There are over two hundred historical societies in Vermont. Most historical societies are run by volunteers. Some have their own buildings while others hold collections at the town office, local library, or even in private homes.
At the historical society you can find many primary and secondary sources about your community. In the archives, you might find diaries, letters, maps, birthday books, store account books, and family bibles. In addition to historic photographs, the photograph collection may have bird’s eye views of your town, photograph albums, postcards, and stereocards.
Artifacts are also primary sources. They help us to understand the stories of everyday people who didn’t leave written records. Artifacts can indicate who settled in a community and how they lived. They can reveal involvement in conflicts and they can tell us much about changes in technology, agriculture, and transportation. You might find clothing that gives you clues to what people wore and how fashionable they may have been. Sometimes quilts will reveal signatures from an entire community or church. Special tools might indicate the presence of an old mill or even a factory from the past. Look at candlesticks, lamps, irons, coffee grinders, and other forms of home technology to gather a sense of how a household worked before electricity.
The Vermont Historical Society keeps a list of local historical societies. What if you don’t have a historical society? Community archives and artifacts can be found all over the community. A local store may still have its original account books. A long-time family may still have diaries and photographs. Your local library or your town office may also have local history archives.