Category Archives: Training

AASLH/MMA Meeting Recovery and Recap

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It took me several days to recover from my conference hop in Detroit last week.  I’m not sure why I ended each day exhausted. Was a joint meeting of the Michigan Museums Association and the American Association for State and Local History too rich for my brain cells? Was it the non-stop activities from 7 am to 9 pm? Was it the Cobo Conference Center, so large that I had walk two city blocks to a session after entering the building? No matter the cause, I was a mindless zombie for a couple days afterward but I did have a great time.  I’ll definitely be at AASLH next year in Austin, Texas.

The use of Twitter grew tremendously at the conference.  I heard that more than 1,500 tweets went out from sessions, so many that AASLH created a summary via Storify (and further proof that Twitter isn’t just for the young digerati).  I experimented with Periscope, which provides a live video feed on Twitter. I’m still getting the hang of it (first rule: be sure you’re pointing the phone camera at the scene, not looking down at your feet, when you’re fussing with the phone to start recording).  I was skeptical about its ability to attract an audience but surprisingly lots of people watched it immediately (Periscope provides statistics both during and after recordings; 96 people watched my video of the exhibit hall). You definitely will want to see how you might want to use this smartphone application for promoting events, lectures, and programs at your museum or site. Everywhere on the web a Tweet can go, a Periscope can go, too.

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Tom Segrue’s plenary presentation about Detroit’s history also included observations about the impact of racial segregation, manufacturing, and economic redevelopment has had on its successes and failures, which is a cautionary example to other cities around the country.  My hometown of Rockville, Maryland is much smaller than Detroit, but I immediately saw the parallels around segregation and redevelopment for the last 50 years. His book, The Origins of the Urban Crisis, has mostly attracted the attention of academic historians (and a couple prestigious awards), but preservationists and public historians should learn about him as well because of his analysis of downtown revitalization efforts and gentrification. His presentation is now available free from AASLH via SoundCloud and iTunes.  AASLH has provided another dozen audio recordings of sessions from this meeting, many that relate to house museums and historic sites, and in a month the webinars of selected sessions will be available. Thanks, AASLH!

I was involved with a couple sessions during the conference and in case you missed them, I’m sharing the handouts of resources and contact information that we distributed:

I also learned a lot, both in the sessions and in the hallways chatting with friends, so I’ll be sharing those in future posts so this annual meeting will continue to live on for a few more weeks.

Cruisin’ and Musin’ in Motown with AASLH

detroitI’ll be in Detroit for the next few days enjoying the annual meeting of the American Association for State and Local History.  I’ve been a member for about 40 years and I don’t think I’ve missed a conference during the last decade—does this make me a history nerd?

I hear this conference will be among the largest in AASLH’s recent memory and in partnership with the Michigan Museums Association, they’ve assembled some intriguing sessions and events.  As usual, I’ll have to split myself to attend several sessions at the same time but spending Saturday afternoon at the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village will be the highlight.

Of course, seeing friends and colleagues from around the country is always great fun (sometimes it seems the entire conference is just one long reunion) and if you’ll be attending, I’d love to chat.  I’ll be at the evening events on Wednesday and Thursday, plus I’ll be participating in two sessions this year: Continue reading

Professional Development is Taking on New Forms This Month

Historic Annapolis logoProfessional development (aka staff training) is one of the key elements for developing capacity at house museums and historic sites, but it’s often considered a luxury because of the cost.  This month, for example, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Preservation Maryland, and Historic Annapolis are hosting a two-day workshop, “Preservation Leadership Training: Invitation to Evolve” on September 8-9, 2016 in Annapolis, Maryland and next week, the American Association for State and Local History and Michigan Museums Association are hosting their conference, “The Spirit of Rebirth” in Detroit, Michigan.  Both demonstrate the continuing trend of partnerships among organizations to provide professional development to increase attendance, reduce expenses, and improve the quality.  I’m not sure if others do this, but I can only commit to two conferences per year: one is always AASLH and the other rotates among one of the other organizations where I’m a member.

But lately, I’ve noticed new forms of training popping Continue reading

Two National Conferences Coming Up on Interpreting Slavery at Historic Sites

Slave cabin with contemporary sculptures at Whitney Plantation, Louisiana.

Slave cabin with contemporary sculptures at Whitney Plantation, Louisiana.

If you’re interested in interpreting slavery, you’ll have a tough time choosing what to do this fall. At the same time that AASLH is holding its annual meeting in Detroit, Monticello and the Slave Dwelling Project are hosting outstanding national conferences.

On September 17 from 10 am to 12:30 pm, Monticello will host a public summit on race and the legacy of slavery in Charlottesville, Virginia. Historians, descendants of those enslaved at Monticello, cultural leaders, and activists will engage in a far-ranging dialogue on the history of slavery and its meaning in today’s conversations on race, freedom, and equality. Participants include Marian Wright Edelman (Children’s Defense Fund), Henry Louis Gates, Jr. (Harvard University), Annette Gordon-Reed (Harvard University), Jon Meacham (Random House), and Bree Newsome (filmmaker and community activist). Registration is free but seating is limited. For more information, visit monticello.org/neh.

On September 19-21 the Third Annual Slave Dwelling Project Conference will be held in Columbia, South Carolina. The conference brings together incredibly diverse perspectives, from preservationists and archaeologists to writers and film producers, to understand how these modest homes can change the traditional narrative of American history. Speakers include Mary Battle (Avery Center for African American Research), Lana Burgess (McKissick Museum), Toni Carrier (Lowcountry Africana), Elizabeth Chew (James Madison’s Montpelier), Latoya Devezin (Austin History Center), Regina Faden (Historic St. Mary’s City), Fielding Freed (Historic Columbia), Tammy Gibson (travel historian and blogger), Jennifer Hurst-Wender (Preservation Virginia), Brent Leggs (National Trust), Betsy Newman (South Carolina ETV), David Serxner (Historic Hope Plantation), Rhondda Robinson Thomas (Clemson University), and Robert Weyeneth (University of South Carolina). Full registration (which includes some meals) is $250 with an early registration price of $235 (deadline August 19). More information available at SlaveDwellingProject.org.

 

Report from the Field: AAM Annual Meeting 2016

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The American Alliance of Museums held its 2016 meeting in Washington, DC last week, which was incredibly convenient for me because I could easily take Metro from my home in Maryland and incredibly inconvenient because it was far too easy for me to stay in my office and say, “I’ll go later” and skip sessions.  I managed to attend two days along with 6000 other people and came back with an assortment of observations:

  1.  AAM allowed a track of sessions that were focused on one museum or site, which can vary from an indepth examination of a single project to a general show-and-tell of everything they do.  Both have benefits and disadvantages (I tend to find the show-and-tells incredibly dull) but it also reminds me how difficult it is to learn what’s happening in the field, especially if you work at historic sites.  Subscriptions, conferences, and travel to other sites have all been victims to tightening budgets, hence my ongoing commitment to a blog that shares a variety of news and information.
  2. The exhibit hall was packed, primarily with exhibit designers and exhibit lenders, and a couple booths introduced virtual reality.  Lots to see from books to dinosaurs but most handy was the Museums Change Lives brochure from the Museums Association in Great Britain. It provides some useful language on the value of museums that can be easily adapted to public speeches, newsletters, fundraising, and membership renewal letters.
  3. Museums of all types are doing pretty cool programming using games or tranforming mundane topics like agriculture.  And yet, very few provided any evidence that their activities were making any impact on visitors.  Yes, attendance and revenue may have increased, but what did visitor learn? how did it change their attitudes? did they apply what they learned to their lives?
  4. Although there were sessions for historic sites and house museums, I regret to say that there aren’t enough to justify the expense. As a result, I only attend every 3-5 years to check up on things.  Next year, the AAM annual meeting will be in St. Louis, Missouri.

If you attended AAM last week and found some particularly useful information or a new resource, please share them in the comments below.

Interpreting Slavery at Historic Sites Workshop on May 25

George Mason's Gunston Hall, Virginia.

George Mason’s Gunston Hall, Virginia.

George Mason’s Gunston Hall in Virginia will become a hands-on laboratory to explore how to create a comprehensive and conscientious interpretation of slavery at an historic site at a one-day workshop on Wednesday, May 25, 2016 from 9:30 am to 6:30 pm (right before the AAM annual meeting).  You’ll learn how to better connect and extend your site’s interpretation of its history of slavery and help staff and volunteers achieve a greater understanding of difficult knowledge and complicated emotions.  Registration is $90 and includes morning refreshments, lunch, and a post-workshop reception.  For more details and to register, visit http://bit.ly/SlaveryWorkshop.

The workshop will be led by Kristin Gallas, co-editor of Interpreting Slavery at Museums and Historic Sites and includes presentations by Continue reading

Latest National Research on Technology in the K-12 Education (with Tips for Historic Sites)

"From Pixel to Print," the 2015 report on the use of technology in K-12 education.

“From Pixel to Print,” the 2015 report on the use of technology in K-12 education.

Project Tomorrow, a nonprofit organization focused on education, just released a national study on the use of technology by teachers and students called, “From Print to Pixel: The Role of Videos, Games, Animations, and Simulations within K-12 Education.”  For the past thirteen years, Project Tomorrow has provided these annual “Speak Up” research reports to help schools and elected officials (and I’m including museums and historic sites) better understand the trends in technology in the K-12 education field. This year’s report incorporates responses from 415,686 K-12 students, 38,613 teachers and librarians, 4,536 administrators, 40,218 parents and 6,623 community members representing over 7,600 schools and 2,600 districts in the United States and around the world.

 

From “Print to Pixel” highlighted these major findings: Continue reading

Challenges Facing Historic House Museums: A Report from the Field

AASLH Historic House Management Workshop at Brucemore in 2016.

AASLH Historic House Management Workshop at Brucemore in 2016.

At the annual AASLH workshop on historic house museum management, we always start by asking participants about the biggest or most important challenge they are facing at their historic site.  For the participants, the exercise allows them to get to know each other beyond a name by recognizing the issues they may have in common.  As the instructors, It’s an opportunity for George McDaniel and me to ensure we address their concerns.  For AASLH, it’s a way of keeping a finger on the pulse on what’s happening in the field.  At the end of the workshop, we review the list and provide some time for participants to develop a plan to address their issue.  As a reminder, they also fill out self-addressed postcards with a message to themselves, which I’ll mail to them in six months.

So that you can keep your finger on the pulse of the field, here’s the list of issues and challenges from the Cedar Rapids workshop at Brucemore, which included participants from Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Illinois: Continue reading

Tackling Challenges for Historic Sites in St. Louis

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Last week, Ken Turino of Historic New England and I gave a one-day workshop on reinventing historic house museum in St. Louis, Missouri for the American Association for State and Local History.  It was a sold-out workshop with more than 50 people participating, mostly from the St. Louis region, so it was a great opportunity to meet so many of our colleagues, including a couple places who were starting new house museums (glad to have people learning about this specialized field before they open the doors!).  A big thanks to Andy Hahn at the Campbell House for hosting the workshop and to the St. Louis Public Library for allowing us to meet at the historic Central Library.

Ken and I continue to refine the workshop based on the evaluations we receive from the participants, and one of the elements we added to the beginning of the workshop is asking, “What is the biggest challenge facing your house museum?” and “What needs to be reinvented at your historic site?”  Here are some of the responses we received: Continue reading

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.