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

In the final version of the 2009–2010 state budget, the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC) lost more than 30 percent of its funding. The severity of the reductions we face is unprecedented. Our operating budget was reduced by $6.3 million; the Keystone Fund allocation that supports historic preservation grants to non-profits and ongoing preservation of PHMC historic sites and museums was eliminated; and Museum Assistance Grants were reduced by $2 million for a total of $1.6 million.

These cuts will change the work of the Commission for decades to come and will immediately impact employees, the public, and the communities in which we work. Your membership and support for the Pennsylvania Heritage Society has never been more critical. We are working with the Friends groups at each of our sites, community groups, and colleagues to make sure that Pennsylvania’s incredible historical legacy is not lost forever due to the current economic situation. For more than a century, the Pennsylvania State Archives and The State Museum of Pennsylvania have served the citizens of Pennsylvania by preserving our common wealth of history that makes Pennsylvania such a special place. PHMC historic sites and museums serve as anchors in their communities for local pride, economic development, and cultural enrichment.

In the months ahead, you will see changes in many of PHMC’s programs because of severely limited resources. Hours of operation will be reduced and programs will be curtailed. The greatest impact will be the loss of many dedicated employees who have provided expertise, passion, and talent to make Pennsylvania’s history programs among the best in the nation. With the resources that remain, PHMC is committed to continuing to provide the best level of stewardship possible to preserve the historical assets that are crucial to understanding state, national, and world history.

I’m pleased to announce PHMC’s annual theme for 2010 is “Black History in Pennsylvania: Communities in Common.” With this theme, PHMC and its partners demonstrate a commitment to the preservation and interpretation of African American heritage at the state, regional, and local levels and encourage communities throughout the Commonwealth to join and contribute to this important effort. A central element of “Communities in Common” is a comprehensive historic resource survey and context study of eight Black communities that will be available online. The study, funded in part by the federal Preserve America program, is undertaken in partnership between PHMC and the African American Museum of Philadelphia. It serves as a model for localities across the Keystone State to examine the histories of their Black communities, analyze their historical significance, and recognize and evaluate related cultural and historic resources. PHMC and its partners also plan to offer museum exhibits, tourism products highlighting African American heritage, a special thematic edition of Pennsylvania Heritage, and much more.

The Friends of The State Museum is sponsoring a “Buy-A-Bone” campaign to raise $250,000 to assist in the state-of-the- art reconstruction of a 12,000-year-old mastodon skeleton — unearthed in 1968 in Monroe County — and to install it in an updated Paleontology Gallery at the museum. Everyone can take part in this effort by purchasing one (or more!) of the 263 bones that range in price from $25 to $25,000. Donors will receive a certificate commemorating their contributions, as well as an invitation to a special preview of the mastodon to be held in January 2010. The names of the donors will also appear on a plaque in the new exhibit gallery.

Each year we celebrate William Penn’s legacy with Charter Day. This year’s observance, scheduled for Sunday, March 14, 2010, continues to provide an opportunity for Pennsylvanians to reconnect with the Commonwealth’s history and to appreciate the importance of saving that history for generations to come.

I thank all PHMC employees, as well as our many partners, for their patience and perseverance during these uncertain and difficult times. The support of our Pennsylvania Heritage Society members, Friends groups, and colleagues will be essential to safeguarding our historical resources and records.

Barbara Franco
Executive Director, PHMC