The Willoughby District Historical Society (WDHS) was established in 1974 with the objective of ‘encouraging the study and appreciation of the history of Willoughby’. David Warner, the Mayor of Willoughby, called a public meeting in the town hall on 13 February 1974 to gauge public interest in forming a historical society to ‘foster an interest in the history of the Municipality of Willoughby’. Some 200 people attended the meeting and many signed up to join the WDHS, which held its first general meeting on 14 March 1974 with John Vaughan as its inaugural President.
By 1981 the society commenced a search for a suitable location to establish a local history museum. The search for premises ended when a letter arrived from a solicitor in October 1988 advising that a Federation-style cottage, Boronia, at 58 Johnson Street, Chatswood, had been left to the Society by a member, the late Sonya N Kirkham. The house had been built in 1913 for rental. On the recommendation of the Society’s solicitor, measures were undertaken to incorporate the WDHS and it was formally incorporated as a not-for-profit association on 27 September 1989.
Following the massive task of cleaning up the premises and installing displays, the Willoughby Museum was formally opened by the then Member for Willoughby, Peter Collins MLA on 30 October 1993.