Pennsylvania is a national leader in religious diversity and expression. It is in the spirit of this rich history that the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC) selected William Penn's Legacy: Religious and Spiritual Diversity as its annual history theme for 2011.

William Penn's Legacy: Religious and Spiritual Diversity, provides a focus to examine Pennsylvania's rich history and its influence on many of the traditions and values that have shaped the American experience. Sites like Ephrata Cloister and Old Economy Village illustrate the diversity of Pennsylvania’s religious history, made possible by the enduring tradition of tolerance established by William Penn.

William Penn's views on religious tolerance, freedom from established religion, sacred space, and social justice were atypical in the seventeenth-century Western world, and they were contested almost from the founding of Pennsylvania. The act of implementing Penn's ideals, especially amidst a diverse population, led to much discussion and debate about how to define them. Not everyone agreed, and Penn's aspirations were not always realized. It is this rich, contested, and unfinished heritage that the PHMC invites our historic preservation partners to explore with us.

During the upcoming year, the PHMC will be developing a number of different programs and resources related to the preservation of Pennsylvania's religious history and sacred places. We hope that our partners will engage in this effort by creating their own public programs, such as, surveying and documenting local historic cemeteries, seminaries, religious structures, schools, camps, orphanages and camp meetings, nominating resources to the National Register of Historic Places and the Historical Marker Program, and developing local public programs around the theme (exhibits, lectures, walking/driving tours, concerts of sacred music). The PHMC hopes that this website, containing resources to help you develop your own programs, will be inspiring.


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Pennsylvania Heritage Society