Historical society

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The Nelson W. Aldrich House, headquarters of the Rhode Island Historical Society in Providence, Rhode Island, USA

A historical society is a organization dedicated to preserving, collecting, researching, and interpreting historical information or items. Originally, these societies were created as a way to help future generations understand their heritage.

The focus and specialization of historical societies has quite a large variety and ranges from specific geographical areas such as countries or towns, universities, railways, ethnic and religious groups, to genealogy, pioneer history, and the preservation of antiques or historic buildings.[1]

Often, many of these organizations ensure that historic architecture is preserved/restored and period houses are maintained for tours open to the public. (See: Historic preservation)




Publishing journals and maintaining museums is another way in which the historical societies showcase their collections, research, and field of study.

For record keeping and educational purposes, many of the transactions and papers read at society meetings have been documented and published, as we see with such publications as:

  • The Society’s (Quebec) “Transactions of the Literary and Historical Society of Quebec”[2] published in 1831
  • The Society’s (Boston) “Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society” [3] published in 1919
  • The Cambridge University Press’ “Transactions of the Royal Historical Society” [4] published in 2013


Support from outside sources and contributors has always played an important role in the life of historical societies. Various methods such as donations, memberships, annual funds, corporate giving, internships, volunteering, and renting specific historic spaces are continuing to help keep these societies alive and growing.

The following are some examples:

See also[edit]