Museum Monday – Chester County Historical Society

Chester County Historical Society.

In addition to Swarthmore College’s Friends Historical Library, Wednesday also took me to the Chester County Historical Society in West Chester, Pennsylvania. This is local history at its best – and very well-supported.

CCHS has a complex in West Chester’s downtown. It combines a healthy amount of public programming space with permanent galleries for decorative arts and local history and space for special exhibitions.

Silhouette of Ellis Chandlee.

Silhouette of Ellis Chandlee.

While my main goal for visiting was to meet with their collections manager and to see a few costume items, I was thrilled to see the ranks of tall case clocks when I arrived, remembering that clocks made by my 5th and 6th great-grandfathers, Ellis and Benjamin Chandlee, Jr., are in the collection. The collection also includes a surveyor’s compass by Ellis Chandlee, which I hadn’t realized. The Chandlees were a Quaker family from West Nottingham, a town now part of Maryland.

My days at the Historical Society of Carroll County, Maryland, gave me a sincere appreciation for local historical societies. The volunteers are really vested. The genealogists keep the library afloat. The Collections Committee of the board doesn’t just discuss acquisitions and loans; they assemble shelving, stitch accession labels on costume and textiles, and clean storage areas. The combination of professional staff and can-do volunteers warms the cockles of my local history heart.

Clock made by Benjamin Chandlee Jr. in the collection of the Chester County Historical Society, c. 1760.

Clock made by Benjamin Chandlee Jr. in the collection of the Chester County Historical Society, c. 1760.