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

This year’s annual theme adopted by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC), “William Penn’s Legacy: Religious and Spiritual Diversity,” once again provides a focus to examine the Commonwealth’s rich history and its influence on the many traditions and values that have shaped the American experience. Historic sites such as Ephrata Cloister and Old Economy Village illustrate the diversity of Pennsylvania’s religious history made possible by the enduring tradition of tolerance established by our founder. PHMC is identifying resources and developing programs related to the preservation and understanding of Pennsylvania’s religious history and sacred places.

Spring traditionally marks the reopening of the state-owned museums and historic sites along the popular Pennsylvania Trails of History and ushers in the busy school visitation season. We are pleased to report that PHMC destinations — even those temporarily closed due to the profound loss of funding and staffing — have been able to open with regular or reduced hours.

Our ability to continue successfully operating these historic sites and museums for the benefit of Pennsylvanians has depended on negotiating new models of operation and new relationships with our local nonprofit partners. There is a great deal of national discussion about the need to expand public-private partnerships in order to meet the economic challenges faced by Pennsylvania and other states. We at PHMC are extremely proud of the long history of partnerships we have forged and maintained with our local Friends groups. These groups have accepted significant challenges to increase their fundraising and volunteer efforts and take on expanded responsibilities for programming to make sure that these important places representing the collective history of Pennsylvania will be open and available to the public. At the same time, PHMC’s severely reduced staff has worked hard to make sure we can continue to satisfy and exceed professional standards and expertise for security, maintenance, objects and artifacts, preservation, and interpretation that will ensure that these historic places and irreplaceable collections are safeguarded for future generations. Working together, PHMC and local organizations embrace partnerships to provide the quality museum experiences that visitors to these distinctive destinations expect — and deserve.

The State Museum of Pennsylvania’s paleontology gallery recently reopened with new dinosaur dioramas and the dramatic reinstallation of the Marshall’s Creek mastodon in its permanent home as part of an exhibit entitled Life Through Time.

Museums and historical organizations throughout the Commonwealth are facing difficult times and need your support more than ever. Visit local historical organizations, history centers, and cultural institutions in your area and become active as a member or supporter of their efforts. Pennsylvania’s rich heritage and history depend on the support and participation of individuals as well as continued state funding.

Tuesday, April 12, the anniversary of the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter, marks the beginning of the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War. In Pennsylvania, more than four years of planning and the participation of individuals and organizations throughout the state will result in one of the most ambitious commemorations in the country. The Pennsylvania Civil War Road Show will debut in Harrisburg at the State Capitol during the week of April 10–17. The Road Show’s 2011 tour will launch in Pittsburgh at the Senator John Heinz History Center on May 5–9, and continue touring through the inaugural season, concluding with a visit to the Bloomsburg Fair, from September 24 through October 1. It will then resume its tour to each of our sixty-seven counties the following spring. Philadelphia is planning a series of reenactments, programs, and exhibits to launch the anniversary in April. Gettysburg, Chambersburg, Fairfield, and Greencastle are planning Invasion of Pennsylvania, a series of weekend events and reenactments.

Barbara Franco
Executive Director, PHMC