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

This issue of Pennsylvania Heritage reiterates how individuals from various backgrounds and time periods and with a variety of goals have shaped the Keystone State’s past and present. Philadelphia heiress Katharine M. Drexel eschewed wealth and privilege to pursue a religious life devoted to helping others. The story of the Blooming Grove Hunting and Fishing Club chronicles the efforts of its members to enjoy the outdoors, and at the same encouraged the preservation of natural habitats and propagation of native species. Isaac Lea, an early nineteenth-century pioneer in identifying and naming species, was an amateur scientist who became involved in public debates about evolution, geology, and paleontology.

Documenting, interpreting, and celebrating the contributions of individual effort is a major element of the PHMC’s ongoing initiative in partnership with the Pennsylvania Association of Environmental Professionals to record and preserve the Commonwealth’s rich history of conservation. Oral histories and papers of Walter A. Lyon, a leader for more than two decades in the Commonwealth’s water pollution control and drinking water programs, add to the significant holdings of the Pennsylvania State Archives and The State Museum of Pennsylvania. During the Governor’s Outdoor Conference in March, sponsored by the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and other state agencies, participants emphasized the importance of continuing research and collecting in this area. They also stressed the need to know more about Pennsylvania’s legacy of conservation and historic appreciation for the outdoors to inspire continued stewardship by younger generations.

The “Penn Legacy Project: Engaging People for Better Communities” is a new PHMC initiative headed by Anita D. Blackaby that extends PHMC’s commitment and interest in civic engagement to the work of the entire Commission. Working with the Pennsylvania Coalition for Representative Democracy (PennCORD), a statewide effort to improve civics learning in Pennsylvania’s schools, the project is making connections with national organizations and colleagues in other states. This initiative recognizes that true citizen engagement depends on a deep understanding of history. “A nation’s history must be both the guide and the domain not so much of its historians as its citizens,” wrote Arthur Schlesinger Jr. (1917–2007), American historian and social critic, in the January 1, 2007, edition of the New York Times.

In Pennsylvania, we have a rich history of citizenship models, beginning with William Penn and his vision for a new society in the New World. You will be hearing more about the Penn Legacy Project and how it will be incorporated into programs at PHMC historic sites and museums, exhibits at The State Museum, archives and history programs, and historic preservation efforts.

I encourage you to become involved — whether it’s through local efforts in your community or by participating at the state level through membership in the Pennsylvania Heritage Society. Our past is rich in examples of people who have made a difference. We have a responsibility to honor their achievements through our own efforts to preserve the past and to influence the future.

Barbara Franco
Executive Director, PHMC