Editor's Letter is an introduction to the contents and themes of each issue of Pennsylvania Heritage by the editor.

“We all have a memory culture that we carry around with us,” Don Yoder (1921–2015) stated when I interviewed him for Pennsylvania Heritage (see “Meet Don Yoder, Dean of Folklife Scholars,” Spring 2006). “We get it from our parents and grandparents, from our childhood, from our uncles and aunts, from our contacts with friends.”

For 70 years Yoder, who passed away recently, collected memory culture and shared it with the world, providing insight on its significance and meaning. He brought the concept of folklife to prominence in American scholarship, going beyond the oral forms of folklore to additionally emphasize other expressive aspects of a community’s everyday life, such as material culture, foodways and folk religion. Equipped with his own rich memory culture, he focused his research predominantly on his ancestral groups, the Pennsylvania Dutch and the Delaware Valley Quakers. For his numerous publications, which include studies of folk songs, holiday customs, folk cookery, hex signs, fraktur, witch tales and powwowing, he traveled to farms, churches, shops and homes to glean memory culture from other “tradition bearers.” He brought public awareness to the Pennsylvania Dutch and their contributions through the Pennsylvania Folklife Society, which he cofounded in 1949. He was longtime editor of the society’s popular quarterly Pennsylvania Folklife and an organizer of its groundbreaking Kutztown Folk Festival, the first of its kind in the nation, presenting in one setting a “living museum” of Pennsylvania Dutch folk culture through crafts, food, music and performances. As a professor for 40 years at the University of Pennsylvania, he trained generations of scholars who branched out across the country to serve in academic and public positions using the folklife approach to interpret their own regional cultures. He shared his knowledge with other institutions, including PHMC in exhibits and programs at Ephrata Cloister, Landis Valley and The State Museum. On a personal note, I was fortunate to work with Don as his editor on seven book projects between 1999 and 2009. As a colleague, mentor and valued friend, he had a profound influence on my own work in publishing Pennsylvania literature.

In this edition of Pennsylvania Heritage, appropriately dedicated to the man who called himself “an incurable Pennsylvanian,” we present articles on the anniversaries and activities of other important stewards of the commonwealth’s memory.

Pennsylvania Icons, a monumental exhibition installed in The State Museum in October 2015 as part of the 50th anniversary of the museum and archives complex, showcases objects from the museum’s collection that represent the land, resources, people, products, endeavors and events of the Keystone State. Museum curator Bradley Smith headed the project, and in this issue he highlights a few of the more than 400 artifacts that will be on long-term display.

Today, there are 23 historic sites and museums on PHMC’s Pennsylvania Trails of History. One hundred years ago, the state acquired the very first of these properties, Old Economy Village, in Ambridge, Beaver County. The Harmony Society, a religious communal group that operated a formidable agricultural-industrial business enterprise occupied Economy from 1824 to 1905. The commonwealth, recognizing the value of Economy as an exemplar of religious freedom and entrepreneurial innovation in Pennsylvania, entrusted administration of the property to its fledgling historical commission. Museum educator Sarah Buffington, in her article on the Old Economy Village centennial, tells the story of  Economy as a prelude to a survey of the past century of preservation, research, interpretation and programming at one of the most fascinating and authentic historic sites in the Keystone State.

Also celebrating 100 years in 2016, the Pennsylvania Farm Show is the commonwealth’s state fair, held indoors annually in January at the Farm Show Complex & Expo Center in Harrisburg, Dauphin County. Historical Society of Dauphin County president John K. Robinson roots the event in ancient market trading days and 19th-century agricultural society fairs, leading to the show’s first occurrence in 1917. Along with the memories of past participants, he focuses on Farm Show traditions, from apple pie contests and butter sculptures, livestock competitions and state-of-the-art machinery displays, to the popular Food Court where people return each year to enjoy such Pennsylvania treats as baked potatoes, cheesesteaks and milkshakes.

In 2016 we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966. The act set in motion a legislative mandate to federal agencies to begin a variety of programs for identifying and protecting significant historic buildings and sites, one of which was the establishment of State Historic Preservation Offices (SHPOs). Pennsylvania Heritage will be observing the commemoration throughout the year with special features and department articles. For this issue, Shelby Weaver Splain, Scott Doyle and Andrea MacDonald of PHMC’s SHPO present a detailed chronological essay that highlights some of Pennsylvania’s pivotal preservation moments.

Don Yoder knew the importance of tapping memory culture and keeping it alive through publications, lectures, festivals, exhibits and historic sites. We salute his life and career as we commemorate the preservation of Pennsylvania’s heritage.

Kyle R. Weaver