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

Pennsylvania’s rich natural resources fueled the nation, forever impacting the geographic, cultural, economic, social, industrial, and political landscape. Energy — and its various sources and uses — has irrevocably altered the way we live and work. From the beginning, William Penn’s vast woods provided charcoal to fire the early iron furnaces that dotted the Commonwealth. Our rivers and streams powered mills that ground grain, ran saw mills, and supported other early manufacturing ventures. Anthracite and bituminous coal mined in the Keystone State’s expansive coal fields fueled the nation’s industrial growth in the nineteenth century. Edwin L. Drake’s successful drilling for oil in Titusville, Venango County, nearly one hundred and fifty years ago, on August 27, 1859, prompted a worldwide shift to petroleum fuels that affects every aspect of our lives today.

This year, to coincide with that anniversary, the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC) is undertaking a public awareness campaign, “Energy: Innovation and Impact,” designed to increase awareness of the Commonwealth’s historic role in fueling the nation and the effect it continues to exert on citizens, industry, and the environment. By examining the history of energy, we can better understand how choices made in the past have affected the present and, just as important, how decisions we make today hold consequences for the future.

The lessons of history abound in Pennsylvania’s story and are preserved at historic sites, museums and history centers, libraries, and archives. Through educational curriculum packets, exhibitions, workshops and symposia, and an Energy Trail of History tour, we at PHMC intend to raise public awareness about the importance of history as an essential resource for making good energy decisions for the future. The cycles of “Energy: Innovation and Impact” outlined in this year’s annual theme offer undeniable relevance as we look to the future of energy through wind, solar, nuclear, geothermal, and renewable biofuels and anticipate the continued leadership of the Commonwealth as a place of both innovation and conservation.

Barbara Franco
Executive Director, PHMC