Executive Director’s Message

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

Lack of operating funds is endangering the network of historic sites and properties and museums that the Commonwealth has developed through the years at great effort and expense to reflect the historic and cultural heritage of her people.

Ironically, on the threshold of Bicentennial 1976, the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC) has been forced to close ten properties and reduce operating schedules at seventeen others because of a 1975–76 budget $648,000.

We hope that the Legislature will provide additional funds so that these properties may be reopened to meet public demands, especially during the Bicentennial year. Mean­while we have been seeking volunteer organizations, such as local historical societies and associate groups to assume responsibility for the properties, taking them over and keeping their doors open to the public.

We always have considered local involvement a vital ele­ment in our operation, and we have particularly emphasized its development through the encouragement of auxiliary support groups at various Commission properties. An estimated 10,000 volunteers representing twenty individual organizations are providing financial and/or other important support at these properties. One such local group has stepped forward since the closings’ announcement to take over and operate a property in its community.

We have been provided funds to acquire and restore properties at considerable expense, but then receive little or no funds to operate them. Operating budget problems have plagued us in recent years.

The closings and reduced operating schedules at the various properties followed the Commission’s being forced to reduce its staff by more than forty employees as of last October 1.

But the personnel cuts do not tell the full story. In the rather short period since last March 1, the Commission has the loss of nearly 100 positions on its staff.

In addition to the loss of their jobs by employees who have served the Commonwealth and the Commission faith­fully over the years, the job cuts represent the discontinu­ance of important programs. Unique and valuable historic properties are endangered through neglected maintenance. Essential repairs must be put off; worn out equipment cannot be replaced.

Represented in the network of properties are those that are important not only in the cultural but in the economic life of often more or less isolated communities and areas as well. They also reflect for most areas a pride in their local history and traditions. These heritage spots, as they have been called, also are tools in our educational process and in passing on the cultural heritage to a new generation.

In addition to those important considerations, these heri­tage spots are the focal points of tourists visiting our his­toric Commonwealth. They, thus, serve the tourist industry which is so important to the economic welfare and development of the state.

If we have built a great network of historic properties involving almost every area of the Commonwealth, we now must consider the need pragmatically to support it. Too much of the visual evidence of our heritage has been lost through neglect in the past that we can ill afford to neglect what remains.

The Bicentennial year would be one in which we assert a willingness to bear the financial pain of preservation. The effort will represent an investment for the future and for which our children and their children will be grateful.

William J. Wewer, Executive Director
Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission