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

Pennsylvania’s archaeological and architectural heritage offer an extraordinary meld of buildings, sites, structures, districts, neighborhoods, villages, and landscapes representing every period of our prehistory and history. Public and private efforts to protect this legacy date to the nineteenth century at places such as Independence Hall, the Gettysburg Battlefield, Valley Forge, and the Fort Pitt Blockhouse. Today, the historic preservation movement is buoyed by a number of laws, regulations, initiatives, and incentives all designed to encourage the preservation of the rich – yet increasingly fragile – resources of our past.

Over the next year, the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission will embark on an ambitious statewide planning process to identify strategies and programs that we should pursue in the field of historic preservation. The statewide plan is required by the National Park Service as part of our annual agreement to administer the National Register of Historic Places and related programs in Pennsylvania. However, we intend to build upon this basic requirement and engage the preservation community in an exchange of ideas that will establish goals and priorities in several areas, including policy, funding, education, tourism, and advocacy.

Challenges facing the preservation community are many and complex. Declining urban neighborhoods and small town commercial districts threaten historic districts and individual landmarks that are so characteristic of our Commonwealth. Conversely, uncontrolled suburban sprawl is eroding historic rural landscapes and destroying significant archaeological resources. In addition, state government has become increasingly important in creating opportunities for preservationists. How should the community respond to these situations? What resources are currently available to address these issues? Can these resources be expanded?

Many of the issues have been with us for a long time. However, I am convinced we are working in a new environment that is influencing the direction of historic preservation. The success of the Keystone Fund grants program, for example, has resulted in a substantial amount of rehabilitation supplemented by sizable local matching funds. Private organizations such as Preservation Pennsylvania reflect a strong advocacy presence and provide crucial support for communities throughout the Commonwealth. The growth of tourism and the dramatic expansion of state funding for marketing have placed the preservation of heritage resources at the forefront in any assessment of Pennsylvania’s strategic advantages.

We will develop the statewide preservation plan through a series of public meetings and interviews with policymakers and stakeholders.

Brent D. Glass
Executive Director