From the Executive Director

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

Although PHMC does not actively install historical monuments across the commonwealth, our Pennsylvania Historical Markers serve a similar purpose. Begun in 1914 and “updated” in 1946 with the advent of the blue-and-yellow, pole-mounted roadside plates, the markers represent an extraordinary public historiography (see “A Century of Marking History,” Fall 2014). They teach us not only about what happened but also what has been considered worthy of historical significance through the years. In effect, the markers provide an opportunity for learning about how history changes.

We at PHMC are proud of the depth and breadth of our marker program, which touches all 67 counties and covers a dizzying array of topics. We do our best to provide a broad and complete history of the commonwealth, but past oversights and trends are apparent, and so we also recognize the need, as with any program, to update and modify it as appropriate.

The agency is, therefore, in the process of reevaluating the program, identifying underrepresented subjects and reviewing past markers that contain descriptions that might be regarded as culturally inappropriate. This must, of course, be balanced with the understanding that the program is more than 100 years old and is a product of its longevity, reflecting an evolving idea about what history should be marked and an expanded appreciation for the value and richness that diversity brings.

As part of this initiative, PHMC has adopted a formal policy to address retiring some markers and making revisions to the text of outdated ones. The nomination process is community-centered, giving all Pennsylvanians an opportunity to propose markers for historic events and people from across the commonwealth that have had a statewide or national impact. Likewise, any Pennsylvanian can make suggestions for changes to the markers. Decisions are then made by PHMC commissioners in consultation with subject matter experts, community members, and other interested parties in accordance with the latest scholarship.

The agency has also developed a proactive program to encourage marker nominations for subjects and regions that have been underrepresented in the existing story told by PHMC’s historical markers.

We hope these modifications to the program will help us develop a more complete and diverse narrative, presenting a history that is meaningful to all Pennsylvanians. To find out how you can participate, visit

Andrea Lowery
Executive Director, PHMC