What is PA Museums?

PA Museums is Pennsylvania’s statewide trade association serving museum professionals and institutions. Based in Harrisburg, PA Museums was founded in 1905 and during its long history was known as the Pennsylvania Federation of Historical Societies and the Pennsylvania Federation of Museums and Historical Organizations.

Who are we?

Pennsylvania’s museum community includes museums of all kinds large and small. Our rich heritage as one of the original thirteen colonies has provided a firm foundation for our museums, historic sites, history organizations, zoos, science and nature centers, arboreta, and children’s museums to engage millions of visitors annually with world class collections and programs. Our community of museums and historical organizations stand at the intersection of delight, inspiration, education, the tourism industry, and the economic vitality of the Commonwealth.

PA Museums is a non-profit membership organization governed by a Board of Directors made up of leaders in the museum field. There are over 1,000 museums and historical organizations in Pennsylvania, and our membership is a representative sample of the larger field in terms of the size and scope of our member museums.

A snapshot of our membership:
Total current members – 340
Museum and historical institution members – 300
Individual members – 25
Business members – 15

How does PA Museums serve Pennsylvania?

We create and support museum community in Pennsylvania through our advocacy work, professional development programs, information sharing, and an annual awards program to recognize exemplary work in the Commonwealth.

Our association has a long history of advocating for museums and the history field. We spoke up for the establishment of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC) over a hundred years ago, and we continue to support the state agency’s funding and grants programs that benefit many organizations in our membership. We have worked at the local, state, and federal levels to secure museum funding or other kinds of support that make museums more successful. We bring a voice to the field when museums need to be heard, and we organize grass roots, non-partisan efforts to communicate the worth and value of museums to state lawmakers.

PA Museums hosts an annual, statewide museum conference each year that brings together around 150 museum professionals for two days of programming. Our conference usually includes educational sessions (including behind the scenes tours of museums), presentations from thought leaders on museum issues, and social events designed to connect attendees and forge stronger relationships between leaders and institutions. Our conference is hosted in a different region of Pennsylvania by one of our member organizations every year to better serve our statewide membership.
PA Museums also partners with our members, other professional development organizations, and experts to present workshops. Our workshops are responsive to the museum and history community’s immediate needs, and the same program will be presented in different regions of the state to better reach the organizations with less capacity that need professional development the most.

PA Museums frequently shares information and news that is both timely and appropriate with our membership and broader audience. We send a simple e-newsletter every two weeks that consistently is read by around 350 subscribers. Our newsletter exceeds the industry average, and it consistently attracts readers to click on links and open and read its content. PA Museums’ Facebook presence is growing, and we currently have over 1,000 followers. We tend to post news to Facebook around once or twice a week, and we remain dedicated to engaging this community. PA Museums’ Twitter account has attracted over 2900 followers, and we tweet museum news from Pennsylvania, job openings, and other content an average of four times a day. PA Museums uses these social media feeds as source material for our newsletter and our website, www.pamuseums.org. In turn, as we update information on our website, we drive traffic t0 it with our social media tools.

Around 1980 PA Museums established an awards program to recognize exemplary work going on in museums and history organizations in Pennsylvania. Our awards program, modeled on the national awards programs at the American Association for State and Local History (AASLH) and the American Alliance of Museums (AAM), has grown over the years to recognize emerging young professionals, volunteers, projects that transform institutions, educational programs, and lifetime achievements in the field. Our nominations are judged on their own merit by a committee using a nationally recognized model that was developed by the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts to center on the impact of a particular initiative. Our awardees receive tremendous benefits from winning our awards. We do present some awards that include a monetary gesture, and all winners feel like winners. They will mention they won our award in grant applications, tell their local media, and proudly display our trophies or plaques for years to come.