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Voting Underway to Save PA's 'Endangered Artifacts'

A statewide campaign top save Pennsylvania’s “Top 10 Endangered Artifacts” has begun.

Through Nov. 1, people can go online, vote, and if they want, give money to museums to help preserve their works.

The list was created by the Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts (CCAHA), a PA-based nonprofit conservation organization, using the National Trust’s “America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places” as a model. The Historic Places list seeks to educate people about locations and buildings in need of preservation.

CCAHA Executive Director Ingrid Bogel said the Pennsylvania list includes works such as a wig worn by Congressman Thaddeus Stevens and a 16th-Century Mennonite Family bible.

She said planning started in January, when institutions nominated 60 objects for consideration. From that list, a review panel picked the top 10 based on the artifact, the location of the organization housing it, and the size of the institution.

Bogel said she’s happy they chose objects at a mix of museums and centers ranging from the Academy of Natural Sciences at Drexel University to the Carnegie Museum of Art.

She said when people visit a museum they’re often only seeing a tenth of its collection because most items are in storage or awaiting conservation.

“And it’s not that institutions don’t want to do the work, but the work costs money," Bogel said. "And we’re in a funding crunch right now for cultural institutions in general, and conservation and preservation sometimes can be viewed as differed maintenance. So it takes time and it takes energy to care for these collections.” 

Bogel said, while the artifacts on the list are all in need of preservation, they’re in varied conditions.

“None of them are going to be lost tomorrow, but they’re all in definite need, if the public is going to view them,” Bogel said. “And I think that’s really the issue — accessibility. Most of them are too fragile at this point to really be put on display for any period of time or to be handled, except with extreme caution.”  

People looking to see the list, vote, or support one of the institutions can do so on the CCAHA website. As of Sept. 23, there were 343,121 votes with 38 days still left in the campaign. 

WESA will be surveying Pennsylvania candidates for federal and state office for the 2022 general election — tell us which issues are most important to you.