San Diego’s Comic-Con, the international conference “dedicated to creating awareness of, and appreciation for, comics and related popular artforms,” has morphed into one of the biggest events in the nation with attendance topping 130,000 people. It’s also spawned local versions around the country, including Indianapolis at the end of this month.
The Indiana Historical Society has cleverly combined its mission to connect “people to the past by collecting, preserving and sharing the state’s history” with the interests of the Comic Con audience by creating “Comic CONservation.” Participants will “learn how professionals use science and technology to restore and care for comic books” plus they get to play vintage arcade games and see original Ray Bradbury cover art from the nearby Center for Ray Bradbury Studies at IUPUI. Wow! IHS collections consists primarily of documents and photographs, plus they have a team of conservators working in a state-of-the-art paper conservation lab (The forceps are strong with this one), so they are drawing on their strengths to reach a new audience. Can’t wait to hear how this turns out (especially if people can dress as their favorite comic book character!).
Do you have a clever idea for using conservation or preservation to reach a new audience? Please share it in the comments below.
Historic House Museums in the United States and the United Kingdom: A History by Linda Young. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2017. v + 299 pp.; bibliography, index; clothbound, $85.00; eBook, $80.00.
Historic house museums are one of the most popular ways that the public experiences history in the United States, although we only have a fragmentary understanding of their history. Linda Young tackles this topic not only for the United States but also the United Kingdom, with occasional examples from her homeland in Australia.
Linda Young is a senior lecturer in cultural heritage and museum studies at Deakin University in Melbourne, trained as a historian focused on nineteenth-century Britain. She has also worked as a curator at several house museums. After completing a survey of house museums in Australia, she expanded her scope to include the United Kingdom and United States in order to develop transnational comparisons that would reveal patterns in the motivations for transforming private houses into public museums (a process she calls ‘‘museumization’’). Furthermore, she wanted to distinguish house museums from other types of museums, giving them a distinctiveness and prominence that the museum ﬁeld rarely considers. In a sense, she is giving house museums their own history and identity.
Her research into guidebooks, directories, Wikipedia entries, articles, and books, as well as ﬁeld trips, convinced her that there are Continue reading →
Seminar for Historical Administration 2017 in Indianapolis
This year’s Seminar for Historical Administration (SHA) is meeting in Indianapolis and all of our hard work in selecting participants and presenters over the past months is coming to fruition. For three weeks in Indianapolis, a dozen people in the history field will be discussing the leading issues facing leaders and debating their solutions. I’ve assembled the schedule and directing the program, so I’m particularly excited to see how it unfolds each day. A big thanks to the dozens of people who are helping to make this extraordinary experience happen.
SHA opened on Sunday with Erin Carlson Mast, the President and CEO of President Lincoln’s Cottage, laying out the trends in the field. She noted how much has changed in the last ten years and that our work is more important than ever. I was particularly intrigued by her insistence that the mission and vision of the organization need to be manifested not only in the public programs and activities but also in the budget and operations. For example, their interpretation of slavery during Lincoln’s era motivated them to examine modern-day slavery (human trafficking) through their award-winning SOS program for teens AND make choices about the restoration materials used in the Cottage. Afterwards, we visited the library and archives at the Indiana Historical Society and had dinner together at a local restaurant.
Yesterday, David Young, Executive Director at Cliveden and Tim Grove of the National Air and Space Museum discussed the opportunities and challenges for making history relevant. It seems that everyone is struggling to make this happen, either through their programming or evaluation, and perhaps the most important discovery is that we need to learn more about our audience’s interests, motivations, and needs.
Today, Pamela Napier and Terri Wada at Collabo Creative will lead us through a short workshop on “design thinking” and then we’ll visit the Indiana State Museum to meet their new CEO Cathy Ferree and visit collections, and return to the Indiana Historical Society to learn about conservation.
The revised standards more fully develop topics in the previous editions, address the treatment of buildings of the last half of the twentieth century (which introduced new materials and systems, such as composites and curtain walls), include building code-required work, and eliminated energy efficiency (which is now addressed in 2011 in the Guidelines on Sustainability for Rehabilitating Historic Buildings). The Standards provide guidance for the maintenance, care, or remodeling that might occur through an illustrated set of recommended or discouraged practices easily understood by architects, contractors, staff, and board members. A big thanks to NPS and Anne Grimmer for providing these new guidelines. They’re free online and every house museum in America should adopt these Standards to help preserve and maintain their buildings and structures.
The Standards are designed to guide work on buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places, but I’ve used them Continue reading →
Friday, July 21 is the deadline to catch the early registration price of $328 ($253 for members); it jumps to $393 the next day. AASLH offers the widest variety of sessions and workshops for house museums and historic sites at a national level and attracts some of the best minds in the field. This year, the annual meeting will be held in Austin, Texas from September 6-9 and include:
Awaken the Historic House: A Fresh Look at the Traditional Model, an afternoon workshop led by Brett Lobello of Brucemore.
Current Issues Forum: What Role Should Historic Sites Play in Teacher Professional Development? moderated by Sarah Jencks at the Ford’s Theatre Society.
Engaging Programs = Engaging Communities?, a session I’ll be moderating on different ways to engage more effectively with your local community.
Preserving and Interpreting Contested Histories of Missions and Missionaries moderated by Barbara Franco, an independent scholar.
Historic Preservation Never Ends: Practical Maintenance for Your Historic Buildings moderated by Evelyn Montgomery of the Dallas Heritage Village.
From Millstone to Crown Jewel: Revitalization and Transition of a “Tired” Site moderated by Mike Follin of Ohio History Connection.
Parks and Prejudice: The Legacy of Segregation and State Parks moderated by Cynthia Brandimarte of Texas State Parks.
The Great Debate: Engaging Audiences vs. Protecting Dollhouses moderated by Brandie Ragghianti of the Charlotte Hawkins Brown Museum.
Lessons Learned: The Legal, Ethical, and Practical Issues Involved in Finding a New Steward for Upsala moderated by Carrie Villar of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
Open the Door! Approaches to Interpreting Historic Landscapes moderated by Sean Sawyer of the Olana Partnership.
Historic House Museum Affinity Group Breakfast featuring Ken Turino of Historic New England.
Bucking the Trend: Energizing Historic Homes in Central Texas moderated by Oliver Franklin at the Elisabet Ney Museum.
Of course, these are just a small part of the 85 sessions, keynote presentations, field trips, evening events, and an exhibit hall happening over a few days in Austin. There’s usually much much more available than you’ll ever have time to do and I’m often torn between 2-3 sessions at the same time.
To register or for more information, visit go.aaslh.org/AMreg. Although registration fees for this national conference are very reasonable, especially at the early registration rate, AASLH offers several scholarships to reduce expenses (although their application deadlines have already passed). If you can’t attend, there’s also an online version where you can hear six sessions that are especially presented as webinars, including my session on Engaging Programs = Engaging Communities? (they’re not simply a broadcast of the conference session). They’ll be available for six months and can be viewed as many times as you like at rates starting at $60.
Historic England, the overseas equivalent of our preservation organizations in the US, recently launched a “Keep it London” campaign to help shape the planning of its nation’s capital, urging that, “the city must evolve by building on its unique character and identity, rather than by turning into a generic city.” The campaign contains the usual list of recommendations, solicitation for contributions and letters, and offers of updates through email and social media. More interesting, however, is the “I am London” video that accompanies the campaign. Listen carefully and in four minutes, you never hear the words, “history,” “preservation,” “old,” “save,” or “historic.” Instead, the faces and voices of dozens of diverse people personify buildings, giving these mute places emotion and personality. Compare that to the approach used by the US National Trust for Historic Preservation in their video, “Lives Rooted in Places.”
Who’s the target audience for each video? Which video would resonate better with your members and donors? With your community and neighbors? Which one speaks better to outsiders than insiders? What emotions are involved? Do they tell viewers what to think or feel, or do they let them unfold in the viewer?
On a recent visit to the Cape Cod in Massachusetts, I often encountered unpaved sandy paths down to the beach. It can be tough slog walking up and down those sandy hills but people also trample the nearby vegetation to get a solid footing. At the Cape Cod National Seashore, they covered these sandy paths with Mobi-Mats, a flexible woven recycled plastic mat that stabilizes the path and reduces erosion, while allowing water and sand to filter quickly. It was so much easier to walk to the shore and I immediately saw that they could be helpful at historic sites that have muddy or uneven paths to make travel easier for persons with limited mobility or in wheelchairs. Although the mat is bright blue, it feels much nicer to walk to the beach on this mat than it would on a concrete or asphalt sidewalk—you get the sense you’re walking at the beach, not in the parking lot (I suppose it’s blue because light colors would be blinding in the summer sun and dark colors would become too hot for bare feet).
Mobi-Mats are made by Deschamps, a French company with an office in New Jersey. According to their website, these mats are also in use in New York City Parks, Traverse City State Park in Michigan, Arches National Park in Utah, and Hunting Island State Park in South Carolina. And in case you need to move vehicles or heavy equipment temporarily through landscaped areas for an event or construction project, these mats were originally designed for beach landings by the U.S. Marine Corps so they can handle the traffic (they say a 50 foot long roll can be installed by two people in ten minutes!).
Donald J. Trump’s election to the U. S. presidency is a shock to many pundits and career politicians because he never held elected office and didn’t seem to care about politics or government, except as it might benefit his businesses. His interest is business, following his father into real estate and receiving his bachelor’s degree in economics from the Wharton School, and then pursuing real estate development, professional sports, beauty pageants, for-profit education, branding and licensing, and entertainment. While the 2016 campaign will be heavily analyzed for years to understand its unfolding, my sense is that it’s not just about “change,” but a change in the skills and qualifications required for effective leadership. It’s no longer about mission, vision, or values, but the expertise and perspective of independent business entrepreneurs. And it’s a trend I’ve been witnessing in house museums and historic sites as well.
In the last decade, several major history and preservation organizations have selected CEOs who have little passion for or experience with the mission of the organization but instead offer outsider perspectives, often informed exclusively by an MBA: Continue reading →
Wikipedia, the most frequently used source for information on the Internet, just launched a month-long campaign to improve its coverage of historic and cultural sites in the United States. Called, “Wiki Loves Monuments,” it is an international photo competition where participants capture cultural heritage monuments and upload their photographs to Wikipedia. For the first time in several years, Wiki Loves Monuments is back in the United States. The contest is inspired by the successful 2010 pilot in the Netherlands, which resulted in 12,500 freely licensed images of monuments that can now be used in Wikipedia and by anybody for any purpose. The 2012 contest in 35 countries resulted in more than 350,000 images submitted by over 15,000 participants, adding to the sum of all human knowledge gathered on Wikipedia. The contest ends on September 30, 2016.
Anyone is welcome to contribute to the project by uploading photos they’ve taken of cultural and historical sites throughout the United States. Once September is over, the best photos will win cash prizes and will be submitted to the international competition. In addition to taking photos, Wikipedia is also encouraging editors to write Wikipedia articles on historical sites and monuments as part of the event. They are also developing state-level guides to historic sites and have already created versions for California, Ohio, and Washington. Here’s a chance to fix that skimpy or inaccurate entry about your site or show a stunning photo (in my home state of Maryland, Belvoir is a particularly awful example). Better yet, engage those photographers among your members to help you promote your site and others in your community. Just remember, you’re putting this into the World Wide Web, so content will be freely and easily used by others (what will Getty Images do?).
If you’re looking for inspiration, Wikipedia is providing links to the National Register of Historic Places, Historic Civil Engineering Landmarks, and Daughters of the American Revolution Sites (hey, where are the Colonial Dames?).
Rowman and Littlefield, publishers for AASLH and now AAM, are offering a 35% discount on most of their titles through September, including both print and ebooks. That includes the Interpreting series, which was recently joined by Interpreting Naval History by Benjamin Hruska and Interpreting Difficult History by Julia Rose (Julie will be sharing a panel with me at the AASLH meeting in Detroit) and by the end of the year it’ll have ten titles. Other areas of interest are museum studies, architecture and historic preservation, and museum administration. Browse their web site at Rowman.com and use the code 16SUMSALE when you order online or by phone at 1-800-462-6420. The sale will continue to be in effect during the AASLH annual meeting in September, so you’ll want to be sure to stop by the Rowman and Littlefield booth to look at what’s available. On Thursday, September 15 from 3-4 pm, several authors will be available to chat and sign books (including me) and they’ll be providing coupons for deep discounts on forthcoming books.