This research seeks to explore the pressures that affect the contemporary functioning of local historical societies, the work they do, and the histories they present. More specifically, it asks: why do some local historical societies tend to be progressive in the histories they tell and work they do while others seem perpetuate a more conservative status quo? The first chapter analyzes the emergence of historical societies in the United States in the late 18th century and how they were dominated by white “gentlemen scholars” who used these institutions as private, fraternal archives to warp historical narratives to fit their subjective view of the young nation’s history, mainly to keep history out of the hands of people they viewed as inferior. Then, the research shifts to today to demonstrate ways in which historical societies have democratized and become public institutions that are devoted to displaying exhibits and hosting programs for an audience. This transition is demonstrated through two case studies of local historical societies: the Schenectady County Historical Society and the Ticonderoga Historical Society. These case studies take the form of eight personal interviews with members of the staff and of the Board of Trustees and are used to emphasize ways in which historical societies as institutions have become more inclusive and representative over time, while also recognizing the hardships and areas of improvement to be addressed to ensure the presence and success of these institutions in the future.