Executive Director’s Message

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

The growth of governmental support for historical societies in Pennsylvania has been slow and halting. The historical record has been somewhat uneven with state support assisting occasional projects such as the construc­tion of headquarters for the Historical Society of Pennsylvania and the Western Pennsylvania Historical Society. A 1977 survey conducted by the Federation of Historical Societies revealed that only about 37% of Federation members received any form of financial support from their local county government. Although one county provided $5,000 to support its society, a typical county appropriation was only $1,000.

While economic and budgetary restrictions will continue to slow progress in this area, an important advancement was made recently when a state legislative conference committee arrived at an agreement on House Bill 858. This legislation amends the “County Code” which authorizes county commissioners to make appropriations to historical societies in third-through-eighth class counties. The new bill raises the ceiling placed on county appropriations from $6,000 to $10,000. If more than one society exists in a county. payment will be made only to the oldest society. While this legislation may not solve all problems pertaining to local societies, it appears to be a step in the right direction. It provides a clear recognition that the preservation of local history is a legitimate and desirable function of local government. The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission feels it is crucial for all societies to know of this legislative action. Societies should work in a cooperative fashion with both municipal and county governments to meet common objectives in preserving our heritage.

William J. Wewer
Executive Director