State Sen. Jim Ferlo (D-Pittsburgh) and members of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC) announced that the Board voted to keep the Fort Pitt Museum open.

In a unanimous vote, the Commissioners decided to permit PHMC staff to seek a management agreement and contract with the John Heinz Regional History Center and return to the Board for a final vote and approval at its next meeting.

“This is a victory for the City of Pittsburgh,” Senator Ferlo said. “Despite budget constraints, we are preserving a piece of history that is central to the City’s identity and will likely see improved operation, promotion and activities at the Fort Pitt Museum. “Congratulations should go to all the staff and citizen volunteers that have put countless hours into getting us to this point.”

Senator Ferlo and PHMC held a public hearing on May 14 to solicit the public’s opinion on the proposed closure of the Fort Pitt Museum. Due to significant budget cuts by the state, PHMC had to review all its operations, reduce staffing and look to public- private management opportunities for some its historical sites. One clear message rang out at the public hearing regarding Fort Pitt Museum: “Don’t close the museum!” Today’s vote made good on the promise that Sen. Ferlo made that day to keep it open.

Several very competitive proposals were vetted by the Commission including submissions by the John Heinz Regional History Center and the Friends of the Fort Pitt Museum. While the History Center was ultimately chosen to operate the museum in partnership with the PHMC, Ferlo stressed that the “Friends” would still be encouraged to play a leadership role and he will work to help define that role as a contract is drafted with the Heinz Regional History Center.

Ferlo said, “For the Museum to truly reach its full potential we need the community enthusiasm that we have seen throughout the process to continue. While at first the closure proposal seemed to signal the end, it turned out to be a positive, as it triggered the mobilization of supporters and allowed us to find creative public-private partnerships to improve the museums operation in the long run.”

Over the next month PHMC staff will be working with the History Center to develop a contract for the operation of the Ft. Pitt Museum. Ferlo made a motion to ensure that the staff would seek continued community input on the protection of the archives at the facility and roles for volunteers and existing stake-holders.