Executive Director’s Message

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

In my last column, I announced that a committee of creative employees was immersed in identifying the ways in which the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC) and the Pennsylvania Heritage Society (PHS) could more effectively market and promote Pennsylvania Heritage and the Society itself. The committee members’ findings are most revealing.

They found that Pennsylvania Heritage appeals to a wide range of readers, from scholars and historians to lay readers. More than 65 percent of those recently surveyed were very strongly satisfied with the publication and 34 percent were, at the very least, satisfied. (To me, a whopping 99 percent of our readership appreciates the magazine!) The group emphatically believes the magazine does not require an overhaul. But the self-­study does prompt several basic questions: What can we do to expand the magazine’s content to make it even more interesting? How can we better market the publication as a “product”? Where should we advertise the magazine?

In terms of content, the committee suggested adding special features to appeal to teachers and students; including articles on “contemporary, contested, and controversial” history; and publishing articles which help travel and heritage tourism throughout Pennsylvania. For marketing and promotion, our committee recommended targeting the educational and history communities; engaging younger audiences; considering partnering with other agencies and organizations; and advertising through radio, television, and the Internet – with the possibility of offering the option to order online.

Whatever the outcome, readers of Pennsylvania Heritage will continue to enjoy one of the best-if not the very best-publication of its kind.

The staff committee strayed from their original assignment by asking, “Can the Pennsylvania Heritage Society be more effectively utilized to advocate for the PHMC’s other programs?” The answer is yes.

To most members, the work of the PHS means a subscription to Pennsylvania Heritage and free admission to the historic sites and museums along our popular Pennsylvania Trail of History. Transparent are the management of grants, the coordination of projects and the support the organization offers to Heritage Week and other special programs and events celebrated throughout the year. And, as others have in the past, the staff committee envisioned a more vigorous, far-reaching Pennsylvania Heritage Society, capable of fulfilling a much greater role in supporting the mission of the PHMC.

To broaden and enhance the PHS’s role will, naturally, require changes in the composition of the organization’s board of directors, modifications to its bylaws and, more importantly, flexibility to function more independently. While there are always challenges to such changes, the opportunities and benefits appear to far outweigh the risks.

The committee recommended that the PHS establish a development office – a function the Commission desperately needs to facilitate fundraising and financial support. Aided by such an office, the Society could enhance the Commission’s capacity to build partnerships and develop a broader network of allied heritage organizations. It could also enhance the marketing and promotion of the organization and the magazine. It would enable the PHS to emerge as a strong advocate for the history and museum communities.

The PHS and the PHMC have been excellent partners in producing this highly successful magazine. This cooperative effort has also resulted in many other successful projects and programs that have benefited Pennsylvania’s residents and visitors. Timing is ideal for both organizations to reevaluate their mutual interests, to explore opportunities for expanding and improving this partnership, and to bring a whole new level of support to fulfilling the mission of the Society and the Commission.

John C. Wesley
Interim Executive Director