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

Despite devastating reductions in staff and services resulting from steep cuts to the budget during the past two years, the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC) has been able to continue providing basic services in almost all areas. This would not be possible without dedicated staff that has taken on additional work and expanded responsibilities to ensure that the citizens of Pennsylvania receive the best services we can provide. It’s also a credit to the dedication and passion of the many community and nonprofit groups that partner with us to preserve the Commonwealth’s heritage. We are working with local groups in pioneering new operating models that will provide as much accessibility as possible with severely limited financial resources. The response and support from members of the Pennsylvania Heritage Society (PHS) and friends groups, as well as the public, have helped sustain PHMC, and we are grateful for their advocacy efforts, annual contributions, and memberships.

The opening of the reinstalled Paleontology Gallery, showcasing our restored Marshalls Creek Mastodon, is due largely to the efforts of the friends of the State Museum, which worked in association with PHS on this worthy project. a fundraising campaign to support the restoration of the 10,000 year-old mastodon and the reinstallation of the museum’s Paleontology Gallery has raised nearly $90,000 to date! Thanks to the generosity of more than 450 individual donors, the gallery will open for a community day on Sunday, February 27, with new state-of-the-art dioramas and interactive exhibits. Penn National Insurance funded visits to The State Museum for Harrisburg students during the past two years. More than 300 families and individuals have shown their support by becoming State Museum Affiliate Members of PHS.

In partnership with PHS, The State Museum opened, in October, a mini-store in the ground-floor entrance hall for the fall school tour season. A larger store will open in spring 2011 with an array of museum-focused and Pennsylvania-related products, books, and souvenirs. Opening in time for the sesquicentennial of the American Civil War, The State Museum store will be the flagship outlet for exciting new products created and distributed by PA Civil War 150, a joint PHMC-PHS project with partners throughout the Commonwealth.

In conjunction with PHS, the Friends of The State Museum will host a gala preview reception on Saturday, February 26, to celebrate the success of the “Buy-a-Bone” campaign and the opening of the gallery.

PHMC’s annual theme for 2011, “William Penn’s Legacy: Religious and Spiritual Diversity,” gives us all an opportunity to explore Pennsylvania’s rich history of religion, religious movements and beliefs, and the individuals who led them. William Penn founded Pennsylvania as a “Holy Experiment” based upon the principles of religious toleration and freedom of conscience. This vision, which has attracted settlers of various creeds and faiths, helped shape our nation’s democracy – and who we are as a people. It enables us to engage partners and communities throughout the commonwealth and to highlight PHMC historic sites and museums that help tell the stories of Pennsylvania’s religious diversity. partners for sacred places is joining PHMC to provide information to religious groups about how to better care for historic places of worship and preserve their history and records.

Charter day, which will be observed on Sunday, March 13, 2011, is particularly appropriate to introduce the theme of Penn’s legacy. PHMC destinations will once again welcome visitors free of charge that day with special programming to celebrate the commonwealth’s 330th birthday. Charter day is the keystone of PHMC’s Heritage Week, celebrated from Friday through Sunday, March 11–20.

Working with Governor-elect Tom Corbett, PHMC looks forward to implementing a new strategic plan that points toward the future and outlines a path to becoming more sustainable and competitive in an environment of reduced resources.

Barbara Franco
Executive Director, PHMC