Executive Director’s Message

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

Moving to Pennsylvania to become, in early February 2004, executive director of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC) seems as much like a homecoming for me as it is a new beginning. Pennsylvania is a place where my family has deep roots among German farmers and Scots-Irish iron-workers. It is the place where I experienced history firsthand as a student at Bryn Mawr College visiting Philadelphia’s storied Elfreth’s Alley. It is the place where I helped my mother research and preserve an 1840s Millerite Church in rural Centre County.

“Place matters,” as the National Trust for Historic Preservation has helped us understand. A sense of place is important to understanding who we are as individuals, as communities, and as nations; it also helps shape who we will become. Like politics, all history is local; it happens somewhere. Pennsylvania is blessed with an abundance of history and a strong sense of place. Battlefields, historic sites and communities, historical markers, collections, and archives are all part of a legacy that Pennsylvania holds in trust for the future.

The Brookings Institution, the influential Washington, D.C., think tank, with funding from the Heinz Endowments and the William Penn Foundation and supported by 10,000 Friends of Pennsylvania, recently released Back to Prosperity: A Competitive Agenda for Renewing Pennsylvania, a report that emphasizes that “the Commonwealth remains blessed – by its natural beauty, by its proud business traditions and universities, by the high quality of life available in many of its towns, cities, and traditional neighborhoods.” It is not surprising that the recommendations of this report acknowledge Pennsylvania’s place-based assets of world-class farms, distinctive neighborhoods, natural beauty, and picturesque towns. Reinvestment in these assets – our cities, towns, and older townships – is identified as key to the future prosperity of the Commonwealth and its residents. The challenge ahead will be how to build a new and prosperous Pennsylvania that is grounded in its historic sense of place. The PHMC, with its historical resources, professional expertise, and community networks, will play a key role in meeting this challenge. I look forward to working with individuals, organizations, and communities throughout the Commonwealth as we move confidently into the future because we know who we are and from where we have come.

Barbara Franco
Executive Director, PHMC