Executive Director’s Message

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

In recent issues of PH I have discussed the PHMC’s efforts to put all of its historic sites and museums, as well as their component parts, to their best possible uses. The objective of the program is to retain twenty-seven major historic sites and museums under full Commission management and to place the remaining thirty-one properties either under the management of local historical groups, with financial assistance from the Commission, or in alternative situations which will guarantee their accessibility to the public. The placement of the thirty­-one under legal management or occupancy agreements is pro­ceeding apace in an innovative and cost-efficient manner, thus ensuring that the Commission’s great store of historic proper­ties is once again fully available to the citizens of the Com­monwealth.

As this program unfolds, the Commission bas also been focusing much of its attention on the future development and operation of those historic sites and museums which will con­tinue to be completely staffed by the PHMC. Development plans are currently being drawn for all historic sites and for many of the museums.

Suggestive of the manner in which these sites may be operated in the future is a program outline entitled “The Lan­caster Area Initiative,” which was recently approved by the Commission. Stimulated in part by a position paper submitted to the Commission in January by the Lancaster County Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the initiative suggests that the PHMC’s major historic sites and museums in the Lan­caster area (Ephrata Cloister, the Farm Museum and the Railroad Museum) could and perhaps should be operated by the private sector. The proposal includes a number of new wrinkles in Commission property management which are in­tended to bring our properties into closer cooperation with other historic sites and tourist operations in the Lancaster region. It also seeks to lay the groundwork for increasing visitation at local historic sites through more intense promo­tional efforts and for making greater use of methods and con­cepts of operation frequently applied in the private sector.

A brief outline of the “Lancaster Area Initiative” follows:

  1. The Commission’s major properties in the area will be combined into a functional grouping designated as the “Lan­caster Cluster” with the administrator of one of those proper­ties serving as a local spokesman.
  2. Each facility will conduct public meetings and informal gatherings to develop a better understanding of community perspectives about each property and to encourage greater community involvement in the future.
  3. The Commission will unite its properties with seven other nonprofit historic sites and museums to form a Lan­caster Area Consortium which will produce jointly-funded promotional literature, cooperate in ticketing and work closely together with the local travel bureau.
  4. The Commission will form a local citizens’ advisory committee to assist in the development of closer ties with local business interests and perhaps establish a corporation to pro­duce publications, reproductions and other materials to be sold locally and in the general gift market.
  5. Commission properties in the area will combine forces to launch a program of cooperative promotion, ticketing, publications, touring procedures and gift sale operations.
  6. Each site will develop a visitor services program, based in part on the admission income each produces, and continue to maintain free, quality educational programs for school groups.
  7. Substantial efforts will be made to improve the quality of all exhibits and other visitor programs.

Although much of the Lancaster initiative deals with ad­ministrative matters, the most important dimension of this new departure is that the Commission has charted a course of cooperation with other historic sites and museums and com­mitted itself to not only operate the PHMC’s major sites and museums but also to enhance the quality of its programs and visitor services. Also important is the fact that this plan pro­vides a model which could be easily and successfully replicated in other parts of the Commonwealth.

Down the road, it is the desire of the Commission to play a much greater role in aiding quality nonprofit historic sites and museums. Not only does the PHMC hope to increase the visitation at and use of its own properties but also of the many important sites and collections being maintained by other segments of government, historical societies and additional nonprofit corporations. A phenomenal number of quality historic sites and museums exist throughout the Com­monwealth, but many of them are under-utilized and little-­known. Through the Lancaster initiative and similar programs which may arise in other parts of the Commonwealth, the Commission hopes to pave the way toward increased usage of the state’s historic attractions and thereby toward greater understanding of our common history.

Larry E. Tise