Cumberland County’s Progress Cited

News presents briefs about current and forthcoming programs, events, exhibits and activities of historical and cultural institutions in Pennsylvania.

Why single out Cumberland County Historical Society as an example of growth and progress? Chiefly because facts back the statement. As Robert Grant Crist, the society’s president, noted, the society has worked to achieve a 1,000 percent increase in “budget, attendance and service.”

A former director of the society, Whitfield J. Bell, formerly of the Franklin Papers and currently librarian at the American Philosophical Society, wrote recently to Crist, in congratulating the society: ” … when I was a director we accounted ourselves lucky to have a budget of $1,500.00 and total attendance of 15 at a meeting.” Crist explained that the society’s budget is up fifteen-fold and the average attendance at meetings is 150 persons.’ Perhaps, too, such growth illustrates the growing public interest in its own heritage.

How, then, does a historical society grow? In an inter­view with the writer, Crist said that perhaps a basic essen­tial for growth is to have the society’s by-laws provide for flexibility. Provisions should be made for moving board members in and out, Crist noted. By sending seasoned board members or “alumni” into the field, the society can inject support within the community.

A second factor in growth, according to Crist, is for a society to establish a working relationship with colleges and universities. He cited the invaluable assistance Cumberland County Historical Society has with Dickinson College, Carlisle, and Shippensburg State College, Shippensburg. Such a relationship, Crist added, will give direction to develop­ment of publications, (2) attractive but soundly grounded talent and (3) internships within the society.

A third factor necessary for growth, Crist said, is to develop working relationships with the schools. The Junior Historian program within the secondary schools is one ex­ample of such a working relationship, he added. (Societies wanting additional information on the development of Junior Historian programs can obtain that, as well as guidance, by contacting Carl D. Oblinger, associate historian with the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission and executive secretary of the Pennsylvania Federation of Historical Societies.)

Placing more emphasis upon societies working together is a fourth factor Crist cited as essential for growth and progress. Sponsoring regional workshops is a step toward that goal, Crist believes. “Failure to look beyond our own borders,” Crist said, “has been one reason for lack of growth.” Working together for legislation, he added, re­quires “more emphasis upon the development of a broader perspective.”

Crist said the fifth factor for growth is holding regular, “consistent, if not compulsory,” meetings of boards. The Cumberland County association practices this philosophy.

Accreditation of societies is a sixth factor Crist listed as essential. He believes a society should establish standards for self discipline, asking such questions as (1) what is an adequate security system, (2) what are valuable acquisitions and (3) what are adequate by-laws.

Another essential ingredient for progress is commitment, Crist said. Crist himself is one example of how enthusiasm can be contagious. (Cumberland County fortunately has many such enthusiastic members.)

Another point Crist emphasized is to work to involve professionals as well as non-professionals in your society. William Hunter, head of the Division of History, Bureau of Archives and History of the PHMC, is a member of the Board of Directors of the Cumberland Society. Crist also noted that a society that wants to grow should try to involve women in its efforts.

Today, people are searching for their roots, and historical societies can help them as well as strengthening their own societies, Crist said. Listing particular points for assistance here is to have members serve as “curators”; for example, a person holding a doctorate in geography might be your curator of maps – and then to publicize the work that is being accomplished. Currently, the Cumberland Society’s curator in this field is to learn what maps have been done, eventually finalizing in Cumberland County Historical Society being an information center for geographic locations for the county. Crist also noted that articles about this program will appear in six county newspapers. Four of a dozen specialty collectors have been appointed.

Other projects planned by Cumberland County Historical Society are to publish a historical gazetteer and to increase the four-a-year publication series and to add impetus to an oral history project.)

Crist said “genius is not necessary” for a society to grow. There is no “magic potion, ” he said, “just energy, time and devotion.” Crist noted that the established industrialist is certainly as significant as the non-professional or even professional enthusiast.

If Crist is an example of commitment to the belief that a historical society can be a viable group, then perhaps one of the keys is to try to involve persons who are, as is Crist, committed and enthusiastic about their heritage.

Cumberland County Historical Society had another year of solid growth in 1974. The growth took many forms, but all had in common the thrust of service to the society’s members as well as to the entire county.

The generosity of a Carlisle attorney, scholar and stalwart school board secretary brought Hamilton Library Association and Cumberland County Historical Society into being. James Hamilton (1793-1873) provided land and cash in his will for the establishments to be developed.

County citizens pursued the serious work of collecting manuscripts and imprints, accepting museum items and back issues of county newspapers, conducting public meetings. After 1901 they began to publish historical papers.

The increasing value of holdings and demand for more space resulted in the construction of an addition in 1965 that more than doubled the space. Under Jonas Warrell’s leadership, the public subscriptions paid for the building and surpassed the goal by nearly fifty percent.

The society, stimulated by the new building and increased programs, soon was bulging again at its seams. Thus, it was decided that another expansion was necessary. The program is known as “1974-2074: The Next 100 Years – Project Outreach.” The target goal is $287,000, all but $20,000 of which has been committed in the last six months for the expansion. A series of services already underway illustrate the breadth of work in which the society hopes to expand in the second century: business, churches, archeology, farm industry, schools and libraries and site preservation and appreciation.

The Society and its Hamilton Library Association are located at 21 North Pitt Street, Carlisle. The Museum and Library are open to the public from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. Monday and Tuesday; from 1:00 to 9:00 p.m. Wednesday and from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Thursday and Friday.

The society plans the second in a series of United States Bicentennial events to demonstrate the county’s contribution to the Revolution. This event will be held July 13, 1975, in Dickinson College’s auditorium, exactly 200 years after Captain William Hendricks’ rifle company left Carlisle to join General Washington at Boston. Russell Weighley, author of History of the U.S. Army, will speak at the 3:00 p.m. program. A demonstration by riflemen will precede the program.

In addition to President Crist, 1975 Cumberland County Historical Society officers are a banker, Pierson K. Miller, vice president; Col. Edgar R. Kadel, secretary; Roy G. Shaull, treasurer and a banker. Committee heads include Jonas E. Warrell, nominations; Mrs. James Hertzler, librarian; I. S. Eberly III, membership; C. Richard Stover, program; Dr. Henry J. Young, library development. Dr. Milton E. Flower, Museum; William A. Hunter, publications; volunteer service coordinator, Mrs. George E. Hoffer; Roger K. Todd, photographic collection curator; and George B. Faller, solicitor.

The new membership goal for 1975 is 1,100 persons. With so much talent, enthusiasm and devotion, Cumberland County Historical Society will no doubt reach, and perhaps even surpass that goal.