For today’s break, a beautifully produced yet simple 3:44 video by Adam Worth about the historic African American cemeteries in New Jersey, many of which are abandoned and slowly disappearing into nature. It discusses their historical significance as well as current preservation challenges.
Non-profit organizations often grumble about the inefficiencies of the typical board-executive director governance model, but it appears that corporate boards share many of the same frustrations. In the April 2013 issue of the Harvard Business Review, Jeffery Sonnefeld, Melanie Kusin, and Elise Walton analyze the opinions of dozens of CEOs and distilled them into five pieces of advice for board members:
1. Focus on the risks that are the most crucial to the future of the enterprise.
While boards should serve to rein in the “cowboy CEO,” they often are much more timid and rein in any form or shape of risk. “Boards often lack the intestinal fortitude for the level of risk taking that healthy growth requires” and ironically, this timidity increases with organizational growth and capacity. Young organizations are more flexible, courageous, and bold. Why avoid risk? Surprisingly, it seems that boards “too often put self-interest and self-preservation ahead of shareholder interests”—translated into the non-profit world, they care more about their seats in the boardroom than they do about the audiences they are supposed to represent and serve. “You need to make sure both management and the board are always Continue reading
In honor of Historic Preservation month, the videos in May will feature related topics, starting with “The Royal Castle: From Destruction to Reconstruction” by Novina Studio. This 2:28 animation traces the destruction of this historical monument by the Nazis in World War II to its reconstruction in 1974. Simple and dramatic, it provides a quick history of the site.
Last week I led an AASLH workshop with George McDaniel on the management of historic house museums at Oaklands, a mid-nineteenth century house in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Eighteen people participated, most from Tennessee, but we had a couple from as far as Alaska! Adding to the diversity were several graduate students from Middle Tennessee State University (which has strong programs in history, public history, and historic preservation) and even though it was near the end of the semester and finals were on their minds, they helped enrich the discussions.
One of the features in the workshop is that every participant brings an issue or problem that they’d like to address. The range is wide and unpredictable, but it’s a helpful way to check the pulse on the challenges facing historic sites. In this class, these issues were:
- How to prevent staff burn-out (how to keep growing despite small staff; finding the right mix of skills for staff)
- How to fund preservation and staffing. Continue reading
Modern visitors encounter historic visitors in Annapolis, Maryland, a clever way to connect people to the past. In their visitor center on the waterfront, the Historic Annapolis Foundation installed a wall of life-size images of famous and popular celebrities who have visited Annapolis during the past two hundred years. The main label reads:
Who are these people, and why are they here?
You may recognize a few of them, or perhaps all of them.
Each of these people is famous for one reason or another, and each spent time in Annapolis. Some were here in the recent past, while others many years ago. Some passed through the city on a whirlwind tour, and some called Annapolis home.
But what does George Washington have in common with Sarah Jessica Parker? The Marquis de Lafayette with Mark Twain? Amelia Earhart with Michelle Obama?
Their common bond is that each of them could return to Annapolis today and recognize downtown because of Historic Annapolis. Thanks to historic preservation, Annapolitans Continue reading
The Preservation Society of Newport County is pleased to announce the appointment of Laurie Ossman, Ph.D. as its new Director of Museum Affairs. Dr. Ossman is currently a Research Historian for the Smithsonian Institution’s forthcoming History of America in 101 Objects. She was previously the Director of Woodlawn and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Pope-Leighey House, Historic Sites of the National Trust for Historic Preservation in Alexandria, Virginia. She has also held curatorial positions at Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, the Henry Morrison Flagler Museum, and the Maryland Historical Society.
“This is an exceptional appointment for the Preservation Society,” said CEO & Executive Director Trudy Coxe. “Dr. Ossman brings both intellectual rigor and down-to-earth museum experience to this critical leadership position. We are excited to add her breadth of museum experience and academic achievement to the leadership of our combined museum affairs activities.”
The Director of Museum Affairs provides vision and leadership on curatorial, conservation, research and educational initiatives at the Continue reading
Take a break today and be inspired by this video on the Mast Brothers, a small chocolate maker in Brooklyn. It’s a combination of craft, history, and biography in a well produced short film by The Scout. For historic sites that interpret processes past or present, such as food production, building construction, archaeology, or historical research, this might be an engaging approach.
This week I’m teaching a workshop on historic house museum management with George McDaniel for the American Association for State and Local History. It’s great fun working with people from all over the country because we learn so much from each other.
One of the most popular sections is membership (who doesn’t want more supporters?). George uses his experience from Drayton Hall to demonstrate some techniques in the tour for showing “membership dollars at work,” which gets visitors so excited that many join at the end of the tour. With members in more than 7,500 households in all 50 states, Drayton Hall must have one of the nation’s largest membership programs for an historic site, so their techniques work.
I provide a complementary perspective, using profiles to understand member motivations and interests. In an exercise, I have the class combine a mission statement with a member profile to develop a membership program or activity. I’m always surprised by Continue reading
On April 18, I enjoyed a sneak peak of the restoration underway at Clara Barton’s Civil War-era office and warehouse on 7th Street in downtown Washington, DC–where she worked and lived before founding the American Red Cross in 1881. The historic site opens to the public as a museum in fall 2014.
From the street, you’d never imagine that this was a nationally significant historic site. It’s a simple three-story brick building surrounded by restaurants, towering condos and offices, popular museums, and a major sports arena. Indeed, it was overlooked by those who were searching for it because it didn’t fit their image of a warehouse. Its historical significance was forgotten for most of the century until 1997, when a nightwatchman hired to keep vagrants out of the vacant building noticed a document jutting out from the ceiling. It turned out to be part of a cache of artifacts belonging to Clara Barton that had been stored in the Continue reading
This Friday’s break features Welcome to Fontevraud, a 2:25 video interpreting an arts and cultural center housed in a medieval abbey in western France. How would artists interpret your site?