Wayne S. Spilove

Real Estate, Civic & Community Service, Historic Preservation

Letters: Artifacts aren’t ‘missing,’ but they do face a threat

Re: “1,800 Pa. historic artifacts missing,” Oct. 29: Coverage of the state auditor general’s report on the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission collections generated sensational headlines but missed the point. The story is not “missing” artifacts. The story is the urgent need to fund a modern inventory-control and environmental system. Consider these facts: Reports of missing items were based on an out-of-date 1998 list that was presented to PHMC on the day of the report’s release. Locations for 400 items have already been confirmed. Many of the others are reproductions, not original artifacts. Sculptures reported as being sold online were not Pennsylvania’s. Locations for the other items will be confirmed (most in various county museums and government offices), although it will take additional weeks of staff time. The real issue is that PHMC’s budget has been cut in half since 2006, with staff reduced by 48 percent. One casualty of these devastating cuts has been funding to convert to a single electronic inventory system for all our collections, which number 4.5 million items. We welcome many of the report’s suggestions, and are committed to the best stewardship even in difficult fiscal times. But the real question is whether the governor, legislature, and citizens of Pennsylvania care enough about their heritage to provide the resources to preserve it.

Wayne Spilove, Chairman
Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission
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