December 2023 Progress Update

This article initially appeared in the December 2023 issue of Bookmarks, LancasterHistory’s member-exclusive e-newsletter.

By Robin Sarratt, Vice President of LancasterHistory

If you’ve driven up Queen Street recently, you may have noticed signs of progress being made at the site of the future Thaddeus Stevens & Lydia Hamilton Smith Center for History and Democracy. Benchmark Construction is working on a few key tasks to stabilize the property in anticipation that we’ll begin true construction and renovation work in the spring 2024! And while Benchmark is busy ensuring that the foundation of the Center itself is stable and ready, the same can be said for the work we’re doing at LancasterHistory, although from a slightly different angle.

As many of you may know, two years ago LancasterHistory enthusiastically engaged the services of internationally acclaimed exhibition design firm, Ralph Appelbaum Associates (RAA), to help us make the Stevens & Smith Center a reality. Chances are you’ve experienced some of RAA’s previous and impressive design work—after all, they are the firm behind the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, the National Constitution Center, the World War I Museum, the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., the Crown Jewels Exhibition at the Tower of London, and several hundred other impressive cultural institutions. Our RAA team members—Aki, Buke, Tishon, Mary, Michell, Gabriel, and Claire, pictured in this team photo from last fall—are talented, experienced, and a delight to work with, and they have been hard at work designing nearly 20,000 square feet of exhibition galleries that will inspire you. With their design work in hand by late March, we’ll have the foundation of a truly spectacular museum.  

Individuals from Centerbrook Architects, LancasterHistory, Civic Projects, and RAA gather outside the Stevens & Smith Center. 2023.

Meanwhile, the LancasterHistory team is deeply engaged in a process of research, writing, and image and artifact selection for the Stevens & Smith Center, and, of course, the ongoing process of fundraising. We’re excited to have received some terrific press recently from Smithsonian Magazine, the well-regarded publication put out by the Smithsonian Institute, America’s national educational facility with 21 museums and nine research centers at its heart. Smithsonian Magazine was created to stir curiosity and deal with history as relevant to the present, so it’s an extraordinary—and we think, fitting—honor that the stories of Congressman Stevens and Mrs. Smith be featured on its pages! If you missed the article, you can access it for free online.

This coming spring, we’ll be sharing even more with you about the Stevens & Smith Center, its design, our campaign, and our plans. Until then, enjoy the article above, and stay tuned for the latest news!

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