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How to be a Successful Chapter Historian

by Grady Kerr – Society Historian

The historian is too often overlooked and considered unimportant in the life blood of the chapter. Truth is this job is one where a member can easily exceed expectations, gain a great deal of personal satisfaction and provide a wonderful service to the members past, present and future.

The common misconception is to appoint or expect this position to be filled by one of the more veteran members. This is NOT a requirement and, truth be told, the chapter may be better served if this is done by a member with little or no barbershop experience. There is also no term limit to this position. The longer one person serves, the better he becomes at it and the better served is the chapter.

The job of historian has several layers and areas of responsibilities. These tasks are, but not limited to:

Observing / Recording / Reporting / Researching / Collecting / Gathering / Promoting / Reuniting / Perpetuating

The chapter historian often determines the priorities of the list above and customizes the job based on the needs of the chapter. He can make this position as much or as little work as he can handle. In a perfect world ALL of these areas need to be covered and there is no need to force oneself to do ALL of this without help. Don’t be afraid to delegate. In most cases, those who help will appreciate being a part of this and enjoy learning and helping.

Observing / Recording / Reporting / Researching

This is the easy part of the job. Just sit back and watch. Take note of who does what and when. Mentally record the names and faces and events. We all do this but as historian, the exercise takes on a new dimension as the memory needs to be accurate. Members need someone to be the point of contact for the FACTS. Often the memories fade and history gets revised by those who swear their version is the real truth. This is a continuing battle and being an accurate observer is key.

Collecting / Gathering

To help with the accuracy of true facts is being able to confirm them and back up your claims. This is where creating and maintaining a chapter historical archives is very helpful. One should consider gathering Show Programs, Photos, Chapter Bulletins, Photos, Score Sheets, Photos, Awards and , of course, Photos.

Having a place to keep this material is important. It is strongly suggested these NOT be kept in a garage or attic as they should be cared for in a climate controlled environment. File cabinets are best for organization. This seems to be obvious but you’d be surprised how many keep this historical material in less than ideal conditions and when it’s time to use them, they are ruined and / or useless.

Of course, one of the toughest parts of this job is to be detail oriented and diligent. This is where the historian can shine. Maintaining this material includes IDENTIFYING the faces and dates of the items in the collection. How often does one see photos with no note of who is in the photo, the event or even the year it was taken. A good historian tries to record this information during the gathering process. It pays off in the end.


Now that one has been observing and collecting it’s time to promote. The historian is the perfect person to write articles for the chapter bulletin and be sure there is a historical presence in the chapter show program and website. The members always enjoy learning about the past and especially the story of their fellow members and what they did in the early years of the chapter. They also depend on the historian to write something about those who pass on. This is one of the honors of being historian. Displays at chapter meetings or shows is another great way all the collecting and researching can be put to use.


Another joy is promoting and taking part in organizing a chapter reunion. This is always a special event and doesn’t have to necessarily be done in anniversary years divided by 5. Of course, the big ones (25th and 50th) are a MUST.


One of the end results of all the work of a successful chapter historian is increasing awareness and educating the members. It’s important to show there were members (and wives) who came before and made all this possible today. Today we have a tendency to live in the present and near future. Looking back give us all a stronger sense of purpose and focus.

A chapter historian can accomplish much and serve today’s members, while honoring those who went before, in a very special way.