From the Executive Director features news and reflections on the work of PHMC by its chief administrator.

Change is in the air as we approach autumn. The dazzling colors on the trees in Penn’s Woods are no more dramatic than the changes that continue as the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC) struggles to reorganize and refocus to meet its responsibilities as a steward of the Keystone State’s history and heritage. While many of these changes have been difficult and disruptive to individuals, programs, and communities, there is still much for which to be thankful. We are particularly grateful for the support we received from members of the Pennsylvania Heritage Society (PHS) and the Friends groups at our historic sites and museums which helped make the case for restored Keystone Funds and less drastic reductions in PHMC’s operating budget.

We could not do this alone. We are grateful for the hard work and commitment of the Friends groups which have enabled us to continue providing the public with an opportunity to visit historic sites and museums and to learn about the history of this great Commonwealth. The amount of hours contributed by volunteers and board members to this effort is enormous. Their work is more important than ever. Like many historical attractions, PHMC destinations continue to be heavily visited as Pennsylvanians seek inexpensive and fulfilling ways to spend time with family and friends.

The overwhelming response to the Pennsylvania History Bill of Rights (PHBR) has reaffirmed how important history is to all Pennsylvanians. In fact, a growing number of organizations have adopted the PHBR and have joined PHMC in circulating this document to their members and the public. Each year, Penn State Harrisburg’s Center for Survey Research conducts a statewide poll. For this year’s survey, we submitted questions based on the PHBR to determine how citizens ranked issues regarding their history. Respondents spoke loudly and clearly, and they chose what is most important to them:

1st Current and future generations are assured that Pennsylvania’s historical resources are preserved for their enjoyment and use (83.9 percent);

2nd Pennsylvania citizens have access to the current records of government and the permanently valuable documents which tell the history of the Commonwealth (81.4 percent);

3rd Students in Pennsylvania schools understand Pennsylvania’s history in the context of local, national, and world events (80 percent);

4th Pennsylvania’s communities retain the historic character and distinctiveness that are essential to attracting and retaining residents, businesses, and visitors (73.1 percent);

5th Pennsylvania’s museums, historical societies, and historic sites receive adequate public and private support to maintain high standards of stewardship and public access (72.7 percent); and

6th Pennsylvania maintains a competitive position as a premier tourism destination for heritage travelers (66.8 percent).

At The State Museum of Pennsylvania, visitors have also expressed their support for PHMC programs through their generosity to the Marshalls Creek mastodon project. We thank all contributors to the “Buy-A-Bone” campaign, the innovative fundraising effort that raised significant financial support for the project. We continue to encourage donations to complete the permanent reinstallation of the mastodon and the paleontology galleries. I would be remiss if I didn’t thank individuals who have shown support for PHMC by joining the PHS, especially in the new category for State Museum Affiliates.

While PHMC programs have had to adjust services, find new ways to operate with reduced staff, and forge new partnerships, the commitment to serve Pennsylvanians by preserving their heritage has not diminished.

Barbara Franco
Executive Director, PHMC