The Winter 2013 issue of History News, the quarterly magazine of the American Association for State and Local History, just hit my desk and focuses on the annual meeting held last fall in Salt Lake City. Featured are the speeches of out-going president Stephen Elliott, award-winner Robert Archibald, and keynote speaker Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, which include such memorable quotes about history and museums, such as:
Ulrich: ”It is a truism that without sources there is no history, but we also need to understand those sources. Most people who had looked at Martha Ballard’s diary said it was filled with mundane detail of little interest, filled with trivia. The same has been said of Patty Sessions. What I want to emphasize is that there is, if not drama in these humdrum records, a powerful story. It is a history that pushes back against conventional sources.”
Elliott: ”To appreciate who others are and where they’re coming from, it’s important to Continue reading →
The autumn 2012 issue of History News arrived in my mailbox a couple weeks ago and its four feature articles on interpretation that will be of interest to historic sites:
“From Quiet Havens to Modern Agoras: Libraries and Museums in an Era of Participatory Culture” by Nancy Rogers, Susanna Seidl-Fox, and Deborah Mack is a report, including the key overarching messages, from an international seminar held in Salzburg, Austria in October 2011.
“‘No More Wiggle-Tail Water’: Interpreting the History of Morgantown’s Water Supply at the West Virginia Botanic Garden” by Barbara Howe is a case study on integrating history in a place that focuses on horticulture and nature.
“When Histories Horrify: Supporting Visitors’ Responses through Responsible Interpretation” by Linda Norris, Danny Cohen, and Stacey Mann is a continuation of a session at the American Alliance of Museum’s annual meeting on the roles and responsibilities of museums in preserving and mediating horrific histories of crimes, violence, terrorism, and oppression, with references to the Kilmainham Gaol, Majdanek, Robben Island, and the Greensboro Woolworth.
“Entering the Mainstream: Interpreting GLBT History” by Ken Turino and Susan Ferentinos addresses four common challenges (institutional policies on discussing sex, lack of documentary evidence, applying modern labels to historical figures, pressure to avoid controversial topics) using examples from Pendarvis, Walt Whitman House, Beauport, Sarah Orne Jewett House, Alice Austen House, and Charles Gibson House.
Local history lovers, rejoice–the second edition of the Encyclopedia of Local History has just been published by AltaMira Press. Under revision for the past few years by editors Carol Kammen and Amy H. Wilson, it’s a significant update from the 2000 edition and comes in at 655 pages as a result of 200 contributors and a gazillion entries (okay, I’m exaggerating a bit). Encyclopedias are for quick reference, not reading from A to Z , however, if you’re a local history buff, you would enjoy dipping in at random and learning about a topic (copyright or culinary history), organization (Cambridge Group or History News Network), or source (maps or inventories) from some of the best minds in the field including Stuart Blumin, John Bodnar, Simon Bronner, Michael Kammen, David Kyvig, Brown Morton, Mary Beth Norton, Sandra Oliver, Philip Scarpino, and Carol Shull. This encyclopedia also includes entries on every state of the union and Canada (and some other English-speaking nations), providing a Continue reading →
I doubt many people read the Journal of Travel Research (yes, there are such things!) but I’ve been referring to it in preparation for a presentation at the Historic House Museum Consortium of Washington, DC. Looking at the September 2012 issue of the Journal of Travel Research, I thought I’d share some of the highlights from articles that might interest historic sites and house museums:
In “GPS as a Method for Assessing Spatial and Temporal Use Distributions of Nature-Based Tourists,” Jeffery Hallo et al examine the use of GPS devices to study visitor behavior in national parks (an idea that can be easily be applied to large historic sites). This research typically has to be done either by asking visitors to recall their experiences in a survey or by asking visitors to record their own behavior in diaries–both cumbersome and highly subjective methods. GPS provides a better way to study human behavior, but so far the inaccuracy and cost has been major hurdles. A test of three of the newest GPS devices, however, shows that these hurdles have been overcome by Continue reading →
This fall I’ll be teaching the historic site and house museum interpretation class in the Museum Studies Program at George Washington University. Department Chair Kym Rice graciously offered me this opportunity earlier this summer and I couldn’t resist. I’ve been impressed by the caliber of GW students and I count many of their graduates among my friends and colleagues. Today is the first class and participating are fifteen graduate students, mostly in museum studies with a handful from history and anthropology. We will have some fun discussions!
During the next few months, I’ll share my experiences with you and I thought I’d start by laying out the initial readings for the course, which focus on the opportunities and challenges in interpreting historic sites. It was hard to pick and choose among Continue reading →
The April 2012 (15:1) issue of Visitor Studies, the semi-annual journal of the Visitor Studies Association, just arrived and it includes, “Motivating Participation in National Park Service Curriculum-Based Education Programs” by Marc Stern, Elizabeth Wright, and Robert Powell. It’s a rare examination of the reasons why teachers visit (or don’t visit) historic sites. For anyone that provides school programs, its findings provide some useful guidelines.
The study attempts to “understand why teachers at schools within the immediate vicinity of Great Smoky Mountains National Park attend, or don’t attend, the park’s curriculum-based programs.” To discover the perceived benefits and disadvantages of participation, they conducted a preliminary focus group with teachers and then surveyed 400 teachers in fourteen schools and interviewed school administrators. Although this study’s focus was on a national park’s programs for a middle and high school audience, there are some surprising findings that may cause you to question your assumptions even if you’re an historic site focusing on the elementary grade levels. Here’s a quick summary:
"To Keep Your Customers, Keep it Simple" by Patrick Spenner and Karen Freeman (Harvard Business Review, May 2012)
The May 2012 issue of Harvard Business Review arrived a little early to my mailbox, but I couldn’t stop from sharing a great article on engaging customers in business world that can easily be translated to engaging visitors and building support for historic sites and museums. In “To Keep Your Customers, Keep It Simple,” Patrick Spenner and Karen Freeman note the paradox of today’s promotional techniques:
Companies have ramped up their messaging, expecting that the more interaction and information they provide, the better the chances of holding on to these increasingly distracted and disloyal customers. But for many consumers, the rising volume of marketing messages isn’t empowering–it’s overwhelming. Rather than pulling customers into the fold, marketers are pushing them away with relentless and ill-conceived efforts to engage.
This conclusion is based on multiple surveys of more than 7,000 consumers which were then compared to interviews with 200 marketing executives representing 125 brands. Their pointed out that what consumers what and what companies think consumers want didn’t correspond to each other, or in biz speak, it’s a Continue reading →
Conducting scholarly research has become much easier thanks to DeepDyve, a company that makes “authoritative information more affordable and accessible to users who are unaffiliated with a college or university and therefore lack easy and affordable access to scholarly sources of information.” They’re a Netflix for academic journals.
If you’re like me, access to journals is nearly impossible unless you have access to something like JStor–an incredibly expensive option for occasional use (although JStor may soon be improving access for individuals). DeepDyve allows you to search for articles in one place and if you find what you’re seeking, provides two options: rent or purchase. Renting gives you read-only access (no printing or downloading allowed) for a low cost. If you want to print or save it, you can purchase a pdf copy. If you want to investigate it, they’ve made it easier by providing a 14-day free trial.
Among the journals they currently list that might be of interest to those working with historic places are: Continue reading →
Preservation Books, the publisher and distributor of books, reports, and studies on the management, preservation, and interpretation of historic sites has closed and is sending its inventory to Amazon.com. Here’s the notice on their web site:
It’s a brave new world in publishing and Preservation Books will not be left behind. In order to bring exceptional preservation tools and information to our members, Preservation Books is going on sabbatical and will spend the next six months researching new technologies, testing potential platforms, and re-evaluating how and what we publish.
But what does that mean? We are no longer selling books on www.preservationbooks.org. However, our best sellers and most recent titles (see the full list below) are available through Amazon.com.
Books published by the National Main Street Center will now be sold by them. We’re not sure when this notice was posted so we don’t know when the six months will conclude. We understand there are more shoppers at Amazon.com so that’s a better place to distribute books but we’ll be sorry if the National Trust decides to end the publishing business–it is one of the nation’s leading publishers of books on historic preservation, putting out such popular titles as Housekeeping for Historic Homes and House Museums, The Economics of Historic Preservation, Feasibility Assessment Manual for Reusing Historic Buildings, and Takings Law in Plain English.
iBook textbook on an iPad. Image courtesy of Apple, Inc.
Today at the historic Guggenheim Museum in New York, Apple announced an expansion of their iBooks app to include textbooks for their iPads. Students will no longer have to lug around heavy books, content will be always be current, and it will cost less. As Apple describes it:
A Multi-Touch textbook on iPad is a gorgeous, full-screen experience full of interactive diagrams, photos, and videos. No longer limited to static pictures to illustrate the text, now students can dive into an image with interactive captions, rotate a 3D object, or have the answer spring to life in a chapter review. They can flip through a book by simply sliding a finger along the bottom of the screen. Highlighting text, taking notes, searching for content, and finding definitions in the glossary are just as easy. And with all their books on a single iPad, students will have no problem carrying them wherever they go.
They’ve already partnered with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Pearson, and McGraw Hill to produce textbooks on math and science. With the big publishers in play, what’s in it for historic sites and history organizations? A lot. Continue reading →