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Historical Commission Responsibilities

Defined by the establishing legislation (MA General Laws, Section 8s, Chapter 40)

The primary responsibility is community-wide historic preservation planning. Specific requirements are to:

Research places of historic or archaeological value;

Cooperate with the State Archaeologist in conducting surveys and reporting sites;

Coordinate with other preservation organizations;

Keep accurate records of its actions and file an annual report;

Maintain a membership of not less than three nor more than seven members, duly appointed by the appropriate municipal authority;

Unless given authority through a local bylaw or ordinance, the historical commission has only an advisory role within local government. As such, we make recommendations to the board of selectmen on matters relating to the preservation, protection and development of historic areas, buildings, structures, cemeteries and sites. In addition, to further our objectives, the commission may hold hearings, enter into contracts for services and cooperative endeavors, accept gifts, contributions and bequests of funds from individuals, foundations and governmental bodies, make and sign agreements and may do and perform any and all acts which may be necessary or desirable to carry out the purposes of this section. Further, it may acquire in the name of the town by gift, purchase, grant, bequest, devise and lease or otherwise the fee or lesser interest in real or personal property of significant historical value and may manage the same.


The Swansea Historical Commission has a different role than the Swansea Historical Society and if enacted in the future a local historic district commission.

 The Historical Society is a non-profit organization established in 1941. The Swansea Historical Society is concerned with the preservation of local history through records and collections as well the sole owner and operator of the Luther Store Museum, built in 1815. There are many artifacts and memorabilia collected over the years that are stored at the Luther Store Museum, Swansea Public Library and other places within the Town of Swansea. These are the property of the Swansea Historical Society, not the Historical Commission.

 In the future if Swansea creates a local historic district commission this commission would act as the review authority for regulatory design reviews within designated districts. This commission can become part of and be run by the current Swansea Historical Commission.


In the executing the responsibilities described above, the Commission takes on certain roles, including the following.

Preservation Planning Programs- a preservation plan can be part of the comprehensive / master plan for the community or can be a separate document. In either case, the plan should demonstrate what the challenges are for preservation, what should be preserved, what tools are most appropriate and when each tool should be implemented.

Strengthen the integration of historic preservation into the broader public policy and land- use planning and decision making arenas at the federal, state, tribal and local levels.

Increase the opportunities for broad based and diverse public participation in planning for historic and cultural resources Expand knowledge and skills in historic preservation planning

Assist the state, tribes, local governments, and federal agencies in carrying out preservation planning programs that are responsive to that are responsive to their own need and concerns.


An inventory is basically a detailed look at each of the buildings, structures, monuments, objects, landscape features and burial grounds in the community. A survey is performed from contains, a black and white photo, a map, an architectural description and brief history of the property. Inventory forms are used constantly by local historical commissions and Massachusetts Historical Commission for the variety of preservation planning activities.


Historical Commissions are advocates for historical resources as they advise the board of Selectmen on all matters impacting historic resources.


Educating the public about local historical resources raises awareness and support for the Historical Commission responsibilities and goals. Slide shows, newspapers articles, library displays, walking tours and brochures are just a few examples of public education.


While inventory forms and National Register nominations may be completed through the efforts of local volunteers, Historical Commissions in Massachusetts may apply for matching Survey and Planning Grants. With an S&P grant, the Historical Commission can hire a professional preservation consult to prepare the documents. S&P grants are awarded annually by Massachusetts Historical Commission and are available for inventory form preparation, National Register nomination, preservation plans and public information documents


The Swansea Historical Commissions may occasionally receive inquiries from the Massachusetts Historical commission or other State or federal agencies asking for comments on proposed state or federally involved projects in Swansea that may impact on historical or archaeological resources. Section 106 and chapter 254 are state and federal laws that require MHCV review when a state or federally involved project is undertaken in Massachusetts. Swansea Historical Commission is expected to participate.


The Swansea Historical Commission may seek to create or change local bylaws Examples expand local historic districts, zoning laws and Demolition delay ordinance.