you from the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. It has been a month of rapid change, and we at the Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission have settled into the “new normal,” as they say, having adjusted to the stay-at-home order issued by Gov. Tom Wolf. During this period, our nation is looking to previous pandemics for...
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From the Executive Director

Places can change you. Ordinarily, I write about Pennsylvania history here. But I recently returned from a trip to Montgomery, Alabama, and I came home a different person. Montgomery was not on my radar as a destination. Having little time to prepare for my trip (and consequently few expectations) left me wide open to surprise and to change. The city is home to two of our nation’s most...
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