Arts & Antiques

New Vision for Chester County Historical Society

New president aims to show how the past affects our lives today

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Dr. Robert Lukens has been appointed president of the Chester County Historical Society (CCHS).

The Hunt welcomed him with a few questions: First of all, we wondered if the term president at the CCHS was used the same as director at other museums.

“President, CEO, Director, and Executive Director are terms that are used in the field to refer to the executive that oversees the operation of a museum,” he told us. “I am not a voting member of the Board of Trustees. Some organizations will use the term “President” to denote the Chief of the Board of Trustees; here we use “Chairperson” for that role.

Next, we asked him to describe his vision for the future of the CCHS, and what we could expect to see happening there in the future.

“The Chester County Historical Society is the county’s (and one of the commonwealth”s) premier institutions in collecting and sharing American history to our community,” he said. “Our overall goal is to be the best at doing that—preserving and sharing the county’s history and relating our mission to broader themes.

“CCHS has done very good work to date in meeting these objectives. We have a nationally significant collection of archives, photographs, and objects. We have a vibrant exhibition program, serve as the official National History Day coordinator for southeastern Pennsylvania, and reach over 10,000 school kids annually with programs and outreach.

“Our short- and long-term activities will focus on relevance and fiscal sustainability,” he said. “We aim to do this through audience evaluation, developing programs that meet the needs and interests of our diverse audiences, and institution-wide thematic initiatives that link together all facets of the organization (collections, exhibitions, programs, school outreach, marketing, fundraising, etc.). A perfect example is our Civil War exhibition “On the Edge of Battle,” slated to open in October 2012.

“We are currently exploring other initiatives which include exhibitions and programs on the 1960s, and the history of food and technology as they relate to Chester County’s past and present. Our goal is to enable our audiences to understand how the past affects their lives and contributes to their identity today.

The Chester County Historical Society

“There are also many opportunities to use technology to reach broader audiences, particularly students and teachers, through linking up local history with national standards. Teachers should look for lesson plans and other germane pre- and post-visit materials to appear on our website in the coming years.

“Collaborations and partnerships will be a key message of our activities, with county and West Chester borough entities, and historical organizations across southeastern Pennsylvania and beyond,” he added.

Since 2009, Dr. Lukens has been the Exhibits and Education Director at the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center in Washington, D.C. Now he’s returning to home turf. He is a former West Chester resident, contributing more than 75 articles to the Daily Local News between 2003 and 2008 on the county’s heritage. His first experience in museums came as a volunteer at Chester County Historical Society nearly 20 years ago.

Lukens has a Ph.D. in American History from Temple University, is a former member of the West Chester Historical and Architectural Review Board, and former Vice-Chair of the Chester County Conference and Visitors Bureau.
He now lives with his wife, Rebecca, and their two children, Abbie and Finley, in North Wilmington, Del.