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

The city of Philadelphia is facing enormous opportunities and challenges in preserving its rich heritage. Recent initiatives are as impressive as they are legion.

The National Park Service (NPS) is developing a new general management plan for Independence National Historical Park. Following an extensive public process and consultation with historians and planners, the NPS will address several critical issues concerning land use, maintenance, and interpretation.

The opening of the Pennsylvania Convention Center last year has called attention to the critical role that tourism can – and will – play in the city’s economic development strategy. Formation of Historic Philadelphia Inc., under the auspices of the city, was a direct and deliberate effort to improve the visitor experience in the historic area near Independence National Historical Park.

Major historical collecting institutions are undergoing important operational changes. For instance, the Philadelphia Maritime Museum is relocating to a new home in the former Port of History Museum at Penn’s Landing. The Atwater Kent Museum has recently completed extensive renovations and announced its intention to “reinvent” the museum. The venerable Historical Society of Pennsylvania is exploring the feasibility of developing a new “history center,” where collections illustrating the story of Philadelphia can be exhibited with improved informational services on the city’s historical resources for both residents and visitors.

City preservation organizations working in concert with the National Trust for Historic Preservation and Preservation Pennsylvania have entered into a strategic planning process that could eventually result in a more effective program to protect significant landmarks and districts. As part of this process, the preservation community will identify ways in which historic preservation contributes to Philadelphia’s economic health and vitality.

The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission is a key player in all of these activities, as well as in other major efforts to preserve such city landmarks as Fort Mifflin, the Eastern State Penitentiary, and the Fairmount Water Works. The Commission has joined the National Trust and city offices in a heritage tourism program to promote visitation to African American historic attractions and to attract more African American visitors to the city.

Each of these efforts serves important resources and constituencies, and deserves the support of all who truly care about the city’s and the Commonwealth’s history and heritage. However, with limited resources to address so many needs, leadership, innovation, and cooperation for mutual advantage and support will be essential if Philadelphia’s history community is to advance and prosper.

Brent D. Glass
Executive Director