Executive Director’s Message

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

We live in an age in which centennials and bicentennials – not to mention anniversaries of all sorts – have become commonplace. In preparing for the seventy-fifth anniver­sary of the Pennsylvania His­torical and Museum Commission this year, we asked ourselves if the com­memoration would be lost in the multitude of local and regional celebrations, a mere footnote in the “events” sec­tion of the local newspaper? While our anniversary will not result in great parades and observances, I believe there are three good reasons for the Commission to mark the occa­sion in a modest and dignified manner.

First, we want to honor the men and women who have served as Commissioners and those who have labored dili­gently as staff. We have been most fortunate to have had the guidance and support of citizens – and legislators and cabinet officials – who have, as members of the Commission, shared the responsibility in preserving and promoting our precious heritage. The able employees of the Commission, both past and present, are among the most dedicated in state government. Only through their ingenuity and commitment has the Commis­sion been able to thrive as a publicly-supported agency.

While an impulse to cele­brate is healthy, we would not be truly honoring the tradition of the Commission if we did not take a critical look at our history. An instrument of public policy, the Commission was born out of public need, a need articulated by a grassroots organization, the Pennsylvania Federation of Historical Societies. The Com­mission’s leaders attempted then – as they continue to do today – to identify the key issues in the conservation and interpretation of Pennsylva­nia’s history and culture. The nature of that mission has changed with each generation. The early concerns for estab­lishing historical markers, memorials and monuments gave way to assuming respon­sibility for preserving historic sites and buildings and their collections of artifacts and artworks. The collection and publication of the documen­tary records of the Common­wealth eventually lead to the development of a sophisticated records management program. The national historic preserva­tion movement that emerged in the late 1960s and early 1970s enjoyed strong citizen support in Pennsylvania, and shaped new legislation ex­panding the agency’s powers and responsibilities. The growth and development of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission was nurtured by sagacious mem­bers and staff, and, most im­portantly, by concerned advocates of the executive and legislative branches of state government.

Finally, the act of recogniz­ing the Commission’s history is in keeping with our man­dated mission to record the history of state government. We hope that our celebration will serve as an example to other state agencies noting anniversaries in the next few years. For too long, historians have concentrated on the his­tory of politics and politicians, virtually neglecting the history of departments and the able individuals who have self­lessly directed them.

The planning for our seventy-fifth anniversary is well underway. A statewide photo contest, a special initia­tive for young people to join our Friends of the PHMC, and a day filled with lectures and receptions are already sched­uled for later this year. I hope the many thousands of citi­zens of Pennsylvania – from volunteers to visitors – will join us in celebrating this milestone during 1988.

Brent D. Glass
Executive Director