The Historical Society of Carroll County wants public input to help gauge what kinds of programs would attract more visitors to the organization's four historic buildings on East Main Street in Westminster.
At a public work session tomorrow morning, participants also will receive an update on the group's campus project - creating a historic complex among the four buildings for programs and exhibits - a bookend of a downtown revitalization effort that includes Carroll Theatre on West Main Street.
"As we develop plans for this campus, we don't want to simply assume we're building the right thing. We don't believe in `Build it and they will come,'" said Barbara R. Lilly, vice chairwoman of the society's board of trustees. "We want to make sure we're hitting the target and meeting the needs of the community. We can't do that in a vacuum."
The organization is eager to hear from its 900 members, the public and anyone who is interested in how the $2 million project develops. People may share ideas on which exhibits, lectures, activities and courses they want from the Historical Society.
The campus would be composed of four restored and reconfigured buildings. Two are recent acquisitions: the Judge James A.C. Bond House & Law Office, and Cockey's Tavern, both undergoing renovation. The Bond House will be the home of the research library and administrative offices, which are located in another building. The neighboring Cockey's Tavern will house rotating exhibitions and a lecture hall.
Those buildings flank Kimmey House and the Sherman-Fisher-Shellman house, which is undergoing exterior renovations.
The Shellman House - built in a German-Federal style in the early 1800s - is the reason the Historical Society exists.
A group of concerned citizens purchased the building in the late 1930s, saving it from demolition. It houses collections that Keith R. Bryan, director of development, is eager to store elsewhere so the group can showcase the building as a historical 19th- century home in a grand opening scheduled for Sept. 13.
The organization went through upheaval in the spring with the resignations of its executive director and library and museum director.
The sudden departures have not hindered the society's momentum in creating its historical campus.
More than $1 million has been raised through government grants, corporate support and private foundations.
Ticket sales from the successful Designer Showhouse 2002 added about $12,000 to fund-raising efforts, Lilly said.
More than 4,000 people visited the Isaac R. Atlee house in New Windsor from the end of April through the end of last month.
Lilly and her colleagues at the Historical Society have ideas on which they would like feedback - adding student-oriented programs are near the top of the list. Their only offering, said Bryan, is a Civil War trunk filled with 1860s-era items that is taken on elementary school tours.
He said that part of the grant money being used for the restoration project is dedicated to educational purposes.
"We'd really like to get schools involved again," Bryan said. "The history of this county is also the history of Maryland."
Most programs at the Historical Society are focused on the weekly Box Lunch Talks - lectures on local history - and bus trips out of state.
Typically, the topics that interest people are antiques, genealogy and historic preservation.
"Hopefully, this project will get new folks to come out and join us," Bryan said. "We want to be a destination stop on visits to Carroll County."
The meeting will begin at 10 a.m. at the Great Hall at Carroll Community College, 1601 Washington Road, Westminster.