What's your favorite artifact in Pennsylvania?
That's what the Conservation Center for Art & Historic Artifacts, a Philadelphia-based historical group, wants to know for a new project called "Pennsylvania's Top 10 Endangered Artifacts."
Of course, there's the Liberty Bell and the Betsy Ross House. But hundreds — thousands, even — of other artifacts in towns from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia are up for nomination by the public through the new initiative.
"It's going to be very interesting to see what gets nominated," Conservation Center executive director Ingrid Bogel said. "There will be pretty high profile artifacts nominated to knock some socks off [and] people saying I didn't know Pennsylvania had these materials."
Part of the reason for the project, historical officials say, is the lack of funding for conservation and preservation in state and federal budgets the last few years.
In Pennsylvania, the state Historical and Museum Commission has lacked any funding in each of the last two state budgets, Bogel said. The Pennsylvania Council on the Arts has also seen significant cutbacks in funding.
After nominations for artifacts come in — the deadline is April 15 for submissions — a top 10 will be chosen and the public will then be able to vote on a "People's Choice Award" for the most popular of those 10. Overall, though, the goal is to raise the profile and some money for the state's treasures, Bogel said.
"We're always looking for people to take care of these items," she said of much-needed would-be philanthropists big and small. "There are some special things tucked away in instutations across the state."
A similar initiative in Virginia garnered 100,000 votes and raised awareness of many artifacts scattered throughout that state, Bogel said.
The project has many in Pennsylvania's rich history and arts sectors excited about the potential.
"In many cases with these types of artifacts, it's not a question of if they will disappear, but when," said Kim Sajet, executive director of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. "So for a project like this to happen, you are truly saving history that could disappear."