A Brief History of the McHenry Museum & Historical Society

The first organized “historical societys” appear during the mid 1960’s. In 1965 the Citizens’ Cultural Center Committee came into being and was affiliated with the City of Modesto. The Stanislaus County Historical Society, affiliated with the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors, was established in 1966. Both of these organizations had overlapping interest in documenting, collecting and preserving Stanislaus County/Modesto History. Even though both had fledgling collections neither had a facility that could be open to the public so that the artifacts could be made available to the citizens of the county.

In the early 1970’s the City of Modesto partnered with the Citizens Cultural Center Committee to renovate the vacant McHenry Library and rename it the McHenry Museum where their collections of historic memorabilia and artifacts could be made available for public viewing. In 1972 the McHenry Museum had its official opening.

As the activities of the Citizens Cultural Center Committee became more focused on the preservation of history and historic artifacts a name change seemed to be in order. The organization became the McHenry Museum Society that was incorporated as an independent non-profit organization.

During this same time the Stanislaus County Historical Society was still active but without a home to display its collections. With this lack of facilities the “Society” began to emphasize the recording, written preservation and publication of county history.

In the late 1980’s the two organizations, Stanislaus County Historical Society and the Citizens Cultural Center Committee, agreed that rather than continue their parallel activities (collecting, preserving, etc. of county and city history) they should join together and capitalize on the strengths of each organization to develop a first class museum. The resulting organization became know as the McHenry Museum & Historical Society

The bylaws were revised to accommodate and clarify the society's mission, the names and responsibilities of the three support committees. Subsequently the bylaws have been revised/amended to include a 4th support group. (See below)


The McHenry Museum & Historical Society is charged by its bylaws to fulfill the following objectives and purposes:

  1. To help the City of Modesto maintain and support the McHenry Museum as a cultural and historical entity including but not limited to: providing docents, conducting activities at the Museum, acquiring items for display, and advise the Museum on the evaluation, procurement, and preservation of items donated;
  2. To help the City support the recognition of the McHenry Museum edifice as an historical landmark of Stanislaus County;
  3. To foster and encourage cultural activities and appreciation of the history of Stanislaus County and its residents;
  4. To encourage the collection and preservation of historical artifacts and archives, including but not limited to: the acquisition or creation, preservation and promotion of the physical, oral and written history of Stanislaus County and its residents, both at the Museum and elsewhere.
  5. To do all things necessary or appropriate in furtherance of the above purposes.


In support of the McHenry Museum & Historical Society the Support Committees' responsibilities are:

The Acquisitions Committee
Acquisitions: (a) evaluates all donations to the Museum and makes a recommendation to the City of Modesto as to whether to keep, sell or return said donation; (b) evaluate all donations of artifacts to the Society and determine whether to keep, sell or return said donations; (c) can purchase items to display in the Museum and elsewhere; and (d) sell artifacts that are Society/Acquisitions property with Board approval.

The Docents Association 
The Docents have the responsibility of conducting educational tours of the Museum; greeting, welcoming, and informing visitors of the historic value of the building and items displayed; and performing other services as requested.

The Guild
The Guild, will have the purpose of providing financial support and promoting community interest in the museum and the Society. The Guild will raise funds and conduct various social and cultural functions for the Society and the Museum.

The Press and Publications Committee
Press and Publications will have the purpose of preserving history in its written form, through publishing an historical journal Stanislaus Stepping Stones and various historical books and papers concerning Stanislaus County. These books, periodicals, historical articles, and objects d'art will be made available to the membership and general public through the Museum Store. The proceeds from the store will be used to publish books, monographs, and other historical data that will authenticate the history of Stanislaus County.