When Barbara Lilly and her husband set out to restore a 19th-century Victorian house they'd bought in New Windsor, they found guidance in the land records and photos in the archives of the Historical Society of Carroll County.
"We were the first outside of the family to own the property, and we felt an obligation to the memory of the house and family," Lilly said of the three-year restoration project. "When we stepped into the house, it felt like we were frozen in time. I realized I needed to be a steward to the property. I had a fundamental realization that preservation was an important goal."
Restoring her New Windsor home led to more than a decade of involvement in historic preservation projects. Now, Lilly is using that expertise in a new role in the county historical society: She is the new executive director.
Lilly fills the position vacated five months ago by Michael J. Lane, the former executive director of the Philadelphia Society for the Preservation of Landmarks., who worked at the Carroll County society for nine months before resigning.
Though Lilly started her new job last week, she has had more than five years of experience on the society's board of trustees, most recently as vice chairwoman for two years. Her familiar face pushed her to the front of a list of 100 people around the country vying for the position.
"We have a bold and ambitious mission and some big plans for what we want to do," said board chairman Michael K. Walsch. "What we were looking for was leadership and vision, and then hopefully we were going to find someone with strong preservation, museum and education experience. We were very pleased Barb stepped up because she's a great choice. She has much if not all of those criteria covered.
"One of our other criteria we really felt strongly about was finding someone with good, strong local ties," Walsch said.
Lilly is an Annapolis native who lived for a time in Frederick County, but she and her husband, David Duree, moved to Carroll County in 1984. They spent more than three years doing research and renovating and restoring their 1886 Queen Anne-style Victorian house to its original facade and interior, except for modern plumbing and electricity.
In her restoration research, Lilly found a link to one of the county historical society's founding members, David Englar, a former resident of her house.
Lilly worked in sales and marketing for almost a decade before earning an associate's degree in general studies in 1994.
After graduating from Goucher College with a degree in historic preservation in 1996, Lilly joined the county historical society's board and helped with various projects, including the society's Designer Showhouse fund-raisers.
She also became the preservation projects coordinator for the town of Sykesville. There, she worked on the conversion of the Sykesville Black Schoolhouse, one of the few remnants of the segregated era in the state, into a museum and community center. That and the renovation of the Hubner Building, part of the Springfield Hospital Center that was turned into the academic wings of the Maryland Police Training Center, have challenged Lilly to apply her knowledge of historic preservation.
She is still working on the schoolhouse venture. But her new job's first priority -- which might serve a dual purpose by giving residents more opportunities to appreciate the county's rich history -- is to deal with what she called the society's severe space limitations.
She hopes the answer lies in the campus project, a complex of four historic buildings on Main Street in Westminster that are to house programs and exhibits. But until renovations on the historic Cockey's Tavern and the Bond House are done, most of the society's collection will stay in storage. "It's like having 50 pounds of potatoes in a 5-pound sack," she said.
A gallery for the collection is expected to open in November.
With the campus project's completion, she hopes the society will be able to interact more with students, show more exhibitions, upgrade and expand the library and effectively convey how people lived in the county over a 200-year period.
In cultivating relationships with groups like the local municipalities' Historic District Commissions and the Carroll County Arts Council, she thinks she will be able to add points of view to the table.
"We must all hang together, or we will all hang separately," she said, paraphrasing Benjamin Franklin. "So let's see if we can hang together."