William J. Wewer Departs PHMC

News presents briefs about current and forthcoming programs, events, exhibits and activities of historical and cultural institutions in Pennsylvania.

William J. Wewer, who served as executive director of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission for over eight years, resigned from that position effective April 8 [1981]. A native of Ashland and a graduate of the Pennsyl­vania State University, Wewer first joined the staff of the Commission in 1958 as assistant to the director for projects in historical interpretation. He was promoted to deputy executive director in 1967 and served in that capacity until December 1972 when he was elevated to the post of executive director.

Outside of the PHMC, Wewer has also been associated with a wide range of organizations involved with history and preservation. He serves as executive secretary of the Pennsylvania Federation of Historical Societies, chairman of the State Historical Records Advisory Committee and is a member of numerous boards and commissions concerned with the preservation of our historical environment. In the past, he sat on the executive committee of State Historical Preservation Officers to formulate national policy for the preservation of historic and cultural resources and was chairman of the National Conference of State History Ad­ministrators.

During his tenure at the helm of the PHMC, Commission activities expanded dramatically, reaching more people than ever before. The major exhibit halls of the William Penn Memorial Museum, built in 1965. were all completed and broader based public programs introduced, helping to make it one of the country’s leading state museums. Improve­ments led to accreditation from the American Association of Museums not only for the state museum, but for the Pennsylvania Farm Museum, Old Economy Village and Ephrata Cloister as well. Additional sites and museums, including a visitors’ center and orientation museum at Pithole City, the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania and the Anthracite Museum Complex have been opened to the public. Extensive restoration and construction have also been completed at existing Commission properties, making historic sites more accessible and meaningful to residents of the Commonwealth. Another major accomplishment occurred when Valley Forge was transferred to the National Park Service in 1977 thereby ensuring that the park would receive the federal recognition it so richly deserved.

Preservation efforts have also been strengthened. The Commission’s newly instituted Bureau for Historic Preser­vation, formerly the Office of Historic Preservation, has administered federal matching grants totaling $7.5 million since its inception in 1970 as well as having funded hun­dreds of projects throughout the Commonwealth. Related programs initiated during Mr. Wewer’s tenure include com­munity conservation and economic development activities, increased registration of historic properties and coordina­tion of a statewide archeological survey program.

Public history has also been fostered. While the publica­tion of scholarly works has continued during the past eight years, more emphasis has been placed on popular publica­tions. The state archives has actively increased its holding of state records and manuscripts and has been preparing finding guides to assist researchers in their use. The num­ber of workshops, conferences and seminars held through­out the Commonwealth and sponsored by the Commission has greatly increased, and Pennsylvania Heritage was created in 1974 in part to better inform the public of all of these Commission activities.

For the past twenty-three years, William J. Wewer has served the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in some capa­city with the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Com­mission. He has worked tirelessly to bring Pennsylvania history to its people. For his efforts, he is to be com­mended and thanked.

 

The Commission’s new, recently appointed executive director is Larry E. Tise. who comes to the PHMC from the North Carolina Historical Commission where he served as Director of the Division of Archives and History. The fall issue of Heritage will introduce you to him.