Executive Director’s Message

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

Barely a year ago the Commission decided that the time had arrived to focus attention on the larger histori­cal and cultural community in Pennsylvania. One of our first initiatives was the design of an innovative museum assistance program to serve the five hundred historical societies and museums scattered throughout the Common­wealth. Not only has this important program been conceived and implemented, but the types of organizations and institutions have been studied and the results formally presented to an enthusiastic Gov. Dick Thorn­burgh and a most supportive General Assembly of Pennsyl­vania. For the first time in the history of the Commonwealth, there is now a recognized and officially sanctioned program to assist in the development and programming of these many fine institutions.

In the course of developing the museum assistance program, a Museums Advisory Committee (MAC), comprised of twenty-five leading museum professionals in Pennsylvania, was estab­lished and seated. Not only were representatives from the large, urban and well-known museums selected, but so too were individuals associated with small historical societies and special interest museums. With the advice and leader­ship of the committee, a survey of the identified five hundred organizations and institutions was undertaken. The committee was encouraged – three hundred and forty-four responses were received and tallied. And the information was fascinating!

Of the museums respond­ing, sixty-six and one-half percent are history related, although there are a number devoted to art, science and special interests. More than sixty percent are operated by nonprofit corporations. Nearly half have been incorporated since 1955. They are located throughout the sixty-seven counties, but there are large clusters in the greater Phila­delphia area, as well as in and around Pittsburgh and Lancaster. Most count less than ten thousand visitors each year and most operating budgets total fifty thousand dollars or less annually. Nevertheless, more than twenty-one million persons visit the attractions and more than one hundred and eight million dollars in operating costs are expended during a typical year.

With data firmly estab­lished, the committee designed a matching grant program available to all institutions and organizations able to meet minimal criteria. Various areas were assigned priority status, including exhibits and public programs, marketing and promotions, institutional development, collections management and cooperative programs with other museums. In addition, the committee outlined a special technical assistance category for facilities unable to meet the criteria but contem­plating major programs with priority status. An easy to use guidebook was devised and is now available to any museum or museum professional. A copy may be requested by writing: “Guide to PHMC Grants Programs,” P.O. Box 1026, Harrisburg, PA 17108-1026.

In closing, I extend, on behalf of the entire agency staff, these many thanks to Governor Thornburgh and the members of the state legisla­ture for their understanding and generosity. We are grate­ful to the members of the advisory committee and the many individuals who offered time and talent to making the grants program a reality. And now we eagerly wait to serve, in any way possible, Pennsyl­vania’s great museums and historic sites.

Larry E. Tise
Executive Director