When I say “historical society,” what comes to mind? I admit that the word “dust” was part of my mental picture. My presumptions did not include “cutting-edge” or “stunning.” But those are, in fact, two words that I will forever use to describe the ambitious and exciting plans underway at the Adams County Historical Society (ACHS).
So why would I dive into this topic? Well, I love history and always have. In fact, I recently found myself looking at a map of Afghanistan, for obvious reasons, which led me to Constantinople and the fall of Rome!
But back to Adams County: What is the connection between history and our work at the Adams Economic Alliance? History is in the making and not a dusty topic. Economic development uses creative community-based strategies to enhance opportunity—not simply development in terms of construction and companies. That’s why I recently met with Andrew Dalton, Executive Director of the ACHS, to learn more about how our community stands to benefit from their multimillion-dollar capital campaign to build a new museum, archives, and education center.
First, Andrew explained that the ACHS has preserved millions of records, images, and artifacts from Adams County’s past.
“This treasure trove includes hundreds of collections relating to local businesses and organizations,” Andrew said. “From early carriage makers’ ledgers to Hotel Gettysburg guest books, these materials connect us with the industriousness and ingenuity of our ancestors. They also help us understand how Adams County has developed into such a thriving community. From historic tourism to agriculture and fruit growing, our diverse economy and the men and women behind it have never been placed in the spotlight.”
What he’s describing is the story of our Adams County community—its residents, towns and villages, businesses, workforce, and economy—all intertwined. The ACHS’s vision is a warm, welcoming new center—truly a place for both residents and visitors to enjoy. More than a place, it will be an attraction!
“Through interactive exhibits, programs, and a bustling research library, ACHS will provide a safe home for remarkable stories about one of America’s most famous communities,” Andrew said. “Right now, the society’s current home lacks any climate controls or fire protection. This problem demands immediate action, and ACHS has already raised over $5 million to fund a new and lasting home.”
What kinds of exhibits and stories are we talking about? Andrew has an incredible example.
“To illustrate just one example from the Society’s holdings, a local business at the time of the Civil War kept loose receipts of day-to-day transactions. One of the pieces of scrap paper used for this purpose was an original program from Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. Several years ago, ACHS volunteers discovered this incredible relic of the past and it will be featured prominently in the new museum,” said Andrew.
All of this made me extremely excited and proud that the Alliance will be partnering with ACHS. Under the umbrella of the Alliance, our Adams County Industrial Development Authority has applied for $2 million in state grant funding for the project, through the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP). One of the tenets of RACP funding is that projects have a regional economic, cultural, civic, recreational, and/or historical improvement focus—and that they generate increases in employment, tax revenues or other measurable economic activity.
Which brings me back to square one: What do history and economic development have in common? It turns out, through this “history in the making” project, we are both focused on the healthy, prosperous, well-being of our community. This “development” project is personal to Adams County, a rare gem for all of us to treasure.
Please take a moment to learn more about this exciting project on the ACHS website (at www.achs-pa.org/campaign), please consider getting involved, and definitely stay tuned!
Robin Fitzpatrick is President of Adams Economic Alliance, which comprises three organizations: The Adams County Economic Development Corporation (ACEDC), the Adams County Industrial Development Authority (ACIDA) and the Adams County General Authority (ACGA). For more information, see adamsalliance.org, or follow us on Twitter (@AdamsAlliance), Facebook (Facebook.com/AdamsAlliance) and LinkedIn (Adams Economic Alliance).