Executive Director’s Message

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

Our state Department of Commerce has recently adopted Pennsylvania: America Starts Here as the official slogan to promote tourism throughout Pennsylvania. In doing so, the Commonwealth is calling attention to the tremendous appeal of historic attractions in Pennsylvania for residents and visitors alike. The sheer economic impact of visitation to museums, battlefields, historic villages and complexes, galleries, historic sites and archi­tectural landmarks is undeniable. Visitors choose Pennsylvania because of the authenticity and integrity of what they see. Major chapters in American history have been written here-and we have done our best to preserve the physical record of that history.

The new state tourism cam­paign coincides with the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission’s publi­cation of Pennsylvania’s Historic Places, a lavishly illustrated and beautifully written guide to some of our most notable historic attractions, all of which are administered by either state or federal agencies. Included are essays for well known places such as Valley Forge National Historical Park, Independence National His­torical Park, Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site and Gettysburg National Military Park. Among the properties operated by our Commission are Old Economy Village, Railroad Museum of Pennsyl­vania, Pennsbury Manor, Hope Lodge, Ephrata Cloister, Drake Well Museum, Eckley Miners’ Village, Cornwall Iron Furnace and the Pennsylvania Lumber Museum – as well as the other fascinating historic sites and museums found along our popular and well­-traveled “Pennsylvania Trail of History.”

Why will millions of visitors include Pennsylvania’s historic sites in their travel plans this year? Why do thousands of visitors return again and again? What is the special appeal of these places? With­out a doubt, many people are drawn by the basic human need to commemorate and honor the past. The evocative power of battlefield such as Gettysburg or a memorial like Pennsbury Manor reaches across the barriers of age, education and class.

Others come to study the architecture or collections of museums and historic sites. Only by visiting the Saal at Ephrata Cloister or the Feast Hall of Old Economy Village can we truly understand the values and beliefs of those distinctive pietistic communi­ties. For school teachers and their students, objects and buildings offer tangible texts that enhance the ways they teach and think about history. Role-playing experiences of­fered by the Landis Valley Museum and the Cornwall Iron Furnace give children new insights about the work, life­styles and attitudes of pre­vious generations.

Historic places are espe­cially popular with families. They are affordable and educa­tional. They offer parents and grandparents an opportunity to reflect – with a new and younger generation – upon how much has changed since their youth (and, on the other hand, how much has re­mained the same).

Above all, and most impor­tantly, historic places attract those who enjoy a good story. The story of Pennsylvania – as showcased by its many historic sites and museums – is com­pelling because it stirs our imagination. Stories of military courage, intellectual achieve­ment, religious commitment, technological ingenuity and artistic creativity never lose their appeal, regardless of how often they are told. Pennsylva­nia’s Historic Places captures the enduring presence of a rich past and serves as an exciting testimony that America Starts Here.

Brent D. Glass
Executive Director