Category Archives: Resources

Vision Statement: Encyclopedia Edition

The Encyclopedia of Local History will issue its third edition in 2017.

The Encyclopedia of Local History will issue its third edition in 2017.

Carol Kammen and Amy Wilson are preparing the third edition of the Encyclopedia of Local History for publication in early 2017 and invited me to update my entry on “Historic House Museums in the 21st Century” as well as contribute a couple new entries, including “Vision Statement.”  Businesses and nonprofit organizations have been adopting vision and mission statements for the past two decades but drafting this encyclopedia entry gave me a chance to step back to look at its evolving history and see where they might be headed.  Here’s what I submitted (and remember, while books have been written about this topic, I have to condense it into a short summary):

Vision Statement. A vision statement describes a business’ or non-profit organization’s long-term major goal or desired end state and directs the planning, implementation, and evaluation of its programs and activities. There are many definitions for vision statements, some that conflict with each other, but the consensus is that they describe an ambitious but achievable long-term goal (10-30 years ahead, beyond the term of the current board or tenure of the executive director); that the statement is clear, compelling, and short (about 25-50 words); and yet is sufficiently vague and abstract to be unaffected by typical economic cycles or social fads.

An often-cited example of a vision statement is found in John F. Kennedy’s address to Congress in 1961 on urgent national needs: Continue reading

Values of History: Encyclopedia Edition

The Encyclopedia of Local History will issue its third edition in 2017.

The Encyclopedia of Local History will issue its third edition in 2017.

Carol Kammen and Amy Wilson are preparing the third edition of the Encyclopedia of Local History for publication in early 2017 and invited me to update my entry on “Historic House Museums in the 21st Century” as well as contribute a couple new entries, including “Values of History.”  Businesses and nonprofit organizations have been adopting values along with mission and vision statements for the past two decades but drafting this encyclopedia entry gave me a chance to step back to look at its evolving history as well as include the work of the History Relevance Campaign.  Here’s what I submitted (and remember, while books have been written about this topic, I have to condense it into a short summary):

Values of History. Values are beliefs shared by an individual or a community about what is important or valuable. Although values and ethics are terms used interchangeably at times, ethics are the action and manifestation of values. In addition to a mission and vision, some history organizations have adopted a statement of values or a code of ethics to clarify their identity and guide decisions. For example, Society for Historical Archaeology includes in its code of ethics that members “shall not sell, buy, trade, or barter items from archaeological contexts,” an action based in part from their belief that “historical and underwater cultural resources” are a “valued resource for knowledge exchange.” The importance of values was underscored nearly a generation ago in Museums for a New Century (1984): “An effective museum leader—whether scholar or M.B.A. or both—must first understand, believe in, and speak for the values of the institution.”

A common challenge for state and local history organizations is explaining Continue reading

Mission Statements: Encyclopedia Edition

The Encyclopedia of Local History will issue its third edition in 2017.

The Encyclopedia of Local History will issue its third edition in 2017.

Carol Kammen and Amy Wilson are preparing the third edition of the Encyclopedia of Local History for publication in early 2017 and invited me to update my entry on “Historic House Museums in the 21st Century” as well as contribute a couple new entries, including “Mission Statement.”  I’ve long been familiar with mission statements (who isn’t nowadays) but drafting this encyclopedia entry gave me a chance to step back to look at its evolving history as well as a today’s context to see what’s happening.  Here’s what I submitted (and remember, while books have been written about this topic, I have to condense it into a short summary):

Mission Statement. A mission statement describes the purpose of an organization and directs the planning, implementation, and evaluation of its programs and activities. These statements can vary as seen in these two historic sites that are adjacent to each other in Hartford, Connecticut:

  • Mark Twain House and Museum: to foster an appreciation of the legacy of Mark Twain as one of our nation’s defining cultural figures, and to demonstrate the continuing relevance of his work, life, and times.
  • Harriet Beecher Stowe Center: to preserve and interpret Stowe’s Hartford home and the Center’s historic collections, promote vibrant discussion of her life and work, and inspire commitment to social justice and positive change.

Had Twain or Stowe heard the term “mission statement” in their lifetimes, they probably would have regarded it as Continue reading

Video: “Every Student Succeeds Act” Overview

In this 3:38 video, Education Week’s Alyson Klein provides an overview of the changes brought by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which replaces No Child Left Behind (NCLB) in the 2017-18 school year.  Responsibilities for performance, curriculum, and testing shift from the federal government to the states.  For museums and historic sites, that means that your local school district may be adopting new standards of learning, which could prompt you to revise your school programs.  States are required to adopt “challenging” academic standards, which could be Common Core but it isn’t required.  For more details, take a look at Education Week’s written summary or the analysis in The Atlantic.

 

Looking for Exhibit Ideas? Check Out These Online Files

Exhibit Files 2016Looking for an idea for an upcoming exhibit? Need some alternatives for an interactive activity? Want to know if anyone else has installed an outdoor exhibit at a bus station? You’ll want to explore “Exhibit Files,” a free online collection of exhibition records and reviews for exhibit designers and interpretive planners.  The Association of Science-Technology Centers launched this website in 2007 with funding from the National Science Foundation, but despite those affiliations, you’ll find plenty of files related to history, including a case study of Lewis & Clark (the national Bicentennial exhibition); a review of Terror House in Budapest by Daniel Spock of the Minnesota Historical Society; and a case study of a low-tech document-based interactive exhibit at the Missouri State Archives. Because most exhibit techniques can be used with any subject, you can adapt many ideas for your specific needs. The files can be searched by title, date, tag, or topic (such as history or architecture).   And if you have an exhibit experience to share or you’re looking to solve a problem, you can join for free and become one of the nearly 3,000 members.

Webinar: The Five Forces Affecting House Museums

Five Forces 2015This Friday, April 8, I’ll be discussing the five forces facing historic house museums in a free webinar hosted by the Wisconsin Historical Society.  It’s based on simple and incredibly useful framework developed by Michael Porter at the Harvard Business School more than 30 years ago but little known outside the corporate business world. I’ll not only examine how the five forces are affecting history museums and historic sites on a national level, but how we can harness those five forces to improve and enhance tours, events, and other public programs.  The webinar starts at 10:30 am Central/11:30 am Eastern for about an hour with time for questions and discussion. Registration is free and available online but limited to 100 people (and you don’t have to be from Wisconsin!).

It’s part of series of local history webinars offered every spring for staff and volunteers at local historical societies, historic preservation organizations, and museums.  In April and May they are offering nine different webinars, including an introduction to PastPerfect 5 with Sarah Kapellusch, the basics of collections care with Craig Deller, and a fresh look at walking tours with Anthony Rubano.  Hats off to the Wisconsin Historical Society for providing this service to museums and historic sites not just in their state, but the rest of the country.

Video: Online Event Sales and Promotion via EventBrite

In this 8:55 video, Steve Dotto at DottoTech explains Eventbrite, a tool that allows you to setup, manage, and promote an event online.  Eventbrite can handle paid or free events, allows for discounts, and can accept donations, plus it can create ads for email, Facebook, an event page, or a countdown widget for your website.  Eventbrite is free but collects a service fee for each ticket sold for paid events (2.5% + 99¢ per ticket; for nonprofits it is 2.0% + 99¢ per ticket; if the event is free, there’s no charge!).  Fees can be passed on to the customer or can be absorbed into the ticket price (a $10 ticket for a museum would incur $1.49 in service fees).  You can use PayPal to process payments or use Eventbrite’s payment processing service for 3% of the ticket price.

If your museum or historic site has experience working with Eventbrite, please share what’s worked or not in the comments below.

Webinar: How can Historic Sites Make History More Relevant?

History Relevance CampaignOn Monday, March 21 at 3:00 pm Eastern/12 pm Pacific, Tim Grove and I will be discussing the History Relevance Campaign during AASLH’s monthly Historic House Call.  For the past few years, a dozen people from various history organizations have studied the challenges and opportunities for changing the common attitude that history is nice, but not essential.  We won’t have overnight solutions and there’s lots of work to do, but we’ll share what we’ve learned, discuss how it impacts historic house museums, and provide a tool that organizations have found very helpful.  The webinar is free but preregistration is required.

If you’re not familiar with the Historic House Call, they are webinars offered through out the year by the Historic House Museum Community of the American Association for State and Local History (AASLH).  Upcoming webinars include religion and historic house interpretation and using futures thinking to navigate ongoing change, and a recording of an earlier webinar, “creating engaging and memorable tours” is available.  They also have a very active listserv on Yahoo Groups, a growing blog called “Views from the Porch,” and free resources, such as the Technical Leaflet, “How Sustainable is Your Historic House Museum?

Can You Tackle Today’s Tough Topics in a Garden?

200731_Longwood_Graduate_Program_Symposium_Fochs_Mackenzie-2_0This year’s Longwood Graduate Program Symposium will examine that issue with a top-notch series of nationally-recognized speakers on Friday, March 4, 2016 at Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania.  They’ve laid out a challenging agenda for dealing with topics such as environmental action, civic responsibility, and the evolution of public gardens as community assets. Here’s their description:

Public gardens and cultural institutions are centers of community, science, and art. Today’s society is often overwhelmed with debates in all of these areas. In a world where misspoken words amplify in a matter of minutes, how can institutions tactfully open discussion on today’s difficult topics? When and where do they provide research, resources, and opportunities to interact with new or contested ideas?

Sessions include: Continue reading

Visits to Historic Sites are a Humanities Indicator, says AAAS

Percentage of Americans Who Visited a Historic Park or Monument* in the Previous 12 Months, by Age, 1982–2012. Humanities Indicators, 2012.

Percentage of Americans Who Visited a Historic Park or Monument in the Previous 12 Months, by Age, 1982–2012. Humanities Indicators, 2016.

As part of their Humanities Indicators project, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences just released their analysis of visits to historic sites.  It shows that, “the percentage of people reporting at least one such visit in the previous year fell by more than a third from 1982 to 2012, with declines across most age groups.” At first, I saw this as a corroboration of the widely reported Survey of Public Participation in the Arts (SPPA), which the National Endowment for the Arts has conducted since 1982, but when I looked more carefully at the data, I realized it was based on the SPPA. So while there’s no news here, it does provide a useful summary:    Continue reading