Founded in 1874, the Cumberland County Historical Society is one of the oldest historical societies in the United States.
From a generous bequest of a lot in downtown Carlisle and the equivalent of $63,000 in 2020 dollars from local attorney James Hamilton, Jr., the Cumberland County Historical Society (CCHS) was founded in the last quarter of the 19th century. Hamilton was said to have wanted the legacy to go towards unncovering and preserving Cumberland County history, and supplemented with monies collected from a concert fundraiser, a two-story brick library building was constructed in 1881 to accomplish this mission.
Over the course of the next decades, the CCHS library collected historical documents and artifacts were donated and put on display in the building. After WWII, a library expansion allowed a larger focus with a hope of eventually hosting a museum on county history. By the 1970s, modern museum practices were adopted, and exhibits were developed to showcase the museums growing collections. CCHS moved from volunteer to professional staff in the 1980s, and in the late 1990s, an expansion doubled the space of the building.
Today, CCHS is the repository of hundreds of thousands of documents, photographs, and artifacts and has helped many locals trace their family histories and scholars research the rich history of Cumberland County. CCHS has an educational program, hosts conferences, publishes journals and books, holds summer camps, creates exhibits, does community outreach, rents event space, and runs a society gift shop.
In 2005, the top floor of CCHS was opened as a free museum on Cumberland County history that can be visited today. It features permanent and rotating exhibits on local history and is open year round. It's a must-see stop for anyone wanting to familiarize themselves with Carlisle and the surrounding area.
Off-street parking is available in the lot behind their building that can be accessed via Dickinson Avenue.
HOURS Due to the pandemic, please check their website or facebook for the most up-to-date hours.
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