How to Be a Better Philadelphian: Preserve History

The Historical Society of Pennsylvania
Working to preserve the history of Pennsylvania, this society maintains millions of printed documents covering everything from William Penn to the supernatural to experiences of immigrants.

DO: Offer your Web design skills to help develop online exhibits.

GIVE: $500 to adopt a collection. 215-732-6200,

Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia
The alliance’s main goal is to protect historic buildings. Visible impact? They’re behind this fall’s scrubbing and re-waxing of City Hall topper William Penn.

DO: Get tips on maintaining your own historic home (from plaster repair to energy effieciency) by attending one of their free homeowner workshops.

GIVE: $25-$1,000 for annual membership. 215-546-1146,

Library Company of Philadelphia
The ever-industrious Ben Franklin got the whole book-lending concept going in 1731 with this organization, and now the free-to-the-public library houses a historical collection of more than half a million rare books.

DO: Help boost community awareness by bringing a friend or two to the free open houses held the first Wednesday of each month.

GIVE: $50-$1,000 for annual membership. 215-546-3181,

Brandywine Conservancy
The conservancy focuses on preserving the environment and history. Its Waterloo Mills Preserve, for example, saves a wildlife habitat as well as the remains of an 18th-century village.

DO: Join other crafters to create “critter” ornaments using natural materials like seeds and berries; they’re sold at the Brandywine River Museum’s annual holiday sale.

GIVE: $25-$1,000 for annual membership. 610-388-8341,

Elfreth’s Alley
The 300-plus-year-old swath of cobblestone that is Elfreth’s Alley represents Old City’s working-class roots. The association of the same name works to tell the story of ordinary Philadelphians through free tours for school kids, open houses and a museum.

DO: Volunteer to be a house guide at one of the open-house events held each June and December.

GIVE: $500 to pay for a tour and educational materials for 50 students. 215-574-0560,

The Friends of Valley Forge Park
Sure, it’s a national park, and some of your tax dollars may already go to oversight. But that doesn’t mean the park doesn’t need your help.

DO: Organize or sign up for a trail restoration workday.

GIVE: $50-$1,000 for annual membership (or stuff a few bucks in a donation box next time you hike or picnic there). 610-783-1777,

Camden County Historical Society
This society focuses on the history of Camden County and South Jersey, maintaining buildings and artifacts of the region.

DO: Feed your passion for antiques by being a docent at Pomona Hall, an 18th-century mansion.

GIVE: $25-$1,000 for annual membership. 856-964-3333,

Eastern State Penitentiary
More than a popular Halloween haunted house and the creepy-institution backdrop for 12 Monkeys, this early-19th-century prison is now a destination where visitors can learn about everything from architecture to our country’s penal system.

DO: Put your green thumb to work for the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society’s project of maintaining the landscape surrounding the prison.

GIVE: A $25 contribution scores you a free pass to the wildly popular Terror Behind the Walls tour. 215-236-5111,

Parkside Historic Preservation Corporation
Under the banner of historic preservation, this group aims to do more than keep crumbling West Philly Victorians from falling down. Affordable housing and economic development in the community get equal attention.

DO/GIVE: Everything from your spare-time contractor skills to extra shrubs left over from a landscaping project. 215-473-4900,