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LancasterHistory’s leaders are weaving together the past and present to tell the stories of our community. Thomas R. Ryan, Ph.D., is the President and CEO of LancasterHistory. With a deep passion for history and community engagement, Tom has led the organization’s efforts to preserve and share the rich history of Lancaster County. Robin E. Sarratt, Vice President of LancasterHistory, works alongside him, developing opportunities for the community to foster a deeper understanding and appreciation for local history. Together, they lead their team of committed professionals in implementing educational programs, exhibits, and events that engage community members of all ages.
Originally the Lancaster County Historical Society, Tom began working at the organization while finishing his doctoral dissertation. Over 20 years later, under his leadership, LancasterHistory has expanded its reach and impact, merging with James Buchanan’s Wheatland and absorbing the collections of the Heritage Center Museum and the Lancaster Quilt and Textile Museum.
With their latest project, The Thaddeus Stevens and Lydia Hamilton Smith Center for History and Democracy, the organization gives a multi-dimensional view into the lives of two of Lancaster’s most influential figures. Located at the corner of Vine and South Queen Streets in Lancaster City, the center will testify to Stevens’ and Smith’s legacies of creating a more equitable society.
“The community created this history and has entrusted it to all of us as caretakers,” Tom said.
“The Stevens & Smith Center is not just going to be a museum about the two of them. It’s going to be a museum about the ideas they stood for, lived for, and promoted,” says Robin.
Tom and Robin hope the Stevens & Smith Center will serve as a safe space for community members of all backgrounds to learn and discuss new ideas.
“We want this to be a place that, no matter where you’re coming from, you can feel safe entering this door and exploring these questions. This has to be an opportunity to come in and understand the past to figure out a way through the present,” says Tom.
By creating an inclusive environment, LancasterHistory aims to make history accessible and relevant to all and demonstrate Lancaster’s continued significance in the American story.
Stay tuned for updates on the opening of the Stevens & Smith Center.
The Reach High series is introduces you to business and nonprofit leaders who are thoughtfully innovating with a spirit of servant leadership. Brought to you by High Foundation, you can find out more about their mission to be a Bridge to Opportunity for the Lancaster community at highfoundation.org.