Historical Societies: News and Highlights

Historical Societies: News and Highlights presents news and information about Pennsylvania's regional and county historical societies.

A Case Study

In times of tight money and federal cutbacks, gaining local recognition and support becomes more important than ever for local organizations such as historical societies. Yet, during finan­cially difficult times the tendency is fre­quently to eliminate programs, shorten hours and generally pull back along all fronts. Consider another approach; con­sider this program of the Bucks County Historical Society.

Realizing that local support is the backbone of their organization, the society established a new community relations and development office in December, funded by grants from the Pew Memorial Trust, the William Penn Foundation and private donations. The office, open five days a week from 8:30 A.M. to 1:30 P.M., is already helping the society to expand its public programs while strengthening its ties to the com­munity. With the existence of the office, people in the area are hearing more about the society than ever before. Through increased recognition, the society improves it chances of generating greater financial support from private sources.

Already a grant has been received from the Prudential Insurance Co. of America making possible the develop­ment of a twelve-minute audio-visual program. “The Mercer Legacy,” as it is named, consists of a slide and tape presentation, complete with music. The show documents some of the more than 40,000 artifacts which can be found in the Mercer-Foothill museum complex. An active speakers bureau is scheduling volunteers to bring the program to local groups. This audio-visual program and other projects will be used to help fur­ther educate the public to the programs and services the Bucks County Historical Society has to offer.

At a time when the inclination on the part of many historical societies is to withdraw due to budget cuts, there is much to be learned from this bold ad­vance by the Bucks County Historical Society. Societies throughout the state should take notice.


Federation Awards

As reported in the summer issue of PH, several historical societies received recognition at the annual meeting of the Pennsylvania Federation of Historical Societies for their exceptional work. The winner of the S. K. Stevens Award was the Zelienople Historical Society for its restoration of Zelienople’s oldest historic homestead and the promotion of local history. The award, which car­ries with it a certificate and $500 from the Historical Foundation of Pennsylvania, is given annually in honor of the late Dr. Sylvester K. Stevens, former executive director of the PHMC. past-president of the American Association for State and Local History, and founder of the Historical Foundation of Pennsylvania.

The Federation also honored five societies with its Award of Merit for their recent publications. They were: the Bucks County Historical Society, for Tools and Trades of America’s Past: The Mercer Collection; the Elk County Historical Society for A History of Elk County; the Juniata County Historical Society, for Juniata: A County for All Seasons, 1831-1981; the Middletown Historical Society for Early Industries of Middletown, Pennsylvania; and the Northumberland County Historical Society for Early Events in the Susque­hanna Valley. Honorable mention was given to the Upper Merion Park and Historic Foundation, and the Westmoreland County Historical Society.

Two awards were also given on behalf of the American Association for State and Local History. Certificates of Com­mendation were awarded to the Lehigh County Historical Society, for Developing and Promoting Museum Access Pro­grams for Handicapped Visitors and to the Zelienople Historical Society for Promoting the Understanding of Local History in Zelienople.

These, and all other societies throughout the state, are to be con­gratulated for the outstanding quality of the publications and public programs which they have made available to visitors and citizens of the Common­wealth of Pennsylvania and beyond.


Society Notes

The Pennsylvania Humanities Coun­cil has recently awarded up to $457 ,672 to thirty-eight humanities programs for the public. Based on a competitive review of eligible projects, the awards will be used co support programs ranging from a festival in Erie, exploring the im­portance of religious ideas in different cultures as portrayed through film, to a conference on the history of American Indian affairs and federal policies. For information on guidelines and upcoming grant deadlines, write to the Pennsyl­vania Humanities Council, Suite 818, 401 North Broad St., Philadelphia 19108.

The Erie County Historical Society and the Erie Society for Genealogical Research have entered into a working agreement designed to improve services to their members and the general public. This affiliation will eliminate the duplication of services and permit the two groups to belter explore programs and projects that they might jointly sponsor. The genealogical society, which recently lost its accommodations at the public library due to reorganization there, will join the historical society in new quarters at the Cashiers House. This will enable the organizations to combine research activities and volunteers in this time of diminishing resources. One idea being explored is the extension of hours of availability to benefit more individuals. It is emphasiz­ed that each society will retain its own structure, identity and purpose.

The Balch Institute for Ethnic Studies in Philadelphia has received a $240,000 grant from the Pew Memorial Trust to expand the Institute’s library. A three­-year cataloging project will be under­taken which will necessitate the purchase of an OCLC terminal and the addition of several new staff members. The aim is to provide improved subject access to the library’s extensive collection of books on immigration and ethnology. Also, the Institute will be able to share its holdings with other OCLC libraries.