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

In March 2008, Pennsylvania will once again mark the anniversary of the granting of the 1681 Charter to William Penn by England’s King Charles II for the land that became the colony and eventually the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC) will conduct Heritage Week activities from Friday through Sunday, March 7–16, to celebrate the Keystone State’s 327th birthday.

During the observance, the Charter will be on display at The State Museum of Pennsylvania in Harrisburg, and a host of activities are planned at PHMC facilities throughout the Commonwealth. The PHMC will celebrate Charter Day on Sunday, March 9, by offering free admission to our historic sites and museums along the Pennsylvania Trails of History. Many of our popular attractions will present family heritage programs in genealogy, care of family collections, archaeology, and architectural preservation. For Heritage Week each year, we invite our state legislators to nominate a Penn Ambassador from each of their districts to come to Harrisburg and meet with PHMC staff about issues of interest in statewide programs, as well as to share information about local projects. The Pennsylvania Heritage Society’s Signature Series will feature historian and author Daniel K. Richter, who will speak about Native Americans in Pennsylvania.

For each of the past several years, PHMC has selected a theme to focus research and programming. Our 2008 theme underscores the seventy-fifth anniversary of the New Deal in Pennsylvania. We will issue a poster commemorating the observance that will include information about the New Deal. We will also devote substantial coverage on the Web to ongoing anniversary activities and events.

The historical lessons of the New Deal are many. It was a period during which both state and nation faced extreme economic hardships and people worked together to overcome adversity. Although New Deal projects were funded through national programs, many of them were strongly rooted in local and regional identity. State histories described local points of interest and customs, and the Index of American Design recorded unique regional folk arts. In Pennsylvania, Governor George H. Earle III, a friend of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and an ardent supporter of FDR’s New Deal, crafted a series of innovative programs for economic relief which earned it the appellation “Pennsylvania’s Little New Deal.” In this issue, Kenneth C. Wolensky, PHMC historian and author, explores the impact of Earle’s Little New Deal and how it echoed FDR’s national efforts. Among the greatest legacies of the New Deal are an appreciation for local history and the significance of the experiences of ordinary individuals. As PHMC commemorates the seventy-fifth anniversary of the New Deal, we celebrate the legions of people — millions across the Commonwealth and the country — who, working shoulder to shoulder, helped bring not only a sense of normalcy, but also one of belonging, to their lives.

Barbara Franco
Executive Director, PHMC