The society was formed in 1963 as a centre for local research into the early history of the town and it's pioneer families. From modest beginnings, the organisation has grown to a membership of more than 120, with a much wider range of interests.
In 1992 the society was able to negotiate the lease of the historic Courthouse building in Gipps Street, Port Fairy, which was renamed The History Centre.
The Courthouse is one of over fifty buildings in Port Fairy classified by the National Trust as essential to the heritage of Australia and which must be preserved. It was built in 1859, with the portico added in 1869, and a further three rooms at the rear in 1874, to make the building as it is today. At the time of construction, it was the only Courthouse in the Western District of Victoria, and housed sittings of the Supreme Court and County Courts as well as General Sessions. It remained in use until 1988, when its last function, as a Licensing Court, was transferred to Warrnambool.
Much of the work of the society involves the development of the Courthouse as a museum and archives, and includes participation in the Museum Accreditation Program with which we have been accredited since 1998. The main courtroom houses a display of the original court furniture, with figures in costume. Five other rooms contain both permanent and temporary exhibitions on themes such as the early pioneers of the district, the whaling era in Port Fairy, local shipping and wrecks along the coast.