Executive Director’s Message

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

During the course of the last year, I have on several occa­sions commented about the efforts of the Pennsylvania His­torical and Museum Commission (PHMC) to find new ways of using its vast array of historic sites and museums, many of which had been closed to the public due to insufficient finan­cial resources. To deal with this long-term difficulty, the Commission initiated an innovative property evaluation, clas­sification and placement program for the purpose of finding new, lower-cost or income-producing uses for many of its underutilized or unutilized properties. At the same time, the Commission launched a number of initiatives aimed at achiev­ing excellence in operations and programs at the twenty-seven historic sites and museums remaining under Commission staffing and management. We are now in a position to report some of the results of the program.

The evaluation and classification efforts began in July 1981. The placement program (putting certain underutilized properties under local management agreements or under lease arrangements) followed in January 1982. By June 1982 alternative uses had been found for nearly all of the the thirty­-one properties included in the placement program. Seventeen of the thirty-one have been put into management agreements with local historical societies or with local colleges and uni­versities which will continue to operate the properties as his­toric sites or museums. Of the remaining fourteen, most have been leased to organizations or individuals which will main­tain the properties, making them available to the public on some basis other than as historic sites or museums. Among these lease uses are all of the following: historical society headquarters, offices for the American Cancer Society, a pot­tery, an art museum and an archaeological field school.

While attempting to find appropriate and cost-efficient uses for many underutilized properties, we have also initiated a number of actions to place our major sites and museums on a stronger financial base. Among these initiatives have been changes in our staffing pattern, which will provide more peo­ple at each site during periods of high visitation and fewer during the less popular winter months. We are also more closely correlating funds derived from admission fees with funds expended on visitor services. In January 1982, a creditable marketing program was also established to promote greater public awareness of PHMC programs and sites. With regard to our extensive historical collections, an inventory of holdings has been completed and a conservation program has begun. By challenging members of the staff to seek and secure private-sector funding for the acquisition of collections, for conservation projects, and for other program activities, we have been able to considerably expand our available re­sources. Underutilized buildings at some of the larger sites, in­cluding residences, shops and galleries, are being employed in new ways. Publications are being more effectively marketed through newly established bookstores and gift shops. And, finally, greater use is being made of the associate or volunteer groups connected with a number of our sites and museums. Through funds generated by associate groups and through their volunteer work, the Commission’s real resources, count­ed in salary savings and outright gifts, have increased to a to­tal of $800,000 per year.

If all of the foregoing initiatives are combined and continue to operate at the levels projected, the Commission’s total re­sources, through cost savings and new revenues, particularly with the assistance of the associate groups, should increase to a level of $1.6 million during the current year-a considerable increase in the Commission’s total capability to operate all of its programs and properties. But, that is just the beginning. We are now launching into a renewed effort to achieve even greater efficiency and, thereby, the most outstanding pro­grams possible. Every idea and offer of assistance is wel­comed.

Larry E. Tise