Executive Director’s Message

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

As I approach the completion of my first year as execu­tive director of the PHMC (April 9 [1982]) and the anniversary of our efforts to reinvigorate the programs of the Commission, I cannot help reflecting upon the mass of knowledge and insight I have been privileged to gain both about Pennsyl­vania and the pursuit and practice of history in the Com­monwealth. To me, the process has been stimulating and exciting in much the same sense as it is for a child with a taste for sweets who has just been given free access to a full cookie jar. Here are a few of the things I have learned.

Pennsylvania is the Keystone State historically and actually. I remain in awe of its rich history and of the vast store of historical resources present here. Whether one speaks of historic records, sites, objects, museums or other residues of the past, Pennsylvania is blessed with a richness of material history beyond perhaps any other state in the nation. And the number of people who are interested in history, who pursue historical interests through study, col­lection or volunteer work, is simply overwhelming. Indeed, from end to end the state is a continuum of historical diversity waiting to be discovered, perpetuating through historic buildings and customs many of those ways of life that have made Pennsylvania a marvel to visitors throughout its history.

I can appreciate now better than ever the efforts that have gone into the establishment and building of a compre­hensive state history program such as that developed by the PHMC over the past sixty-eight years. I can appreciate the efforts of many dedicated past commissioners and staff to build a program that has reached into every community and covered all facets of history.

I have also learned that some of the past objectives of the PHMC must be retooled to insure that we are serving more broadly all those people interested in history and culture, while at the same time getting greater mileage from those appropriated funds made available by the General Assembly.

Among the catalogue of initiatives to insure the maxi­mum level of effective public service which are now being pursued by the Commission, or will be in the near future, are the following:

  1. The placement of all Commission properties in their fullest and best use, either under Commission operation, through local Commission-assisted management or by way of an alternative method.
  2. The greatest possible development of programs and visitor services at all sites and museums.
  3. The development of an efficient local records pro­gram to assist Pennsylvania’s five thousand local governments in caring both for current and historic records.
  4. The development of a more spacious and functional Search Room for historians and other researchers at the State Archives.
  5. The development of more efficient data processing systems to insure the rapid availability of information on millions of records, historic objects and artifacts, and his­toric properties and archeological sites throughout Penn­sylvania.
  6. The establishment of a statewide revolving fund for historic preservation to be used in the acquisition and dis­posal of endangered historic properties.
  7. The refinement of systems to assure greater quality and quantity of nominations to the National Register of Historic Places, the certification of historic properties for tax incentives and the review of the effect of construction projects on historic resources.
  8. The production of quality historical publications for sale and distribution by the Commission and the availability of all titles (now over 100) at Commission bookstores throughout the Commonwealth.
  9. Cooperation with historical societies, museums, historic sites, and history and related professionals throughout the Commonwealth in developing and promoting history programs for the people of Pennsylvania.

These are just a few of the things the Commission has already solemnly and creatively addressed during the last year as it charts its future. To accomplish all of these goals will require the assistance of many citizens. Even in seeking and receiving citizen assistance, we are eager to establish opportunities for the participation of all interested parties either as volunteers, avocationists or co-laborers. The needs are so great and the opportunities so ripe that we are eager to have the interest and service of any citizen. A visit to any Commission property or museum or a letter or visit to our offices in Harrisburg would be greeted with a hearty wel­come to participate in our efforts. Already thousands of citizens are doing so through our associate groups at most historic sites and museums.

The most important lesson I have learned over the last year is that we must be our most productive and creative to keep pace with the need for history services. We shall try to keep that ideal ever before us.

Larry E. Tise