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

Throughout the pandemic, we at PHMC have had the opportunity to share Pennsylvania’s rich history with people well beyond our borders through virtual programming. Over the last year we have seen visitors join us from across the country and around the world.

Although we have learned how important virtual engagement is, much of what we do remains grounded in the physical world. We have buildings, artifacts, landscapes and structures that help us tell significant stories. We also provide tangible reminders of Pennsylvania history through markers and plaques.

Traditionally, our visitors have come to Pennsylvania to see these collections in person, but through loans and partnerships, we also are able to share some of this history more broadly. We often make loans from our collections to other organizations in Pennsylvania or nearby states like Maryland and New York; however, two recent requests — one to borrow a painting from The State Museum of Pennsylvania and the other to duplicate one of our Pennsylvania Historical Markers — show that interest in our history is far-reaching.

Portrait of George Grey Barnard (1890, oil on canvas, 124¼ x 87 in.) by Anna Bilińska. The State Museum of Pennsylvania

Portrait of George Grey Barnard (1890, oil on canvas, 124¼ x 87 in.) by Anna Bilińska.
The State Museum of Pennsylvania

The painting, a massive portrait of sculptor George Grey Barnard (1863–1938), was created in 1890 by Anna Bilińska-Bohdanowicz (1854–93), the first Polish female artist to gain international recognition. This past June, the National Museum in Warsaw borrowed The State Museum’s portrait of Barnard for its Belińska retrospective, which runs through October 2021. Bilińska, who is known for her portraiture, depicted Barnard — a native of Bellefonte, Centre County, who created the statues that flank the entrance to the Pennsylvania State Capitol — with the attributes of his craft and a sculpture in progress.

We also are working with the Estonian government on an exciting project to erect a version of our Pennsylvania Historical Marker for world-famous architect Louis I. Kahn (1901–74) in his hometown of Kuressaare. Estonia is celebrating the 120th anniversary of Kahn’s birth. Although Kahn moved to Philadelphia when he was a young child, he credited Kuressaare with influencing his ideas about architecture. Both cities are proud to claim Kahn as their son, so it seems fitting that they share this physical tribute to his influence on the built environment.

We know that in the future, audiences will expect a hybridized experience from history museums and other cultural institutions. PHMC will continue to offer both in-person and virtual access to collections and programming, using both approaches to their best advantage and in hopes of sharing Pennsylvania history with fans and enthusiasts both near and far.

Andrea Lowery
Executive Director, PHMC