Harry Parker, chief of the PHMC State Archives Division, will retire in August 2008 after 26 years of service. Harry has been a mainstay at the Archives since 1982.
A native of Philadelphia, Harry grew up in the 1960s, heavily influenced by the music of the era. As someone who really wanted to be an Eric Clapton, he played guitar in a Philly area rock band. Harry then became a history Ph.D. candidate at Temple University, in the 1970s, after a stint in the army and various jobs as a teacher and social worker—even as sports editor of the Germantown Courier. With the intent of completing a dissertation on the Pennsylvania Abolition Society, he saw the light and decided to become an archivist after taking classes from the late, legendary Frederic Miller at Temple.
Harry began his career at the PHMC as an assistant archivist with the Division of Archives and Manuscripts. He worked on various collections, most notably the acquisition and processing of over 10,000 cubic feet of Pennsylvania Railroad Company Records. From 1986 to 1989, he cross-trained at The State Museum of Pennsylvania as chief of Exhibitions Management. In 1987, he managed a major exhibit of documents relating to the bicentennial of the U. S. Constitution. From 1989 to 1994, Harry returned to the Archives as head of the State Government Records Section, overseeing the commonwealth records management program and ongoing appraisal of government records. From 1994 to the present, he has been chief of the Division of Archives and Manuscripts, now known as the State Archives Division.
Many positive changes to the State Archives can be credited to Harry’s leadership, notably the physical division of the Search Room into two separate rooms, one for original records and one for microfilm; the creation of an electronic database inventory of the contents of the Archives tower; and the elimination of water pipes in the stack areas (which had previously led to flooding). Harry also was at the forefront of the State Archives Web site development and the addition of document scanning equipment and services offered by the Archives.
Several large-scale conservation projects also took place during his tenure. They include the treatment of the 1681 Charter and other “basic documents” of the Commonwealth such as early Native American deeds and the state constitutions; the delamination of over 3,000 early land records signed by William Penn; and the ongoing Civil War Muster Rolls Project.
Harry will be missed especially during Archives’ lunch breaks, when he kept the staff in stitches with his stories. His razor-sharp sense of humor is well known. Once, after redirecting a lost customer to the Fish and Boat Commission, he quipped, “they want to return a trout.” He also proposed having the Search Room archivist dress as a clown, so patrons could say, “Who’s that clown in the Search Room?” During an agency-wide strategic planning self-study, Harry was found standing in the hallway saying “Shhh… I’m studying myself.”
Harry plans to do a lot of traveling with his wife Joanie, and tackle some home projects during retirement. The PHMC, Archives staff, and friends and colleagues everywhere in the archives community wish Harry a long, happy and well-earned retirement.
Learn about this and more interesting news in the full edition of Access Archives (PDF, 713 KB).