For the past fifteen years, George McDaniel and I have taught a two-day workshop on the management of historic house museums for the American Association for State and Local History. We cover a wide range of topics from fundraising to interpretation to disaster response to collections management–we really need a week, especially if there’s a lot of discussion. That was certainly our experience last week in Charleston, South Carolina (and thanks to our hosts, the Historic Charleston Foundation!), where our discussions were so rich that I wasn’t able to complete most of my presentations. That’s okay because the workshop is for the participants and as long as they find a topic that’s worth exploring, I’ll stay with them. Indeed, George and I often find that we’re not instructors but facilitators, raising ideas and questions to provoke thoughtful discussions to help participants improve the management of their historic sites.
At the core of workshop is each participant’s “burning question.” They share their biggest concern or issue at the start of the class and at the end, they describe how they might address it when they return to their site. It’s not only a way to make the workshop more relevant to the participants, but it also gives us a glimpse into the issues facing historic house museums around the country. This year the questions included: Continue reading