The Erie Public Museum started collecting items for exhibit. Then in 1903, the Erie County Historical Society (ECHS) was developed and began preserving Erie’s history in a shared space at the Erie Public Library.
The ECHS moved to the Customs House at 4th and State Street. The neighboring Cashiers House provided extra storage space.
The ECHS was housed in the History Center. The center was in the former Heyl Pharmacy building at 419 State Street.
The Erie School District, which owned the Watson-Curtze mansion, converted it into the Erie Public Museum. This was done after the death of previous owner Frederick Curtze in 1941. It was the Curtze family vision that their former home be used for the “promotion for the education of all persons."
An independent entity, the Erie Public Museum, was formed and the school district created a Museum Authority in 1979. The house then became the Erie Historical Museum and Planetarium.
There was a formal merger in 2000 between the Erie Historical Museum and Planetarium and the Erie County Historical Society to become the Erie County Historical Society and Museums.
The ECHS consolidated its operations and created the Hagen History Center campus on West 6th Street and Chestnut. The plan repurposed the mansion into a regional history museum on the second and third floors with 11 thematic galleries and a house museum on the first floor of the mansion. The Planetarium moved to Penn State-Behrend campus and the former carriage house was re-purposed for offices, a gift shop and a research library.
The neighboring Wood-Morrison house, which was previously purchased by the ECHS, was restored to become the ECHS Education Center. This building will feature an exhibit on Dr. Wood’s Family, an exhibit on Captain Morrison’s family, an exhibit on the Erie Extension Canal, and classrooms for lectures. This building will feature Erie's rich naval history, an exhibit on Dr. Wood.
Dr. Wood was the first Surgeon General of the Navy. Captain Morrison was the last captain of the Michigan/Wolverine and the first Superintendent of Presque Isle State Park in Erie, PA.
In early 2019, ECHS broke ground for a new building on the Hagen History Center Campus. This 6,000 sq. ft. building will house an exhibit of national significance on the first floor. On the second floor, it will house comprehensive exhibits of Erie’s history.