In the last decade, Americans for the Arts has become a national powerhouse for the value of the arts through their research, advocacy, and programs. Take a look at just a few of the tools and resources they offer (but beware of rabbit holes!):
- National Arts Marketing Project (lots here, including webinars, infographics, research databases, and national opinion polls)
- Arts + Social Impact Explorer (quick summaries on the impact of the arts on dozens of topics such as education, social justice, tourism, and culture and heritage; these straight-forward explanations of the value of arts can be re-used in your presentations or newsletters).
- Arts Mobilization Center (helps you make the case for the arts, including fact sheets and shareable graphics)
- Animating Democracy (how the arts can be used to inspire social change and how their impact can be measured)
- Arts & Economic Prosperity Calculator (an online form that estimates the economic impact of your museum; elected official LOVE this kind of information)
Americans for the Arts provides a possible model for the history field to help us better explain our value to society. You can find similar resources in part at History Relevance, American Association for State and Local History, American Alliance of Museums, National Trust for Historic Preservation, Institute of Museum and Library Services, and other organizations, but there’s no comparable single source like Americans for the Arts. I suspect this will improve as the history field recognizes the need to go beyond the usual “those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it” and towards a fuller explanation for the value of history (see AASLH’s Framing History project). But don’t wait for others—make it happen in your organization. A house museum or a historical society can research, summarize, and prepare information for their board, staff, and members to make the case for the value of their mission and the history of their community (unless you believe your organization is just a social club and history is a personal hobby). Once developed, it can be reused and easily adjusted in the years that follow. Here are some examples of possibilities taken from the History Relevance Toolkit:
- In their year-end fundraising letter, the Tennessee Historical Society emphasized the role of history in providing a “sense of place that builds community” and helps us to “understand the issues we face today.”
- Naper Settlement consolidated their research into a colorful illustrated impact report for elected officials and donors.
- The Indiana Historical Society produced a video that shares how community leaders perceive the value of history to Indiana.