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

The spring edition of Pennsylvania Heritage covers more than three hundred years of the Commonwealth’s history wealth’s history, from the seventeenth­-century gardens of William Penn at Pennsbury Manor to Smarty Jones’s Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes victories last year.

Spring in Pennsylvania follows familiar cycles as predictable spring bulbs are followed by flowering orchards, rhododendron and laurel covered mountains, and freshly plowed fields. But spring also brings its surprises – wildflowers appear unexpectedly and “volunteers” in the garden sprout from last year’s seeds.

The study of history also combines the familiar and the unexpected and encourages us to think about the future as well as the past. The articles in this issue of Pennsylvania Heritage describe historical patterns of garden styles, horse racing, and the development of America’s oldest art institution. They also introduce unexpected lessons and new insights about the present and future that come from deeper understanding of our history and heritage.

While many of us take well-manicured suburban lawns for granted, author Myra K. Jacobsohn reminds us that expansive lawns were first introduced as a radical new garden style in eighteenth-century England. State Museum curator Curtis Miner’s history of horse racing in Pennsylvania places recent events of 2004 in a three-centuries-­old debate over public policy and popular culture from Pennsylvania’s first Great Law in 1682 to House Bill 2330, the recent Pennsylvania Race Horse Development and Gaming Act. Cheryl Liebold’s account of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts shows how a venerable Philadelphia institution has remained true to its mission while keeping pace with contemporary art and art education.

This spring and summer, I hope you will take time to explore Pennsylvania for both its rich traditions and unexpected surprises. The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission’s more than two dozen historic sites and museums offer a wealth of special events and exhibits where you can experience Pennsylvania firsthand. The Pennsylvania Heritage Society newsletter and calendar of PHMC events will be included in the magazine beginning with the Summer 2005 issue. We hope you find this new format convenient and informative and that you will take advantage of the many opportunities to participate in PHMC programs throughout the Commonwealth.

Whether it’s sheep shearing at Washington Crossing Historic Park and Hope Lodge, the Herb and Garden Faire at Landis Valley Museum, or gardening workshops at Old Economy Village and Pennsbury Manor, the PHMC’s historic sites and museums bring history to life. The Commission participates in National Historic Preservation Month every May, but we also promote the benefits of preservation throughout the year with a specific theme. In 2004, we raised awareness of the importance of farmland preservation, and this year we are highlighting a precious-and often endangered-resource, historic theaters in the Keystone State. Your membership in the Pennsylvania Heritage Society helps support these and many other PHMC programs and initiatives. We appreciate the support of the members and friends who help us preserve the history of Pennsylvania for future generations. To those who are not yet members of the Pennsylvania Heritage Society, we invite you to join our cause.

Barbara Franco
Executive Director, PHMC