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

For many of us, spring is the traditional season to think about nature and the great outdoors, but here at the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC), we think about it all year long. It’s hard to separate Pennsylvania’s history from its natural history; in fact, PHMC is officially charged with “the conservation of Pennsylvania’s historic and natural heritage.” We perform these responsibilities in partnership with many other state agencies and private organizations. Over the past several years, however, we have greatly expanded these collaborations and increased our commitment to the natural history component of our mission.

One result of that effort is visible in this issue of Pennsylvania Heritage, which features a number of articles related to natural history in the Keystone State. But the wide range of PHMC’s natural history programs also can be found in our other departments. At our historic sites, initiatives include the new core exhibit, Challenges and Choices in Pennsylvania’s Forests, at the Pennsylvania Lumber Museum; the preservation of the botanical wonders along the Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve walking trails at Washington Crossing Historic Park; the restored riparian landscape at the Pennsylvania Military Museum; the Heirloom Seed Project at Landis Valley Village & Farm Museum; heritage livestock management at Pennsbury Manor; the trail system at Drake Well Museum; early farm history at Somerset Historical Center; and the 19th-century natural history museum at Old Economy Village.

At the State Archives, collections include extensive materials about botany, forestry, agriculture and conservation. The papers of many of Pennsylvania’s pioneer conservationists and environmentalists are here, too. The photo and postcard collections contain thousands of historic images of Pennsylvania landscapes.

The State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) has long been concerned about protecting the landscape and has placed a special emphasis on the preservation of heritage farms and historic barns throughout Pennsylvania. The State Historical Marker Program recognizes many natural places and outdoors-people. This past summer SHPO staff initiated and led the effort to replant the State Archives landscape using only native plant materials as a means to support our educational efforts.

The State Museum of Pennsylvania has always maintained and developed extensive collections in paleontology, geology, botany and zoology. In the past year, the museum opened Nature Lab, a new education center; initiated the restoration of the Mammal Hall and Carboniferous Forest exhibits, and began planning the renovation of Ecology Hall. In April, in collaboration with the Pennsylvania Game Commission, the museum will open Working Together for Wildlife, an exhibition featuring the Game Commission’s collection of Pennsylvania wildlife art.

At PHMC we are continually broadening our collaborations with other state agencies, including the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, the Department of Environmental Protection, the Fish and Boat Commission, and the Game Commission. We have opened our collections and research facilities to these partners and invited them to advise and assist us with future exhibits and programs. We believe these collaborative efforts are integral for preserving and promoting nature and ecology in the commonwealth. This spring please visit our sites and museums and participate in our natural history programs to enhance your experience in Pennsylvania’s great outdoors.

James M. Vaughan
Executive Director, PHMC