The mission of the PWHS is to enhance the planning and management of public works programs, document public works history and to promote public understanding and appreciation of the role of public works in the growth and development of civilization. The PWHS accomplishes this mission through the collection, preservation, and dissemination of public works history. Specifically, the goals of the Society are to:
Foster scholarly research and publication;
Support collaboration among public works practitioners, historians, and educators;
Encourage the preservation of historically significant public works;
Promote historical awareness and activities throughout APWA; and
Collect and preserve records of individuals and groups engaged in important public works activities.
The Public Works Historical Society (PWHS) was chartered in 1975 by the American Public Works Association (APWA) to prepare a history of public works in America to coincide with the United States bicentennial. The official formation was announced at the Cosmos Club in Washington, D.C., on April 10, 1975. Senator Jennings Randolph (West Virginia Senator, 1932-1985, known as “The Dean of Public Works Legislation) – then Chairman of the Senate Public Works Committee – was the principal speaker. The Society's first annual meeting followed later that year in New Orleans.
Beginning in 1975, over the years,, the Society has evolved as an historical organization, having published volumes of books, essays, and articles; administered research grants; sponsored award programs; and hosted academic seminars and meetings.
The PWHS remains a vital and important part of the mission of APWA.