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50 Years of History: The State Museum and Archives Complex

February 27, 2015

Filed under 3rd in the Burg, Astronaut, Changing Exhibits, Charter Day, Curiosity Connection, Events, Exhibit Opening, Exhibits, Learn at Lunchtime, National History Day, Pennsylvania Heritage Foundation, Pennsylvania Heritage Magazine, Pennsylvania State Archives, Permanent Exhibits, Press Releases, Publications, UnCommon Modern, Visiting the Museum



50th_logo_colorThe State Museum of Pennsylvania and the Pennsylvania State Archives were physically joined in a new, modern architectural complex 50 years ago.  Designed by the Harrisburg-based architectural firm of Lawrie and Green, the complex opened in 1964 and was dedicated in October 1965.

First known as the William Penn Memorial Museum and State Archives, the complex commemorates Pennsylvania’s founder while serving as an architectural landmark for the commonwealth. In 2014, the complex was named to the National Register of Historic Places.     SMOP8-10

The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC), the state’s official history agency, oversees the museum and archives and makes the complex its headquarters.  

To commemorate the 50th anniversary, PHMC is presenting several programs to highlight the history and architectural significance of what pop culture celebrates today as “Mad Men” buildings.


Anniversary Gala

A gala, ticketed celebration commemorating the original October 1965 dedication of the finished State Museum and Archives Complex will he held Saturday, October 24, 2015. Join us for a black tie dinner and a showcase of The State Museum, including special collection displays and a preview of the Pennsylvania Modern Architecture Juried Photo Exhibit. The Pennsylvania Heritage Foundation, PHMC’s non-profit fundraising partner, will host the event.

Pennsylvania Heritage Magazine

Pennsylvania Heritage, the quarterly, award-winning joint publication of the PHMC and the Pennsylvania Heritage Foundation, will highlight Midcentury Modern-themed stories and features during 2015, including in-depth articles on this history of The State Museum and Archives Complex. Here is a list of recent Pennsylvania Heritage articles focused on The State Museum & Archives Complex and/or Midcentury Modern architecture.

The Pennsylvania Modern: A Juried Photography Exhibition of Midcentury Modern Architecture

In recognition of the 50th anniversary of The State Museum and Archives Complex, The State Museum of Pennsylvania presents The Pennsylvania Modern: A Juried Photography Exhibition of Midcentury Modern Architecture. The Pennsylvania Modern honors iconic modern architecture throughout the commonwealth and documents this important architecture which is often “hidden in plain sight.” Photographers focused on both the details and the overall views of residences, schools, commercial structures, religious buildings, among others. In addition, buildings designed by several world-famous architects such as Frank Lloyd Wright, Richard Neutra and Louis Kahn were captured by photographers for the show.  On Sunday, October, 25, 2015, The Pennsylvania Modern awarded Andrew Hoff of Camp Hill with Best of Show for his photograph, Barlup’s Appliances. Joseph Skompski of Uniontown took home The Best of The State Museum and Archives Complex award for his photograph, Pennsylvania State Archives.  Pennsylvania Modern will be on view through February 28, 2016.

State Museum and Archives Complex Architectural History Display

A sidebar display to the juried photo exhibit will showcase original materials relating to the design and construction of the State Museum and Archives Complex. Did you know that The State Museum owns the original architectural model of the complex, which is on a base about 3 feet square?

Midcentury Modern Memories 

For 50 years, personal photos have served as the most common souvenir that visitors have taken from The State Museum and Archives Complex. Here are some images taken at the museum within the past 50 years.