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Arts, Sports & Culture

PA Museums and Historical Societies Receive Grants

Preserving history can be an expensive task, but the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC) is trying to make it a bit easier by handing out grants.

This year, the commission awarded $1.9 million to 130 museums and official county historical societies throughout the commonwealth.

“These grants are used for general operating support,” said Howard Pollman, PHMC spokesman. “So that really helps some museums and historical societies operate in some way because those kind of dollars are often very difficult to come by.”

Museums that applied could receive a maximum of $65,000 while historical societies could receive up to $4,000.

Gina Focareta Evans, director of development at the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, said about 45 percent of the museum’s annual $5.4 million budget comes from grants and donations raised.

“This has been really essential operating support that helps each museum to do essential services on a regular basis for our visitors,” Evans said. “So paying our staff and those sort of non-exciting things that really need to happen in order for us to keep our doors open.”

She said the $65,000 the museum received will help it keep up with a growing audience.

“It will really help us with our operating expenses which have gone up for the museum in particular because…we’ve needed to increase our staffing because of the fact that we have such record attendance here at the Children’s Museum,” Evans said.

The museum drew 270,000 visitors last year compared to about 267,000 the year before.

However, the museums and historical societies were not always able to depend on this money.

Due to the economic downturn, the state was not able to fund the program between 2009 and 2012. It was reinstated last year, but there was only about $1 million to distribute. Evans said the smaller-than-usual funding amount forced them to look for money from other sources and cut back on programs.

Dave Huber, President of the Cambria County Historical Society, said they received $4,000, which he estimated to be about 20 to 25 percent of the society’s budget.

“When we weren’t getting the money we had to cut back on some of the things we do," he said, "and we’re happy that this came through because now we can better serve the public."