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

Two articles in this issue of Pennsylvania Heritage underscore the important roles cultural organizations have played — and continue to play — in the education and enlightenment of Pennsylvanians.

Regularly contributing freelance writer Jim McClelland’s article celebrating the one hundredth anniversary of the Settlement Music School in Philadelphia attributes its beginnings to the volunteer work of educated women who devoted themselves to social issues of new immigrants and the poor at the turn of the twentieth century. The growth and development of the school would have been impossible without the generosity of Philadelphia’s philanthropic families from 1908 to the present.

PHMC curator Curtis Miner explains for readers the significance of the Pennsylvania State-Wide Museum Extension Project (MEP), in operation from 1935 to 1943, illustrating the enormous impact of a government-sponsored program that developed historical and educational objects, models, and exhibits used as visual aids for educators. Just one of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal strategies to revive the country’s stagnant economy caused by the Great Depression, the MEP employed artists and artisans whose products enhanced the classroom and the museum experience of the day.

Both the Settlement Music School and the MEP left significant cultural legacies that have enriched the lives of countless Pennsylvanians. The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC) and the Pennsylvania Heritage Society continue this strong commitment to education. Whether it’s families and children exploring the Curiosity Connection or teenagers watching a planetarium show at The State Museum of Pennsylvania in Harrisburg, schoolchildren using eighteenth-century technology, or students learning how to dig a nineteenth-century oil well, access to real things and hands-on-history remain essential to quality education. With a federal Teaching American History grant administered by the Pennsylvania Heritage Society, PHMC resources are being used to train teachers in the use of primary materials for the benefit of their students studying history.

This spring, students from throughout the Keystone State will once again make their annual pilgrimages to The State Museum, tour museums and historic sites along PHMC’s Pennsylvania Trails of History, and take field trips to the Commonwealth’s many public and private museums. The importance of our cultural institutions and historical organizations is unprecedented. In this exciting era of increasingly visual and participatory learning, museums and cultural centers offer experiences that will change the lives of the next generation, just as settlement schools and New Deal programs exerted an impact on previous generations. Making sure that Pennsylvania’s history, museum, and cultural institutions continue to be supported through public funding and with private philanthropy has never been more critical. Our future depends on it.

Barbara Franco
Executive Director, PHMC