Living history

Governor Edward G. Rendell has appointed Barbara Franco '65 the executive director of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, the official history agency of the Commonwealth. Franco is the first woman to head the PHMC since its creation in 1946.

As former president and CEO of The Historical Society of Washington DC, Franco oversaw the creation of the City Museum, which opened in May 2003 and helped revitalize D.C.'s downtown. "The most rewarding aspect of my work in Washington was helping make a 30-year dream to create a City Museum a reality," Franco says. "The opening of the City Museum represented a community-wide effort to make D.C.'s complex history accessible to both residents and visitors." The City Museum pioneered a 21st-century model of the decentralized museum experience, in which a network of historical and cultural sites or "gateways" lead visitors to discover that the city itself is the museum.

At PHMC, Franco will work with institutions and colleagues throughout Pennsylvania to maintain its national status as a leader in the preservation and use of historical resources. She hopes PHMC will play a significant role in the state's economic and cultural resurgence.

"I have always been struck with how many Bryn Mawr graduates end up working in museums," Franco says. "I credit it to Bryn Mawr's thorough grounding in a discipline which then makes it possible to think in the interdisciplinary ways that are required for museum work." Franco remembers a class trip to Elfreth's Alley with Mary Maples Dunn, PhD '59, which allowed her to connect academic history with historic places and museums that serve public audiences.

Thus inspired, Franco has worked in the museum community since 1966, having been assistant director of the Museum of Our National Heritage in Lexington MA and of the Minnesota Historical Society. She completed the Cooperstown Graduate Program in Museum Studies.

For more information, visit PHMC's web site.

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