Preserve Historic Homes with Creative Stewardship

Publication: Allentown Morning Call

Author: Marian Godfrey, Barbara Silberman


10/02/2007 - Regarding the Sept. 18 editorial, ''A passion for history won't be sufficient to preserve Bachmann Publick House'':

The Morning Call was right to question the fate of the Bachmann Publick House -- and the many other struggling house museums across the country. House museums do need realistic business plans and the means to support them. But it is also useful to consider how these homes could be used for other purposes and how some sites are responding.

The Philadelphia region alone has hundreds of historic house museums; but unfortunately, the majority are imperiled by lack of public interest, with fewer than 1,000 visits per year, small professional staffs, and shrinking resources. Indeed, this is representative of a looming national crisis.

The Living Legacy Alternative Stewardship Project, funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts and the William Penn Foundation, is helping some historic house museums in the Philadelphia region convert to alternative uses such as returning to private ownership with protective easements and special public access arrangements, merging with other institutions, or dedicating the properties to community groups.

Historic homes represent a valuable legacy to their cities and to the nation. They are the tangible reminders of our history, where we came from, and who we once were. And they should be preserved; but new paradigms for stewardship must be considered to provide the most sustainable protection possible.

Marian Godfrey
Managing Director
Culture and Civic Initiatives
The Pew Charitable Trusts

Barbara Silberman
Senior Adviser
Heritage Philadelphia Program
Philadelphia

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