Editor's Letter is an introduction to the contents and themes of each issue of Pennsylvania Heritage by the editor.

The 50th anniversary of The State Museum and Archives Complex gives us the opportunity at PHMC to commemorate the significance of not only our particular architectural treasure but also the many buildings, furnishings and designs of a similar mode created in the Keystone State during the mid-20th century. Accordingly, Midcentury Modern in Pennsylvania has been adopted as the agency’s annual theme for 2015. In this issue and others to come this year, you’ll find special features and department articles related to both the midcentury theme and the anniversary of the complex.

We most appropriately lead this edition with a feature about a Pennsylvanian who was perhaps the most influential American architect of his time. In “Louis Kahn and Midcentury Modern Philadelphia,” PHMC preservation architect Andrea W. Lowery follows Kahn’s development from young architecture student at the University of Pennsylvania in the 1920s to the internationally celebrated Modernist designer he became by the mid-20th century, focusing on his buildings in metropolitan Philadelphia and the distinctive characteristics of his art. Additionally, two department articles in this issue emphasize the Modernist impulse in the areas of residential development (“Greenbelt Knoll” in Marking Time) and urban planning (“The Pittsburgh Renaissance Historic District” in A Place in Time).

Throughout the years The State Museum has welcomed many distinguished guests, but perhaps none more prominent than five-star general and U.S. president (1953-61) Dwight D. “Ike” Eisenhower, who visited in 1965 to attend the museum’s first special exhibit, a retrospective of N.C. Wyeth’s paintings (Sharing the Common Wealth). Before his presidency Eisenhower and his wife Mamie purchased a house and farm in Gettysburg, Adams County. It served as a weekend getaway for the first family during Eisenhower’s eight years in office and afterward became their retirement home. In “Ike’s Sanctuary,” regular contributor William C. Kashatus tells the story of the Eisenhower Farm, complete with an armchair tour of the house. You can then read more about Ike the Pennsylvanian in Our Documentary Heritage, which recounts President Eisenhower’s special birthday celebration in Hershey, Dauphin County, in 1953.

All museums and archives are built from collections accumulated by passionate individuals. Donald R. Brown is one such collector. As a boy in Myerstown, Lebanon County, in the 1940s, Don became fascinated with some postcards he found in his grandmother’s house and immediately began a collection. As he grew, so too did his collection. It grew to such a point that by 1993 he established the Institute of American Deltiology in his hometown to house the postcards and make them available to the public. In this edition’s History Works, journalist and previous contributor J.R. Pirro interviews Donald Brown about his lifelong yen for postcards, their significance as historic resources and the future of his collection.

One of The State Museum’s greatest strengths through the years has been its natural history collection. The museum’s permanent exhibits on the subject located on the third floor – from Paleontology and Geology and around the circle through Mammal Hall to Natural Science and Ecology – have become iconic and remain among its most popular draws. As part of a revitalization effort, a new section on the floor has been devoted to changing exhibits. The first and current one, now running through March 2015, A Fondness for Birds, spotlights Alexander Wilson’s groundbreaking nine-volume American Ornithology, published in Philadelphia in 1808-14 with brilliant hand-colored lithographs of all the known birds of the Early Republic. Iren Light Snavely Jr., Rare Collections librarian at the State Library of Pennsylvania, played a key role in helping to develop the exhibit, and in this issue he contributes “Biographer of the Feathered Tribes” about Wilson and his ambitious drive to create his magnum opus. Look for forthcoming natural history exhibits in The State Museum and related articles in Pennsylvania Heritage as part of the 50-year celebration of the complex.

Kyle R. Weaver
Editor