Dedication of the Burlington County Lyceum of History and Science at Mount Holly
August 23, 2013
Message delivered by Joseph M. Laufer, Burlington County Historian
We’re here today to celebrate a very significant and historical event in Burlington County History. Its significance derives from the fact that we are exercising an act of Historic Preservation. The County of Burlington has once again intervened to insure that a vital piece of Burlington County History is not lost. By taking charge of this historic 183 year old Langstaff Mansion, the County not only saves a Mount Holly architectural landmark, but it perpetuates the fifth oldest Library in the state of New Jersey, chartered in 1765 by His Majesty George III of England. And by this single act, the County re-establishes the Lyceum of History and Science established in 1860 by 26 Mount Holly men whose purpose was the study of New Jersey history and the cultivation of the natural sciences. All this in this one single act of saving this piece of Mount Holly real estate for the people of Burlington County!
As County Historian, and representing the History Fraternity – probably better referred to today as the History Community – the decision of our County Freeholder board to purchase this property using taxpayer approved Open Space and Historic Preservation funds is another example of our county government’s commitment to historic preservation – an exemplary follow-up to another recent gesture, when the county intervened in saving both the Underground Railroad Museum by giving it a home at Smithville Park and the rescuing of the Rancocas Nature Center from extinction by absorbing it into Rancocas Park.
We in the History Community see this development as a wonderful opportunity to shine the spotlight on Burlington County History by using this excellent facility as a History Resource and Exhibit Center, ideally located in historic Mount Holly, in the same neighborhood as our Historic colonial Court House and our premiere Prison Museum, and in the heart of our County Government complex.
We envision the History Center as becoming a gathering place, resource center and exhibit hall for local historical societies, museums and history organizations. We see it as the starting point for residents conducting research for family histories, community origins and local folklore. County history will be preserved here, proclaimed here and exhibited here. It will be a place where local historians and history buffs will be able to network and share their stories.
The Library will maintain a limited presence here through a relationship with the County Library System, just a short distance up the road. 26 municipal Historical Societies located throughout Burlington County will be able to provide exhibits and lectures here, as they network together and pool their resources. An additional 20 community Heritage and Preservation commissions, county museums (we have 8 of them), and Friends organizations, will have access to historical documents and records here. And the center has already entered into discussions about a collaborative relationship with the Burlington County Historical Society .
73 years ago in Hyde Park, NY, when he dedicated the very first of the now 13 Presidential Libraries, President Franklin Roosevelt said these words which are appropriate for this event today. He said :“The dedication of a library or museum is in itself an act of faith. To bring together the records and artifacts of the past and to house them in buildings where they will be preserved for the use of men and women in the future, a Nation must believe in three things. It must believe in the past. It must believe in the future. It must, above all, believe in the capacity of its own people so to learn from the past that they can gain in judgment in creating their own future.”
Transferring Roosevelt’s words to what is taking place here in Mount Holly today, the future of Burlington County is really dependent of how much we retain and proclaim of our very rich and unique past history. The Burlington County Lyceum of History and Science is a place where the next generation of Burlington Countians will be able to drink from the well ofrvents, stories, documents and artifacts from the past that will be preserved and exhibited here. By studying the past, we will gain judgment and wisdom to lay out the future. With this new county history resource, we can truly proclaim that "History begins here!"
Thanks to everyone who made this possible. The gratitude of the residents of Burlington County can best be shown by joining us as volunteers, and by using this facility as consumers and as supporters of this historic effort and, above all, by encouraging its use by the youth of the county, helping and encouraging the next generation of informed and dedidcated citizens to participate in the fdecisions that give strength, spirit, and continuity to our government and local communities.
Click here for link to history of Mt. Holly Lyceum History and Sciences
Click here for Courier Post article reporting on event
Click here for Burlington County Times article reporting on event
Click here for South Jersey Edition of Phila. Inquirer article & pictures