Category Archives: Interview

Hangout with Historians to Discuss the Nation’s Report Card

NAEP History Scores 1994-2014Discuss strategies to improve history education in our schools with people coming at it from different perspectives on Tuesday, July 7 at 12 noon (Eastern) in a Google Hangout co-hosted by the National Assessment Governing Board and the American Historical Association.  It’s in response to the latest results of the Nation’s Report Card, which shows that many students lack a strong understanding of our nation’s history (as seen in the chart, scores have been flat for the past twenty years, and the conversation will explore ways that students can become more engaged and informed.  Hmm, can historic sites and house museums play a role?

Participants include

  • Jim Grossman, executive director of the American Historical Association
  • Chasidy White, history and geography teacher at Brookwood (Ala.) Middle School and member of the National Assessment Governing Board
  • Judith Gradwohl, MacMillan associate director for education and public engagement at the National Museum of American History
  • Libby O’Connell, chief historian at the History channel
  • Frank Valadez, executive director of the Chicago Metro History Education Center

and the conversation will be moderated by Jessica Brown, contributing writer at Education Week.

To register or for more information, visit Why History Matters at the National Assessment Governing Board.

Brown University and National Trust Provide Recommendations for Historic House Museums

The financial sustainability and social relevance of historic house museums continue to intrigue scholars, preservationists, organizations, and even pundits on National Public Radio (I was recently interviewed by them about this topic) and adding to the conversation are two recent publications by the John Nicholas Brown Center at Brown University and the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Bedroom at Liberty Hall Museum, Kean University, New Jersey.

Bedroom at Liberty Hall Museum, Kean University, New Jersey.

If historic house museums are historic sites that primarily educational (not commercial) in purpose, how would they be different if they were managed by educational institutions? “University-Affiliated Historic House Museums,” a report by the John Nicholas Brown Center at Brown University may provide some answers. Prepared for the 1772 Foundation by Hillary Brady, Steven Lubar, and Rebecca Soules, the report examines the issues facing historic house museums that are owned or operated by colleges and universities based on a survey of existing practices at ten sites.  Offering recommendations for “new ways to make these museums more useful to the university community,” it concludes with a half dozen alternatives for the Liberty Hall Museum at Kean University, which might be applicable to sites that are not affiliated with universities (swap “campus” and “students” with “community” and “residents”).  By the way, the Center is hosting an intriguing colloquium in May 2015 on “lost museums“.

Future of Historic Sites Forum Journal 2014In 1949, Congress created the National Trust for Historic Preservation to Continue reading

Video: David McCullough’s 5 Lessons Every High School Student Show Know

In this 5:17 video, author David McCullough shares the five most important ideas high school students should learn before graduating (and it’s not memorizing dates and quotations).  This was recorded by CSPAN at the 2011 National Book Festival.

Ten Answers to Eleven Questions of Museum Bloggers

On March 19, the Berlin Museum of Natural History launched a series of eleven questions for museum bloggers on Museum Blogger Day, which is slowly making its way around the blogosphere.   I received the list of questions from Gretchen Jennings of Museum Commons, who received it from Linda Norris at the Uncatalogued Museum, who received it from Jamie Glavic at Museum Minute, who received it from Jenni at Museum Diary, who received it from the Museum Things blog at Natureskundemuseum.   I suppose this might be a new version of the old “chain letter,” but more fun and with no dire consequences if you fail to participate (and of course, the questions were modified along the way, just like a telephone tree).   It’s also introduced me to another neighborhood of bloggers!

1. Who are you and what do you like about blogging?

I’m the president of Engaging Places, LLC, a design and strategy firm that connects people to historic places.  I love visiting and working with museums and historic sites, so the blog allows me to Continue reading

Video: the Mast Brothers

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.

Interpreting African American History if You’re NOT African American

Session on Interpreting African American history and culture, AASLH annual meeting, 2012

Last September, I had the privilege of moderating a session on interpreting African American history at historic sites in a room filled with some of the smartest people in the field during the annual meeting of the American Association for State and Local History.  The panelists–George McDaniel, Pam Green, David Young, and Tanya Bowers–gave outstanding opening remarks but even more engaging was the discussion that followed with the audience.  Because African American history can be a sensitive topic and to demonstrate a way to confront these issues among a group of strangers, I used a technique drawn from Great Tours (page 117).  Each person in the audience was given a 3×5 card and was asked to anonymously complete the sentence, “I would feel more comfortable talking about African American culture and history if…”  Among the responses I received were: Continue reading

Q&A: Managing Collections at Historic Sites with Terri Anderson

Terri Anderson

Terri Anderson is swapping history collections for art when she joins the Corcoran Gallery of Art next week as a Contract Registrar to help them migrate their collections database from Filemaker to TMS (The Museum System).  For the past five years, she has focused her work on collections management at the 29 National Trust Historic Sites as the John and Neville Bryan Director of Collections at the National Trust for Historic Preservation, where she also taught collections management for George Washington University and became one of the national leaders on the challenges of deaccessioning collections at historic sites.  With this transition, I thought it would be a good time to capture some of her thoughts about managing collections at historic sites.

Max:  You’ve been managing the collections of the National Trust for the last five years–what have been the major successes?

Terri:  Our most visible successes were opening several Sites to the public for the first time, including the Philip Johnson Glass House in New Canaan, Connecticut; President Lincoln’s Cottage in Washington, DC; and Villa Finale in San Antonio, Texas. Each of these Site openings required many important decisions about collections stewardship and access, and each Site demanded a different approach: one size did not fit all.

At the same time, we had successes that, while less visible, were important to me and the parties involved.  We did a lot of great work with thoughtful, appropriate deaccessions at several of our Sites.  I wrote about our experiences in Continue reading