The society began in 1966 and has since been committed to the discovery and documentation of Chapel Hill’s history and traditions.
Susan Lyons, president of the historical society from 2004 to 2006, said the society was created because a few people wanted to get together on Sundays and talk about the town’s history.
“The average length of a historical society is between 10 and 20 years,” Lyons said.
She said the reason the society has survived so long is because of their willingness to adapt.
“I’ve come to conclude that being a part of this society is a generational thing,” she said.“We all come with changes.”
The ceremony celebrated the many leaders and members who have donated their time, money and devotion to the society. Richard Ellington, president from 2013 to 2016, said the society has had tough times, but it has only made them stronger.
“We are still here because of people like you who have worked hard to make us a good organization,” Ellington said during the ceremony.
Missy Julian-Fox, president from 2002 to 2004, said this organization has opened her eyes to the power of history.
“It has given me understanding, peace and joy within our town,” Julian-Fox said.
During her time as president she enjoyed historical bus tours and working with passionate board memebers.
“We wanted to diversify the board in age, experience and places in the community,” Julian-Fox said.
Through their outreach the society has supported the Chapel Hill Museum, built plaques, presented various monthly programs, given educational grants to the local school system and continued to archive important historical documents.
“We have expanded our scope from Chapel Hill to also Carrboro and surrounding communities. We have become one, we overlap in so many ways,” Ellington said.
The society has also developed an online presence. They now have Chapel Hill High School yearbooks from 1925-1965 available online. One of their goals for the future is to expand their collections digitally.
“We want to make Chapel Hill material available to everyone so it can become living history,” Ellington said.
The current president of the society, Sarah Geer, encouraged the community to participate in their programs. She said she believes history begins with today, and the society has been able to continue due to the generosity of their members.
The Chapel Hill Historical Society is now located in a reading room at the Chapel Hill Public Library.
“It’s so important to understand our past, but what is equally important is our future,” Geer said.