Located in the Gateway Center building, the History Center in Tompkins County is dedicated to preserving and promoting Ithaca's past through its exhibitions, educational programs, and partnerships with local non-profit organizations. There are several permanent exhibits including Life in the 1890s, which features hands-on activities for children; Familiar Faces, which is a large collection of photographs of prominent local citizens; Our Story, which explores the county's past from geological times to today; and Our Community, which highlights local institutions and organizations that have helped the county thrive. The museum also owns and operates a historic structure built in 1827 called the Eight Square Schoolhouse, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The museum's living history programs take place in the schoolhouse.
The museum's history dates back to 1863 when it was founded as a historical society. However, this disbanded the following year. A second society, called the Dewitt Historical Society, formed in 1899 but lasted until 1905. The current iteration of the society was established in 1935. It moved into the Gateway Center in 1993.