Heritage Frederick celebrated its 125th year in 2017. It was organized in 1892 and operated as the Historical Society of Frederick County. In the early years the nonprofit’s activities were mainly lectures held at public meeting places and in private homes. Members began to collect books, papers and artifacts related to the history of Frederick County. These items were stored in the basement of Winchester Hall, located on Church Street in the Historic District of the City of Frederick. In 1944, the organization acquired the Steiner House on West Patrick Street and began operating a museum and library there.
In 1959, the organization sold that property and acquired the building on 24 E. Church Street. The elegant structure was built in 1824 for Dr. John Baltzell and for many years was occupied as the Loats Female Orphan Asylum. Since 1959, it has operated as Heritage Frederick’s headquarters, and it is the site of the Museum of Frederick County History and the Frederick County Archives and Research Center. Visitors are welcome to explore the building and see exhibitions and experience programs in the Museum and research Frederick County genealogy and architecture in the Research Center.
In 2003, the organization acquired two additional buildings. The Roger Brooke Taney House was a gift from the Francis Scott Key Memorial Foundation. The Frederick County Heritage Preservation Center is a state-of-the-art storage facility dedicated to the long-term care of the majority of the artifacts and the most valuable documents. These objects and papers are rotated for viewing periodically in Heritage Frederick’s Museum and Library.
In 2003, the organization became the first county historical society in the State of Maryland to be accredited by the American Association of Museums. The stringent requirements of AAM make this a rare accomplishment in the museum field. Today, out of 35,000 museums in the U.S., only 800 are accredited by AAM. Of those 800 museums, Heritage Frederick is one of only 64 history museums our size that is accredited by AAM.
In 2006, the organization was given the Award for Outstanding Commitment to the Preservation and Care of Collections by Heritage Preservation and the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (AIC.)
In 2014, the organization embarked on a two-year strategic planning process. The staff and board members visited five towns throughout the county to gather input about local perception and future roles of the organization. The board and staff participated in four retreats and visited another museum that is also geographically based. They revised the mission in 2015 to reflect the enhanced focus on relevance and the goal to welcome all people. A special committee of staff, board members and community leaders was formed to determine a new name, logo and brand. These changes were approved by the board in 2016.
Through outstanding collections care, diverse and dynamic programs, compelling exhibits, and a demonstrated commitment to excellence, Heritage Frederick is recognized as a leader among Maryland’s heritage organizations. At its Museum and Research Library, the Roger Brooke Taney House, and the Frederick County Heritage Preservation Center, Heritage Frederick demonstrates how a museum with modest resources can accomplish great things through appropriate planning, a continuity of purpose and a spirit of cooperation.