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The growing trend is trendier in tough economic times

November 18, 2009

Hope Lodge

Historic sites all over the country are struggling.  The reasons are many and diverse.  Small staffs and small budgets.  The challenge of engaging a distracted public.  Funding cuts.  Economic downturn.  Poor management.  Interpretation in need of resonance and relevancy.  An aging volunteer population.  Need for costly curatorial climate control upgrades.  Encroaching development.  Poor budget choices.  Shifting urban populations.  “Teacup tours” that evoke yawns instead of emotions.  Founding fathers are “out,” diversity is “in.”  Stagnation.  Complacency and a “someone built it, they will come” attitude.  And so on.

So it’s no real surprise to read in the Philadelphia Inquirer that Hope Lodge and some other state sites and staff positions are “out.”  In a recent post I flagged that Hope Lodge knew its days were numbered and was seeking an exit strategy (this may help explain why their website has been so out of date).

Staff reductions at the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, the agency taking the greatest proportional loss in its workforce, will mean suspending services at six historic sites, closing the state museum in Harrisburg two days a week, and eliminating all new exhibit spending. The state archives also will close Mondays and Tuesdays.

Educational programs and other services at historic sites, including Graeme Park and Hope Lodge in Montgomery County and Washington Crossing Historic Park in Bucks County, will be discontinued and buildings there “mothballed,” Wyatt said.

Kirk Wilson, spokesman for the historical commission, said the agency is hoping local “friends” volunteer groups that support the parks will step up to keep activities going. The agency has nearly completed a deal with the Friends of Brandywine Battlefield Park in Delaware County to help keep that site open.

The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, losing nine staff posts, plans to reduce services at state parks by cutting back on educational programs and shortening seasonal hours at pools, beaches, and campgrounds.

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