From the Executive Director features news and reflections on the work of PHMC by its chief administrator.
This 17-foot-long dugout canoe on exhibit in The State Museum of Pennsylvania was found in Mud Pond, Luzerne County, and was radiocarbon dated to 1250 A.D. Its construction predates the arrival of Europeans in North America. Photo, PHMC

This 17-foot-long dugout canoe on exhibit in The State Museum of Pennsylvania was found in Mud Pond, Luzerne County, and was radiocarbon dated to 1250 A.D. Its construction predates the arrival of Europeans in North America.
Photo, PHMC

Last weekend at The State Museum of Pennsylvania, I met a member of the Delaware Tribe (the Lenape). He grew up in Oklahoma, where his tribe is located today, and this was his first visit to Pennsylvania. Prior to coming to Harrisburg, he had visited the Delaware Water Gap. I was captivated as he talked about seeing the Delaware River for the first time. The river looms large in Lenape history, living on in their memory, in their stories, and in their culture.

This visitor described the moment when he touched the water in the river he had heard about all his life. He told me how the Delaware Tribe’s beadwork was based on flora and fauna of Pennsylvania — leaves and flowers he never saw in Oklahoma. In fact, during this trip he had collected a bag of leaves to bring home to his mother who does traditional beadwork.

We walked through the galleries of the museum. He told me how important the work of our archaeology staff had been in documenting the tribe’s history. He talked about how the Lenape had incorporated the tulip in their beadwork because of their past interaction with Dutch settlers. Stopping in front of the dugout canoe, which dates to 1250 A.D., he was awed by the Native American history on display. He admired a tobacco pouch, beaded by an artist whose family he knows personally. We talked about William Penn, whose story is present throughout the museum, and the painful history of the Walking Purchase.

Our programs make connections between past and present. We continue to work to ensure that our exhibits provide context and represent a variety of viewpoints. For example, we are making updates to the Delaware Indian village at The State Museum, and as part of the reinterpretation, we are having collaborative conversations with various tribes about how they see our shared past. The history we forge is strengthened when we have these kinds of exchanges, both informal and formal. You will see how such partnerships enrich the presentation of our history when this and other exciting exhibits open at our sites and museums around the commonwealth.

Andrea Lowery
Executive Director, PHMC