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

The commemoration of historical events and anniversaries is one of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission’s legislated responsibilities. The year 2013 will provide a number of opportunities to do so. For each of us these anniversaries provide a doorway to discovering more about Pennsylvania’s legacies.

This year three notable anniversaries relate to the American Civil War. In January The State Museum of Pennsylvania will recognize the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation with a special exhibition of one of only two dozen known 1864 copies signed by President Lincoln. On loan from the venerable Union League of Philadelphia, the document will be the centerpiece of a small but select exhibit of materials associated with emancipation drawn from the collections of The State Museum and the Pennsylvania State Archives. Emancipation: Lincoln and His Proclamation will open with a presentation by noted Lincoln scholar and prolific writer Harold Holzer on Friday evening, January 11, and continue through Sunday, February 3.

To observe the sesquicentennial of the Battle of Gettysburg, The State Museum will open a new exhibition centered around the monumental painting of Pickett’s Charge by Peter Frederick Rothermel, a native of Nescopeck, Luzerne County. The painting was the first work of art commissioned after the epic three-day battle based on numerous interviews with participants and is considered to be factually accurate. Several objects depicted in the painting and now part of museum’s collections will be featured in the exhibit.

In autumn, as part of our continuing Civil War 150 project we will unveil an exhibit addressing the home front in the Keystone State during the war. For the past two years this exhibition traveled throughout the Commonwealth as the Civil War 150 Road Show. This exhibit reminds us that Pennsylvania’s role in the war extended far beyond Gettysburg. In November PHMC will celebrate the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s delivery of the Gettysburg Address at the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery in the Adams County community. There is, perhaps, no more famous speech in Pennsylvania history.

This year also marks the bicentennial of Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry’s naval victory on Lake Erie, a critical battle in the nation’s defeat of the British in the War of 1812. In recognition of that historic event the Flagship Niagara will take part in a number of tall ship events throughout the summer, culminating in a commemorative event at the site of the Battle of Lake Erie.

We also need to note two benchmarks this year which are extremely important to us as stewards of the Commonwealth’s history and heritage: the one hundredth anniversary of the merging of the State Museum and the State Archives in 1913 to form the Pennsylvania Historical Commission (which became PHMC in 1945) and the fortieth anniversary of the creation of the Pennsylvania Heritage Foundation as the Friends of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission in 1983.

Each of these anniversaries will provide unique opportunities to discover — and rediscover — significant and meaningful stories about Pennsylvania’s past. We invite you to join us for one (or more!) of our commemorative events; more importantly, we hope you will be motivated to read an article or book or to enjoy a media special about the history-changing events and individuals we commemorate in 2013.

James M. Vaughan
Executive Director, PHMC