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

As the Commonwealth’s official history agency, the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC) is responsible for the collection, conservation, and interpretation of the Keystone State’s heritage. We rely on the talented staffs of the Pennsylvania State Archives, The State Museum of Pennsylvania, the Bureau of Historic Sites and Museums, which oversees the popular destinations along the Pennsylvania Trails of HistoryTM, and the Bureau for Historic Preservation to accomplish these goals.

Over the years, PHMC has taken pride in being able to provide able stewardship for Pennsylvania’s historical assets and offer a wide array of important services for Pennsylvania’s citizens.

The proposed Commonwealth General Fund Budget for 2009–2010 presents a serious challenge to our capacity to sustain the same level of services with significantly reduced resources. The current economic situation requires us to make difficult decisions and may result in reductions in successful programs. To make more informed decisions, PHMC established last year a sustainability committee to explore alternative models for preserving these historically and culturally significant places. A report entitled “Planning our Future,” representing the results of the year-long study, is posted on PHMC’s website. We understand that our decisions will have an impact on individuals and communities. We are committed to preserving Pennsylvania’s heritage, but we understand that these economic times may require us to find new solutions and recruit new partners to fulfill this mission.

One such partnership is Pennsylvania Civil War Trails: Prelude to Gettysburg, a program resulting from a collaboration of PHMC, the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. The agencies have worked closely with communities in southcentral Pennsylvania to tell the story of the Gettysburg Campaign through the eyes of African Americans, women and children, and soldiers. The partnership has produced a remarkable opportunity for both residents and visitors to explore the stories that surround the Battle of Gettysburg at destinations in Adams, Franklin, Cumberland, Dauphin, Lancaster, and York Counties. Community participation has been an essential ingredient in the success of programs and signage that make the Civil War saga more readily accessible in Pennsylvania.

Community participation is a key ingredient of the success and sustainability of PHMC’s historic sites and museums. As Commissioners and staff travel throughout the Commonwealth to attend public meetings and discuss alternatives to reduced state funding at several of our destinations, the passion, commitment, and creativity of local groups and community leaders are clearly evident. Volunteer and associate groups at our historic sites and museums, the state-wide membership of the Pennsylvania Heritage Society, and the many historical organizations and cultural institutions with which we routinely work, are among our most important partners.

PHMC pledges to use our limited resources to best meet the needs of the people of Pennsylvania. With your help, we will continue to preserve our rich heritage and meet the high standards that Pennsylvanians expect and deserve. Pennsylvania’s fascinating history and diverse cultural traditions are important assets to which we turn, in good times and bad, to nourish us and inspire greater innovation.

This summer, I invite you to visit a museum or historic site, participate in local historical society activities, attend a festival or event, and rediscover historic neighborhoods. Your much-needed support will help preserve a centuries – old legacy that has been entrusted to us — and one that we must preserve for future generations.

Barbara Franco
Executive Director, PHMC