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Summary of Strategic Plan 2012-2015

We're all about Pennsylvania!



The PHMC works in partnership with others to preserve the Commonwealth's natural and cultural heritage as a steward, teacher and advocate for the people of Pennsylvania and the nation.


The Pennsylvania State Archives was created in 1903; the State Museum of Pennsylvania in 1905; and the Pennsylvania Historical Commission was established by legislation in 1913. In 1945, PHMC was created, merging these operations. PHMC acquired its first historic site in 1914 and today PHMC is responsible for a total of forty historic sites and museums, as well as a myriad of other functions.

Fourteen sites are managed by the PHMC Bureau of Historic Sites and Museums. Twenty six are operated by partner organizations or "friends" groups (non-profit organizations that exist to support PHMC, usually on a site-specific basis), but they remain the property of the Commonwealth and a stewardship responsibility of PHMC.

The role of PHMC has steadily expanded over the years, including the construction of the William Penn Memorial (State) Museum and State Archives in the Capital Complex, which were dedicated in October 1965.

The responsibilities of PHMC, which are based in the Pennsylvania Constitution, are further defined in the History Code and the Administrative Code. The primary duties of PHMC include:

  • the conservation of Pennsylvania's historical and natural heritage
  • the preservation of public records, historic documents and objects of historic interest
  • the identification, restoration, and preservation of architecturally and historically significant sites and structures

The History Code also states: "The irreplaceable historical, architectural, archeological and cultural heritage of this commonwealth should be preserved and protected for the benefit of all the people, including future generations."

Dramatic reductions in state funding for PHMC in the years of 2008 through 2010 produced a 50% reduction in staff positions and severely hindered the ability of PHMC to continue to operate in the same manner that it had previously. With the appointment of a new Commission Chair, a number of new commissioners and a new Executive Director in the fall of 2011, PHMC initiated a new direction with a strategic planning process that included a day-long retreat on December 19, 2011. Several fundamentally different assumptions underlie the plan and process that are now envisioned.

Planning Assumptions

This plan is based on a vision of where PHMC should be in 2020, although the proposed strategies and tactics are limited to the period of 2012 through 2015.

  • The Commonwealth will sustain the mission of PHMC through predictable levels of state funding, at or slightly above the 2012 levels, but not at the significantly higher levels that PHMC experienced before the approximately 50% budget cuts that it sustained in 2008-2010.
  • Additional capital and project funding will be needed to achieve PHMC's collection digitization and building needs and goals.
  • Sustainable growth in the future will not only require stable levels of commonwealth funding, but increased earned income and increased private, foundation and corporate support.
  • PHMC can operate with improved efficiency, if it has the cooperation of other state agencies in finding or acting on solutions.
  • 2012 strategic plans from PHMC bureaus will be merged into the PHMC plan.

Brief Overview of PHMC in 2012: Operations and Challenges

Through its diverse facilities and programs PHMC serves approximately one million visitors each year, from within the commonwealth and all over the world. PHMC operates through five bureaus, each offering a variety of programs and services.

PHMC is the steward of the largest collection of Pennsylvania materials in the Commonwealth and its collections include more than 4.5 million objects and specimens and 70,000 cubic feet (220 million pages) of archival material. PHMC is also responsible for 233,726 cubic feet of government agency records in the State Records Center.

PHMC's archaeological, preservation and educational services extend through all 67 counties, with facilities in 27 counties. The Bureau of Historic Sites and Museums encompasses 464 buildings, totaling 1,292,617 sq. ft. on 3,504 acres of land. The Harrisburg facilities of PHMC total an additional 535,110 sq. ft. Although these numbers indicate that PHMC is a very large and diverse operation, total support from the Commonwealth represents less than one tenth of one percent of the Commonwealth budget.

At the present time PHMC's largest needs are: to gain intellectual control over collections; to improve stewardship collections and facilities; to provide adequate staffing; to secure adequate financial resources; to build a stronger base of private support; and, to reduce many obstacles to efficient operations.

A Vision for 2020

In 2020 PHMC museums, archives, historic sites and historic preservation office will approach the issues of collections stewardship, scope, accessibility interpretation and programs in ways that differ fundamentally from the traditional practices of the past few decades. Major changes will include improved electronic systems for collections management and interpretation, a more modular approach to exhibit production and new ways of defining, using and providing access to museum collections. Trends indicate that independent and user-initiated learning will replace the linear experience provided today at many museums and historic sites.

Galleries and sites will display the PHMC's most significant objects and provide independent access for each visitor by Smartphones, tablets, location-based devices and tools yet to be invented. PHMC sites and museums will no longer change entire exhibitions every 20 to 40 years but will continually refresh exhibits with frequent updates and new modules. New interpretations can be quickly added to keep exhibits relevant to contemporary issues. Multiple interpretations will be available at any time to multiple users.

Online access will dramatically increase public awareness and use of PHMC collections and programs. The entire catalogue of collections will be accessible online by the general public, scholars, students and other museums. Collection storage will be better organized and will meet all professional standards for security and conservation.

Improved branding, cross marketing and aggressive programming will build a much larger membership base for PHMC and its operating partners.

Increased private support will supplement stable public support but the competition for private funding will be even greater than today. These shifts must be recognized and reflected in the program and services PHMC provides in 2020.


  1. Collections Goals
    • Gain greater intellectual control over all collections.
    • Refine and focus collections to reduce duplication.
    • Establish an electronic records archives.
    • Increase public accessibility through digitization and online access.
    • Increase loans and distribute state owned collections to better serve the Commonwealth.
    • Achieve greater rationalization and efficiency in collections storage.
    • Improve stewardship of all collections, including historic structures.
  2. Facilities Goals
    • Limit active PHMC management to museums and sites with statewide significance and transfer management or ownership of sites of local significance to local partners.
    • Eliminate deferred maintenance at historic sites.
    • Provide collections and archival storage that meet the highest professional standards for environment, security, operational efficiency and overall stewardship.
    • Recondition and upgrade the PHMC Capitol Complex facilities (State Museum, Archives and Keystone) into an integrated, efficiently utilized facility while respecting the architectural significance of the mid-century modern design of the original Museum and Archive Complex.
  3. Finance Goals
    • Ensure that all placed historic sites are managed by a strong partner organization.
    • Increase Pennsylvania Heritage Foundation (PHF) capacity to raise substantial support for PHMC from private, corporate, foundation and government sources.
    • Restore grants to non-PHMC museums, sites and archives. Expand historic preservation grants.
    • Grow PHF membership statewide.
    • Maintain and grow federal and state support for preservation programs.
  4. Leadership and Partnership Goals
    • Restore PHMC leadership position in the professional museum, preservation and archive communities in Pennsylvania and the nation.
    • Build strategic partnerships to allow PHMC to accomplish more with limited dollars, to increase PHMC's appeal to many potential donors, and to gain new audiences.
    • Strengthen PHMC's historic preservation leadership with commonwealth agencies.
  5. Organizational Efficiency Goals
    • Enhance PHMC efficiency and productivity to become a model state agency and a model of public private partnerships and collaborations.
  6. Marketing and Communication Goals
    • Elevate PHMC and its component brands to be among the most recognized tourist assets in the Commonwealth.
    • Promote and market history, natural history, preservation and heritage tourism across the commonwealth.