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Re: historical markers
Posted by: NICOLE (ID *****4718) Date: January 17, 2005 at 23:14:33
In Reply to: Re: Anna Rolfe and Pocahontas by NICOLE of 1081

NG> I wonder whether a historical marker can supply us with more tangible proof ?
NG> One would hope that a government agency whose mandate is to deal with
NG> historical matters would do valid research before making any public claims.
NG> Any they should be able to access other government documents.

Below is an example I came across that describes one state's
process for historical markers. It is a different process than what
I had imagined & share it here for others who are interested.

NICOLE

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2000/09/03 Tribune Review - Westmoreland Sunday - Focus Magazine

State Historic Marker Program celebrates people, places, events in history

By Patti DOBRANSKI (North Huntingdon free-lance writer)

The signs dotting highways and landscapes across Pennsylvania represent
pages of a historic novel whose first chapter was written more than 200 years ago.

The plaques, with gold lettering emblazoned on a royal blue background,
are part of the Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission's
87-year-old Historic Marker Program. Topped with the state crest,
each bears a brief synopsis honoring a person, place or event
with a starring role in the annals of Pennsylvanian history. To date,
there are 1,800 state historic markers spread over the 67 counties.

"This is one of the oldest and most popular programs in the state.
When a new marker goes up, it sparks a lot of interest,"
said John Robinson, press secretary for the Pennsylvania Historic and
Museum Commission, which oversees and coordinates the program.

"Any individual or organization can do it," he said. "There are a few
restrictions about the subject of the marker. If it is for a person, they must
be deceased. But all markers must have significance in state history."

Robinson said the highest concentration of historic markers are located
in the Philadelphia area, but there is at least one in every county.

There are two types of markers offered through the program.
The "city" types are tall and thin to fit snugly in a more densely
populated environment. The "roadside" ones are larger and
geared toward areas with more landscaping and space.

State historic markers are erected annually and the cost is split
between the applicant and the state in the form of a matching grant.
Larger roadside plaques cost $1,300, while the smaller city signs are $1,100.
The state budgets $21,500 for the program each year, Robinson said.
After a marker is erected, it is perpetually maintained by the state.

Applicants for a state marker must submit research and documentation for
consideration by a five-member panel of experts and professionals in the
field of history. The panel is chosen to serve two-year, staggered terms.

"Our division of history, themselves professionals, selects other
professionals from around the state from each of five regions -
the northwest, southwest, northeast, southeast and central. We strive to
have a balance of men and women with in-depth knowledge of history.
We try to get a wide variety of individuals involved," said Robinson.

It is up to applicants to convince the panel their individual, place or event
warrants a historic marker. The panel does not do its own research on
a proposed subject, but merely determines the importance and the
validity of the information provided by the applicant. Eighteen copies
of the research must be included in the application. The deadline for
historic markers to be considered for the following year is Dec. 15.

PHMC publishes a guide to all historic markers across the state
approximately every 10 years. The latest volume is due this year,
but will not include markers installed and dedicated in 2000.

WHO'S APPLYING?

The PHMC receives 50 to 75 applications for historic markers each year.
Of those, between one-fourth and one-half are approved.

Robinson said there are 400 historical societies throughout the state,
but these organizations are not solely responsible for applications.

"There is an even mix of grassroots movements and organizational
applications," he said. "But many people who sign as individual
applicants are members of historical societies."

Sometimes applications are approved, but the markers do not get
erected because individuals can ot raise the funding to purchase one,
Robinson said.

Some people do the research and are approved for a marker, but
end up asking local historical societies to help with the purchase.

"Sometimes they are approved and there is no sponsor,
so they can't get the state match," he said.

James Steeley, executive director of the Westmoreland County
Historical Society, said the organization is an affiliate of the PHMC
and has sponsored two historic markers in the county in recent years.

"There are two that I'm aware of in the modern era," he said.
"We were founded in 1908 and are the official county historical society.
We did the Arthur St. Clair marker at St. Clair Park in Greensburg
and the William Findley marker in Latrobe."

Steeley said the society receives letters requesting sponsorship from
time to time, but it does not make installing markers a priority.

"There are different kinds of historical societies," he said.
"Some only do local history. We are large and perform a variety
of services. ... We have 200,000 items in our archives ...
among other things. We do get copies of the proposals sent to the
state for additional information. That's the extent of our input."

Ann Fortescue, director of education for the Historical Society
of Western Pennsylvania, helps groups and individuals facilitate
the process of securing a historic marker.

"We are a local partner of the PHMC," Fortescue said.
"We work with groups throughout western Pennsylvania and as a technical
and informational system network. We will help with the research for a
person, site or event for recognition through the historic marker program.

"Often groups would like to propose a historic marker and don't know how
to get one approved. We can refer them to our library or can connect
with other groups, such as the Pennsylvania Labor History Society,
who can help with funding and other information. Along with the research,
we also help with the dedication process in the community."

<dated local info snipped>

The Pennsylvania Labor History Society was also involved in
the approval of this state historic marker, Fortescue said.

"For many groups and organizations, it's a real thrill to have physical
recognition and present it in a significant location," she said.
"It is important for them to have a stamp of approval by the Commonwealth.
The PHMC takes this program very seriously. It's a thorough process and
the people feel deservedly proud when it is installed and dedicated."

The Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania also assists with the
installation and dedication process for groups with approved markers.
Fortescue works with the local public works department and officials
to make the necessary arrangements.

"Some are confusing," she said. "It's different (protocol) from community
to community and we help take the worry and complexity out of it.
For example, if a marker is installed in the city of Pittsburgh,
the city council person of that ward will be informed of it and
be involved in it in some way."

Pittsburgh City Councilman Dan Cohen was involved in the
recent installation of a historic marker sponsored by
Gulf Oil History Society commemorating the first gasoline station
at Baum Boulevard and Saint Clair Street in the city.

Fortescue said people interested in applying for a state historic marker
should attend a dedication ceremony to truly appreciate the depth of the
honor.

"It raises awareness of the history around us. One of the best ways
to experience it is to attend a dedication program and find out what
it's all about. It's a great way to get the word out," she said.

OTHER HISTORIC MARKERS

Cathy Broucek, director of operations and marketing for the
Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation, said the organization
erects their own historic markers and bestows them on architectural
structures that have stood the test of time.

In existence since 1964, the PHLF has placed close to
400 bronze markers throughout Allegheny County.

"We have our own plaque program and it's different than the state,"
Broucek said. "We fill a niche that's important because
we recognize existing buildings. We're about preservation.
The program is completely underwritten by the foundation."

However, she has not ruled out participating
in the state historic marker program.

"We have 12 sitting on a shelf looking for a space,
so we actually might consider it," she said.

Ellen Ballas, a member of both the Daughters of the American Revolution
and the Daughters of American Colonists' McKeesport chapters,
said these groups have erected their own historic markers.

"We have one at the fountain in Renziehausen Park (McKeesport)
for David McKee, the namesake of McKeesport;
one for George Adam Weddell, an early pioneer in Elizabeth Township;
and one for Adam Saam in Circleville near Larimer House," she said.

Ballas said while the DAR and DAC organizations pay for the markers,
the state does approve the wording placed on them.

Anyone interested in attending the dedication ceremony of a
Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission marker can contact
Ann Fortescue at (412) 454-6393.

(local markers info snipped)

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