NHS Chapter Historian

Chapter Historian Symbol

The historian’s primary responsibility is to collect and preserve information that provides a clear and concise record of all chapter activities for the year. In addition to the contributions made by the chapter secretary, the historical memory of the Honor Society on your campus depends on the quality of the historian’s performance. This is a job that requires thoroughness, vision, and effective communication.

The duties of the historian are much more comprehensive than simply taking pictures and gluing them into a scrapbook. Your work will be the life-memory of all that is done by the chapter.

As historian, you will be expected to:

  • Be the keeper of the records of chapter activities
  • Become organized at the beginning of the year and remain so
  • Know nearly everything about every meeting
  • Be alert to the calendar and the progress of committees
  • Develop design skills to maximize the impact of your historical information
  • Spend all your time planning and organizing the chapter’s work
  • Accomplish major miracles in minimal time, and minimal miracles exactly on time.

The Historian’s Challenge

To be successful as a chapter historian, you need to know how to handle many types of situations. You must be accurate, efficient, trustworthy, dependable, and have the ability to work with many different kinds of people and personalities. In addition, you need basic record keeping skills. There is also the practical side of being historian that requires energy, careful organization of time and resources, and a good relationship with the other officers, the chapter members, the adviser, the student body, and members of the community. Historians not only serve as a link to the past, but a link to those members of the school family (on campus and in the community) that are similarly linked to important chapter activities from the past. Your public relations skills, interviewing skills, research skills, and reporting abilities will all come into play if you are committed to being an excellent chapter historian.

  • Learn the history of your chapter, the school, and your community – start small and build.
  • Seek resources for understanding the past activities of your chapter.
  • Discuss with all committee and project chairpersons the type of information you need from them.
  • Maintain a master calendar of all chapter activities and verify contributions to the History files.
  • Create a contacts list of resources: local newspaper morgue, city hall documents section, etc.
  • Create a method for incorporating images (photo or digital) within your histories
  • Build a database of activities undertaken by the chapter
  • Make a formal record of all officers, committee chairs, advisers, awards earned, etc., for each year
  • Build up records of your chapter’s past, starting with old yearbooks
  • Establish a "Famous Persons" file for individuals from your chapter who have gone on to great achievements, whether locally, in the state, nation, or world (submit such names to the national office)
  • Learn new presentation skills through scrapbooking workshops, magazines, and Web sites, e.g., www.scrapbooking.com
  • Build interest in your history among all chapter members
  • Plan for transition once you’re ready to graduate – find younger chapter members to take your place
  • Notify chapter members each month of important historical events from your chapter’s past
  • Encourage other organizations on campus to follow your lead and build their organizational histories

Chapter History: How to Manage the Data

Originally printed in Leadership for Student Activities magazine, April 2005.

What is your chapter doing to preserve the history of the organization at your school? Are you relying on the school yearbook to preserve the traditions of the Honor Society on your campus? Or are you actively maintaining an effective chapter history file for future students and advisers to review?

Many chapters include "Historian" as one of the chapter officers. This individual’s duties are to collect and preserve information that provides a clear and concise record of all chapter activities for the year. Often a committee is formed with the Historian as the chair to facilitate this collection activity.

Here are ten categories to consider as you create your chapter history files:

  1. Officers: Identify by name and grade level all officers and include the dates of their term of office. Consider collecting either individual or group photos and include a statement from each about their accomplishments in office (from your end-of-term evaluations). Also, don’t neglect a copy of the chapter bylaws in which the duties of office are explained.
  2. Projects: See that a master list is maintained of all chapter projects undertaken each year. Include who was in charge and what the results of the projects were, e.g., how many cans of food were collected. Hopefully project report forms are being collected and filed by your chapter secretary each year from which this master list can be maintained.
  3. Chapter Leadership: Identify the names of the adviser and Faculty Council who have served during the year. Include the department/position in which each individual works for future reference.
  4. Administration. Many schools keep track of their local histories by referencing who was principal at the time. Full name and the date when the principal started in that position would be helpful for maintenance of both chapter and school history. The name of the superintendent, while less significant to the local chapter, could also be included here.
  5. Membership: Probably the most important segment of your chapter history will be to have the formal membership roster. If rosters are filed each school year, indicate the grade level and gender of each member. Indication of the date of induction for each member could also be included.
  6. Induction ceremony: Keep the script, printed program, date and location of the ceremony in the files along with any photos or articles about the ceremony that may have appeared in the school or local media.
  7. Testimony. To help personalize the history for the year, consider having the chapter president write a short essay in which he or she indicates how the chapter made a difference in the school or community during the year. Other membership, for example important project chairpersons, could be asked to provide similar input.
  8. Media: Include copies of local newspaper articles that may have appeared regarding your chapter during the year. Printed pages from Web site references could also be added.
  9. Photos: As we progress in the digital era, copies of digital photos stored on CDs (or other relevant storage technology) are supplementing printed versions. However, even with the digital record, hard copies of the photos, perhaps organized into a mini scrapbook, would be valuable for quick review.
  10. Calendar. To supplement all of the above, a full-year calendar annotating chapter activities would be helpful to include. Other important events at school, in the community or the world could be similarly annotated, helping put your chapter into proper historical context for the year.

These are but a few thoughts on maintaining a chapter history, but we hope it will give you some assistance in pulling together this important information.