Treasured county relic comes out on top

Prison visitors’ book garners most votes of state’s 10 endangered artifacts

ImageA Chester County treasure – imprisoned abolitionist Passmore Williamson’s Visitors’ Book – came out on top during the online campaign to save Pennsylvania’s Top 10 Endangered Artifacts.

The entry from the Chester County Historical Society (CCHS) was named the People’s Choice Award Winner, receiving a total of 1,968,595 votes, 191 shares and 40 individual donations during a six-week public relations and crowd-funding initiative created by the Conservation Center for Art & Historic Artifacts (CCAHA), a CCHS news release said.

The campaign successfully raised public awareness for these artifacts by attracting 5,283,128 online votes, amassing 625 social media shares, and raising more than $16,000 toward the conservation of historic artifacts across the state. Although the campaign was a true local community effort, support came from a broad audience with donations and voting coming from as far away as Singapore, the release said.

“Congratulations to the Chester County Historical Society for winning the People’s Choice Award and for all the energy and enthusiasm that your supporters brought to this project,” said Ingrid Bogel, CCAHA’s executive director.

CCHS will continue to raise funds towards the conservation effort. Upon completion, the conserved pages of the Visitors’ Book will be scanned and made available online for research and educational purposes. Winning the People’s Choice Award reinforces the overall significance of CCHS’s collections, which are considered among the strongest of any county historical society, and will help CCHS in future grant-funding requests, the release said.

“It was very exciting to see the momentum of the campaign building since the launch in Harrisburg,” said Bogel. “I hope that this experience has encouraged people to visit and support their local museums, historical societies and archives, and to feel invested in our shared histories.”

In addition to the Chester County Historical Society, other participating institutions were The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, American Philatelic Society, Carnegie Museum of Art,, Mennonite Heritage Center, Old Economy Village, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Pennsylvania Anthracite Heritage Museum, and Schwenkfelder Library & Heritage Center. Each institution will receive all funds donated toward the conservation of its artifact, in addition to $250 donated to each organization by The Beneficial Foundation, the release said.

Supported by the Pew Center for Arts and Heritage and the Beneficial Foundation, Pennsylvania’s Top 10 Endangered Artifacts was part of CCAHA’s Save Pennsylvania’s Past, a multi-year, statewide effort to protect and preserve the millions of objects and historic artifacts that shape the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s history and define our nation. To view the final standings and learn more about each artifact, visit





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