Executive Director’s Letter

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

When Governor Tom Corbett and Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC) Chair Andy Masich approached me about leading the agency, I found it impossible to say no. Admittedly, they are both persuasive salesmen, but it is PHMC that proved irresistible. The Commission has long been viewed as a national leader and innovator, widely respected for the scope and quality of its services and programs. I could not be more excited by the opportunities, despite the obvious financial challenges confronting cultural organizations and agencies in the current economy. I look forward to working with the Commissioners, PHMC staff, and our many public and private partners to advance the important work of PHMC for the people of Pennsylvania and visitors. I believe PHMC can also become a national leader in meeting today’s economic challenges.

As a historian, preservationist, and museum director, I must say it doesn’t get any better than this. There may be no state whose history so closely parallels the major themes of the nation’s history than Pennsylvania. I spent my first day as executive director touring some of PHMC’s diverse collections which reflect and illuminate the Commonwealth’s history, natural history, art, technology, anthropology, geology, archaeology and so many other topics. I was like a kid in a candy store. PHMC is, indeed, a remarkable storehouse of treasures. One of my first priorities is to make these priceless artifacts, objects, and documents more available to the public by placing them online. This arduous process will require an investment of time and money, but as it progresses, you too will discover the many stories now preserved by our historic sites and museums and the Pennsylvania State Archives.

As I toured the galleries of The State Museum of Pennsylvania, I was delighted by the sound of children and students enjoying themselves as they learned about the Keystone State’s history. “Hey, come look at this! It’s really cool!” PHMC staff members are committed to introducing young people to the joy of learning; they do not walk through the museum asking kids to be quiet. They think it’s great when learning is fun and a bit noisy. And so do I.

One of the rewards of working with museums, historic sites, archives, and preservation and archaeology programs is the broad spectrum of life-long learning opportunities we offer. It’s easy to make the claim that PHMC offers something for everyone. I have already discovered that it’s not easy to describe PHMC’s variety of programs, scope of collections, and geographic diversity. When asked, I simply respond, “We’re all about Pennsylvania!”

James M. Vaughan
Executive Director, PHMC