Origins of Hershey Community Archives
The origins of the Archives lie in a September 9, 1975 memo from Richard Zimmerman, then Group Vice-President of Hershey Foods Corporation. Zimmerman advocated undertaking a study “by all of the Hershey Interests to identify the types of material which might be retained, probable ways to display and utilize these materials, a designation of authority and responsibility for Hershey memorabilia, and a long range plan undertaken to identify the precise course of action the Hershey Interests should pursue.” At that time the Hershey Museum’s collections did not focus on Milton S. Hershey or the community.
In December 1980, the Hagley Library (which serves as a repository for many American businesses) provided another spark to the flame with a letter to Harold Mohler, then President of Hershey Foods Corporation, expressing interest in assisting Hershey Foods with preserving their historical corporate records. This letter coincided with The M.S. Hershey Foundation’s growing interest in preserving the history of the community, raised by Charles Castner’s research for his book One Of A Kind. A task force, composed of representatives from all the Hershey interests, met for the first time on December 22, 1981 to lay out a plan of action concerning the preservation and use of the various Hershey history materials. The task force members were:
- Ken Bowers, Hershey Foods Corporation (now The Hershey Company)
- Bruce McKinney, HERCO, Inc. (now Hershey Entertainment & Resorts Company)
- Richard Rudisill, Milton Hershey School
- Eliza Harrison, Hershey Museum (now The Hershey Story)
The group came to the initial conclusion that the historical records should be preserved and that there was a need for an archives in Hershey that would be accessible yet controllable.
On August 24, 1984, The M.S. Hershey Foundation agreed to hire a team of archival and records management consultants to help establish a community-wide archival program under the general supervision of Richmond D. Williams. Officers of HERCO, Hershey Foods, Hershey Trust Company, Hershey Bank, and Milton Hershey School, who were also members of the Foundation Board of Managers, agreed in the name of each institution to support the archival project and to appoint corporate representatives to assist with implementation.
When the Archives project was initially started, its overall goal was to create an archival program under The M.S. Hershey Foundation in order to collect, process, preserve, and make available essential historical materials of institutions in Hershey and Derry Township—especially those which reflect the direct influence of Milton S. Hershey.
The Foundation contracted with Williams to coordinate the startup of the Archives. Pamela Cassidy began that fall as assistant archivist. Space was allocated in the basement of One Chocolate Avenue and Cassidy began work February 1985. This marked the founding of Hershey Community Archives (HCA). The Archives’ first project was to inventory and prepare for transfer archival materials from HERCO. This collection consisted of approximately 600 scrapbooks, 5 boxes of unsorted photographs, and 23 boxes of miscellaneous material. During the first year, the Archives focused efforts on processing this collection. HCA published two finding aids, one for the scrapbooks and another for the photographs. With the assistance of the task force members, HCA identified and transferred stashes of archival records from the entities.
Initially, relatively few people in the corporations were aware of the Archives’ existence. As knowledge of the Archives grew, so too did use—in 1986 there were 13 requests for information and materials. (Today, the Archives receives almost 400 requests per year!)
With HCA’s increased visibility, Pamela Cassidy expanded her responsibilities from being a processor to being an interpreter of Hershey’s history. In February 1988, a photograph exhibit, featuring many previously unpublished images, opened at the Hershey Museum. Designed as a traveling exhibit, it toured all eastern Hershey Chocolate plants. Eliza Harrison and Pamela Cassidy wrote a companion booklet, “One Man’s Vision,” which was published at the same time. Cassidy also began publicizing the Archives, making presentations to Hershey Foods and HERCO divisions concerning the resources available at the Archives and soliciting new collections for HCA.
Materials transferred to the Archives grew steadily during these years. By May 1988 the Archives held a total of 1,050 cubic feet of archival materials. (Today, our collections include almost 3,000 cubic feet of materials!) HCA added additional shelving, first to the One Chocolate Avenue location. Later, in 1989, offsite storage was created in the Hershey Trust Company basement vault at 9 W. Chocolate Avenue. Space continued to be a pressing problem for the Archives. In 1989 officials decided that the Archives would be moved into High Point Mansion along with the Hershey Trust Company in December 1991.
Williams continued on as a consultant until March 1991. Pamela Cassidy (later Whitenack) was promoted to Archivist in September 1989, and served as Archivist and then Director of HCA until 2019.
In 1988, at the request of the Hershey corporate entities (including Hershey Foods Corporation, HERCO, Inc., and the Hershey Trust Company), HCA initiated an oral history program. The Archives Advisory Committee developed a list of almost 80 candidates to be interviewed. In September 1988, Cassidy attended a two-day oral history workshop sponsored by the Society of American Archivists. She then selected and trained volunteer interviewers with the goal of interviewing 12 narrators during 1989.
During 1989 the Archives achieved its objective, conducting 13 interviews with 12 narrators. Most interviews are transcribed by a professional oral history transcription service and edited by the Archives and the narrators, then made available to the public. The initial success of the oral history program led to its rapid expansion. The Archives hired an oral historian in 1990 to better coordinate the program. During 1990 and 1991, the Archives conducted interviews with over 60 narrators. The oral history program continues to be a vital part of the Archives’ activities and our oral history collection now contains almost 600 interviews, which provide a wealth of previously unrecorded information about community life, corporate and business operations, growing up in Hershey, and reminiscences about Mr. Hershey.
After changing location multiple times, the Archives moved into The Hershey Story’s new facility in 2009. HCA still calls The Hershey Story home today, and the program is administered by Director Amy Zeigler, Senior Archivist Jennifer Henderson, and Archivist Tesa Lark Burns. Additionally, HCA is still overseen by an Advisory Board including representatives from the corporate entities and the public, in the same spirit as the task force that began the Archives’ journey back in 1981.