National Heritage Area


The Philadelphia area is home to an enormous number of historic sites and other institutions that preserve history collections which are unparalleled in their depth and breadth.

We — a group of museum directors, historic site managers, leaders at a variety of cultural institutions, and other stakeholders — nonetheless believe it would be to the entire region's advantage to develop a collaborative, thematic, and better organized method for presenting a comprehensive story of America's historic capital to tourists and local residents alike.

We believe that Philadelphia should apply to become a federally designated National Heritage Area.

As defined by the federal government, a National Heritage Area is a district characterized by meaningful and sustained collaboration among a range of partners that might include cultural organizations, environmental groups, elected officials, business and community leaders, and tourism officials.

The aim of an NHA is to provide a contextual overview to visitors.

Some of the outcomes of other NHA groups around the country include:

  • major economic development and preservation,
  • a joint capacity for leveraging funding that is not possible with only one or two organizations, and
  • new organizational structures that are more flexible and respond more quickly to tourism needs and civic concerns.

The application process is not an easy one: if successful, Philadelphia would be the only city and one of only very few urban areas in the US to be so designated.

In order to advance this ambitious agenda, we are convening a series of town meetings to discuss the overarching goals of the project, the process of reaching the individual goals, and more.

Each town meeting features a short general presentation by an authority in one of the fields relevant to the project — national heritage areas, tourism, history, collaboration, etc. — and break-out meetings for the various working committees.

We know that we cannot achieve our goals without the active participation of diverse groups of stakeholders, for which reason we encourage all interested persons to attend meetings and join our email list.

Mission Statement

Here is the unadopted proposed mission statement:

The mission of the [NHA working group] is to organize the region's cultural, historic, natural and other assets in such a way as to achieve economic benefits for the region, strengthening of all participating partners through collaboration, increased civic pride, and sustained involvement by diverse groups of stakeholders.

Steering Committee

  • Derick Dreher, Rosenbach Museum & Library
  • Ken Finkel, WHYY
  • Stephen Hague, Stenton
  • David Moltke-Hansen, Historical Society of Pennsylvania
  • Barbara W. Silberman, Heritage Philadelphia Program