Engaging Programs = Engaging Communities?

Engaging_ProgramsEducators and interpreters are increasingly expected to engage the community to build support, attract audiences, and confront contemporary issues. So how do you get started? What does an effective community engagement project look like? How do you maintain it?

On Thursday, September 7, 11:00 am – 12:15 pm at the AASLH Annual Meeting in Austin, I’ll be moderating a session that will bring together three projects—Haymarket Project in Boston, James Madison’s Montpelier in Virginia, and El Pueblo History Museum in Colorado—to discover how they successfully engaged three different audiences in the local community—immigrants, African American descendants, and Latina teenage girls.  Joining me will be Ken Turino (Historic New England), Christian Cotz (James Madison’s Montpelier), and Dawn DiPrince (History Colorado).  Based on their experiences and with contributions from the audience, we will create a list of practical advice and guidance for community engagement projects that could form the basis of best and future practices for the history field.

This session is a follow-up to a 2012 session on community engagement at the AASLH Annual Meeting with Deborah Schwartz (Brooklyn Historical Society) and Lorraine McConaghy (Museum of History and Industry), which drafted a list of best practices. We’ll see how much our thinking has evolved in the last five years when we develop our new list (and I’ll share it on this blog for more comments).

Can’t attend in Austin? AASLH is also offering this session as part of their online conference.  It’ll be a separate online presentation broadcast live, so you can ask questions plus the recordings are available for six months so you can watch it later. This year, AASLH expanded the definition of “group” so if your state or local association has registered, everyone in that group can participate wherever they are located (but it’s a lot more fun to watch these presentations together because you can share ideas).