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

Museums and historical organizations across the cow1try are redefining and repackaging themselves as educational institutions. When I review annual reports of some of the nation’s most prestigious programs­ – Colonial Williamsburg and Greenfield Village, for in­stance – I am struck by new statements of purpose calling for greater commitment to use museums and their diverse collections to educate all citizens, especially young children.

There are two major reasons for this trend. First, American education is badly in need of support from all sectors of society. Various reform efforts during the past decade have barely received passing grades. Second, museums and historical societies are sorely underval­ued and underutilized as educational resources. Despite many attempts to demystify these institutions and make them more accessible and relevant, the public’s percep­tion of museums as musty preserves of the elite has persisted.

The need for our history and museum community to respond to the Keystone State’s educational require­ments is being driven by fundamental changes in the Common wealth’s curriculum standards. Of the mandated learning outcomes of quality education identified by the state Department of Education, six involve goals that directly or indirectly call for knowledge of United States or Pennsylvania history. The connection between the study of history and the understand­ing of modern society and contemporary issues is explicit in these requirements, as is the need for experiential learning and visual literacy.

For many decades, the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC) has made important contribu­tions to the field of education. More than one hundred and fifty thousand children tour the various historic sites and museums along our well­-traveled “Pennsylvania Trail of History” every year. Most of our facilities offer special study tours and active learning experiences. In-service training for teachers is offered at many locations. In some cases, we actually bring the museum to the classroom through “traveling trunk” exhibits and staff visits. The PHMCs most visible presence is the Mobile Museum which visits every county-and school groups make up half of our more than fifty thousand visitors! In addition, we support educa­tional programming through grants to local museums and historical societies, and through the publication and distribution of primary documents from the Pennsyl­vania State Archives.

To succeed in accomplish­ing our educational mission requires museums and historical organizations to forge new partnerships with schools, volunteer associations, foundations, and corporations. Our mission also relies heavily on adequate public support. As our traditional role as conservation agencies expands to take greater responsibility as educational institutions, we will need the financial re­sources for staffing and quality programming. All investment in museum education today will return handsome divi­dends tomorrow. A bright and promising future awaits us.

Brent D. Glass
Executive Director