Three southwestern Pennsylvania museums received a total of $17,800 in grants from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission March 19 to support operating costs.
Grants for the Washington County Historical Society, the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum in Chartiers Township, and the Greene County Historical Society in Waynesburg came from the museum commission’s Cultural and Historical Support Grant Program, which currently serves 121 facilities across the state.
Scott Becker, executive director of the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum, said the state has one of the highest concentrations of museums in the country.
“[State grants] play an important role, because unrestricted operating support is hard to come by,” Becker said. “So these grants are very much appreciated.”
The Washington and Greene County Historical Societies each received $4,000 while the Trolley Museum received $9,807.
Clay Kilgore, executive director of the Washington County Historical Society, says it makes sense for museums to receive public funding.
“It’s the public’s history, it’s their museum,” Kilgore said. “It’s there for them. It’s there so they can come see what their history is, they can see who they are, who their ancestors were and what makes them what they are today.”
The Pennsylvania Trolley Museum has an annual operating budget of $550,000, according to Becker, while Kilgore says the Washington County Historical Society runs on about $108,000 per year. The trolley museum attracted 30,000 visitors last year, according to Becker.
Senator Camera Bartolotta (R-Washington/ Greene) said supporting museums increases tourist traffic to Pennsylvania.
“These are facilities that really benefit the communities they’re in and really do draw a lot of attention, not just from the people that live in those communities but from people outside the area,” Bartolotta said.
Kilgore said the Washington County Historical Society will use the money to maintain the Francis J. LeMoyne House, which was built in 1812 and was used as part of the Underground Railroad to free black slaves before the Civil War.