Executive Director’s Message

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

Renewal and rebuilding are appropriate theme, and so it is with great enthusiasm and expectation I note the renaming of the Friends of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission as the Pennsylvania Heritage Society. Determined to grasp this opportunity, members of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC), who also serve as directors of the Pennsylvania Heritage Society, are taking the lead by defining and directing an ambitious agenda to make history in the Keystone State come alive for residents and visitors alike.

The Society’s mission remains essentially the same – to serve our members and their interests in preserving and presenting the history of Pennsylvania. There will, however, be greater focus on the conservation of collections, publications for school children, and promotion of special events. The Society will play a major role each spring in the celebration of Charter Day – commemorating the granting in 1681 of Penn’s Woods by King Charles II to William Penn – as the central event in an annual statewide History Week.

The organization’s new name reflects its identification with, and pivotal role in, the publication of this magazine. The creation of a private support group for the PHMC in 1983 coincided with the emergence of a “new” Pennsylvania Heritage that has enjoyed resounding critical success and a faithful, loyal readership. I am extremely proud of the growing number of Society members and magazine subscribers, as well as the quality of membership services and the outstanding content and design of each edition.

As the Pennsylvania Heritage Society advances its programs over the next few years, we will inevitably become engaged in defining and refining what we mean by “heritage.” At one time, heritage referred to our common cultural inheritance – ideas, traditions, and places. In recent years, though, the concept of heritage has expanded to become so inclusive that virtually anything which has occurred or has been produced by our society qualifies as part of our heritage. Heritage has literally become a commodity and, in some cases, simply a veneer for economic development.

As heritage has become increasingly popular, the study of history, on the other hand, has grown more specialized and, unfortunately, less accessible to the public. Those of us who value both heritage and history have a major obligation to look critically at the ways we understand and interpret the past. We must also find ways to inform the public about why certain people, places, and events are significant and worthy of study. To avoid trivializing the past, to determine what to remember and what to forget, to decide what to let go and what to save – these are the challenging responsibilities of a public history agency and the wonderful volunteers who support our work.

Brent D. Glass
Executive Director