Pennsylvania Historic Preservation

Blog of the Pennsylvania Historic Preservation Office

hashtag #preservationhappenshere
hashtag #preservationhappenshere

Vision for Preservation in Pennsylvania

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In May 2018, as my daughter Josie was putting elementary school behind her, Pennsylvania’s new statewide historic preservation plan, #PreservAtionHappensHere, was released. The plan was developed with a series of guiding principles in mind, engaged thousands of Pennsylvanians, gathered and analyzed pages upon pages of data, was steered and tested by an external task force as well as dozens of planning partners, and was approved by the Pennsylvania Historic Preservation Board, PHMC Commissioners, the Governor’s Office and the National Park Service. Where do we go from here? What does 2019 hold for historic preservation in Pennsylvania?

Considering the future of historic preservation and how the PA SHPO can, and should, shine a light on the good things Pennsylvanians are doing to care for historic places, communities, stories, and their history reminded me of my daughter’s final assignment in the 5th grade – the Hero Project. She chose to study Helen Keller. The project required creating a timeline marking important dates in Helen’s life, discovering the things Helen loved, identifying her famous quotes, and creating a poster to illustrate and share all she learned with students in her school. Kiddos could even earn extra credit if they dressed the part of their hero. One famous quote of Helen Keller’s she found stands out in my mind, “The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision.” 

The planning process for #PreservAtionHappensHere gathered the best ideas for improving the future of historic places in Pennsylvania. The plan’s Vision for Preservation in Pennsylvania is:

  • Preservation connects people to place. Place grounds us to the past, the present and the future.
  • Pennsylvanians envision a future that includes the places – old and new – that make us who we are and embrace historic preservation as a means of expressing our individual and community identity and pride.
  • Communities recognize the importance of their history and environment, and through collaboration with new perspectives and creative partnerships, pursue opportunities to maintain and enhance the older and historic places that are important to them.
  • Public and private agencies and organizations use this plan to align their programs and funding to work toward the preservation and recognition of the places that tell Pennsylvania’s multi-faceted story and empower Pennsylvanians to use preservation and planning to shape the places that make Pennsylvania unique.

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” – those are also Helen Keller’s inspiring words and they are an appropriate reference to frame a discussion for how all Pennsylvanians must work together to implement #PreservAtionHappensHere. This plan is for everyone.

Josie is often held captive when we venture the backroads many a weekend. I’d like to believe I’ve mastered photographing historic buildings from the passenger window while the car is in motion. My wanderlust heart melts when I hear from the backseat, “mama, I think you’ll like the pic of this old building I just took with my tablet.” That’s when I realize, she does listen to me sometimes!

A two-inch by three-inch origami envelop was presented to me this past month with Josie’s return address written in the tiniest print in the upper left-hand corner. Inside the envelope was a comic strip with an unusual superhero. Perhaps our incessant identification of architectural features as we casually drive the winding roads through the Pennsylvania countryside are making an impression? I’m looking forward to our family’s next adventure and the continuation of Keystone’s story.

Here’s a snapshot of the PA SHPO’s 2019 activities:

  • The PA SHPO along with our parent agency, the PA Historical & Museum Commission (PHMC), are working toward the goal of broadening the definition and understanding of historic preservation in 2019 (to help implement Goal 3 of the plan). At the December 5, 2018 PHMC meeting, Commissioners approved the PHMC Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Access Policy to comprehensively address diversity throughout the agency and embed those ideals within PHMC policies. The PA SHPO has begun evaluating its programs to determine underrepresented themes, geographies, and people in the Historical Marker and National Register programs to ensure we’re reflecting all Pennsylvanians in all we do.
  • There’s no better way to kick off the New Year other than attending the 103rd Pennsylvania Farm Show and partaking in the 2019 Historical Marker Scavenger Hunt. You can visit with PA SHPO staff in the Main Hall during show hours.
  • Throughout the year we’ll continue shouldering the monumental effort to develop a comprehensive online data management system called PA-SHARE that will revolutionize the ability of the public, agencies, local governments and Indian Tribes to access historic property information and data of PA SHPO programs. This will allow for greater transparency of information and processes. [PA-SHARE logo] Data conversion and migration of paper records is over 50% complete and our contractor team, Johnson, Mirmiran & Thompson (JMT) is currently scanning Lancaster County files. The PA SHPO’s leadership team is analyzing requirements for PA-SHARE. These include a review of the online project submission process, workflow process, external systems integration and data migration processes. We’re also reviewing conceptual design prototypes for project submission wizards, user dashboards and other graphical user interface tools. We’ll continually update the progress of PA-SHARE throughout the year.
  • Senator David Argall (R-Schuykill/Berks) has been championing the reauthorization and expansion of Pennsylvania’s historic preservation tax credit which will otherwise sunset in June 2020. Legislation sponsored by Argall was introduced in the Pennsylvania Senate as 1279 would reauthorize the program through 2030 and increase the program’s statewide cap to $30 million and $2.5 million per taxpayer. We’re anticipating the reintroduction of this bill in the upcoming legislative session and will continue to support this important historic preservation incentive.

I’m looking forward to moving the needle toward realizing our collective vision for preservation in Pennsylvania. Small frequent “wins” can add up and show progress when we think there is none. Positive preservation is happening around us every day so keep looking out your windows and check back to our blog regularly to hear about the latest #preservationhappenshere stories.

Cheers to 2019!

Author: Andrea L. MacDonald

Andrea L. MacDonald serves as the Director of the PA SHPO and is the Deputy State Historic Preservation Officer. Andrea is passionate about Pennsylvania’s food geography and is committed to discovering unique ways to connect Pennsylvanians with their unique history and communities. Andrea is has been with the PA SHPO since 2004.

One Comment

  1. I loved the cartoon exploits of “Keystone”! Thanks for sharing. Tell your daughter that it was very creative!

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