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

Beginning with special programs at our historic sites and museums in March to celebrate the anniversary of Penn’s Charter establishing Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC) has been preparing for the busy summer season. With greatly reduced staff — the result of severe budget cuts to PHMC and its programs — we have been strengthening relationships with existing nonprofit groups and establishing new partnerships to keep the Commonwealth’s historic attractions accessible to the public.

I invite you to visit these Pennsylvania treasures this summer. With the support of existing friends groups and volunteers, most of the destinations along the Pennsylvania Trails of History continued operations through the winter or have reopened this spring on a regular, although sometimes reduced, schedule. In April, the Fort Pitt Museum in Pittsburgh reopened under the management of the Senator John Heinz History Center. The Daniel Boone Homestead in Berks County is now open on Sundays. Washington Crossing Historic Park, Bucks County, and Hope Lodge, Montgomery County, remain closed at this time pending new agreements or additional resources. In Harrisburg, The State Museum of Pennsylvania and the Pennsylvania State Archives remain open with slightly reduced hours.

While funding to operate our historic sites and museums remains limited, Pennsylvania continues to invest in its historic infrastructure. Major capital building projects are underway at Drake Well Museum, Venango County, Pennsylvania Lumber Museum, Potter County, Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, Lancaster County, and Washington Crossing Historic Park. Each of these projects has leveraged state funding with significant private contributions. Pennsbury Manor, Bucks County, recently opened a permanent interpretive exhibition in a new visitor center. Major exhibition projects are in planning or underway at the Pennsylvania Military Museum, Centre County, Drake Well Museum, Pennsylvania Lumber Museum, Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, and Washington Crossing Historic Park. Renovation of The State Museum’s paleontology galleries, scheduled for completion in early 2011, will include the newly restored and mounted mastodon skeleton that attracted record attendance in conjunction with a temporary traveling exhibition entitled “Tusks! Ice Age Mammoths and Mastodons.”

The response to the Pennsylvania History Bill of Rights demonstrates just how much history means to the citizens of Pennsylvania. We have heard from many corners of the Commonwealth as individuals have registered their opinions about why it is important to preserve Pennsylvania history. In addition, a growing number of organization shave followed the lead of PHMC in adopting and endorsing this bill.

This year’s annual theme, “Black History in Pennsylvania: Communities in Common,” calls attention to the Keystone State’s rich heritage of African American history through African American historical markers and a Web-based history context that will provide many communities and organizations with the basic structure and information to begin their own projects to identify and preserve local stories and important resources that tell a more complete history of African American contributions to the history of our state. To experience some of this rich history on the local level, make a trip to the Landis Valley Museum, Lancaster County, featuring the exhibit “A Soldier, Three Blacksmiths, and an Inventor: Profiles of Individuals from Three Historic African American Families of the Pennsylvania German Region” on view through December 31, 2010.

This summer, as you take time with family and friends to enjoy a historic site or museum, you will be casting your vote for the continued support and preservation of these important places that mean so much to who we are as communities, as a state, and as a nation.

Barbara Franco
Executive Director, PHMC