Imagine taking a road trip to visit Independence Hall. It would be impossible to get there if you don’t know where you are (are you starting in Boston? Chicago? Los Angeles?). Yet most museums and historic sites find themselves in this same predicament—but they don’t know it.
Knowing your museum’s financial position within its larger context can more clearly improve performance. We’ve witnessed how demographic shifts, a global pandemic, and social issues have affected all museums in the last year. Identifying which museums are responding well or poorly is largely based on rumor and anecdote, resulting in an incomplete picture of the field—and potentially misleading if a museum bases its decisions on them. Instead, we are following the advice of Karen Berman and Joe Knight, authors of Financial Intelligence (2013): “The art of accounting and finance is the art of using limited data to come as close as possible to an accurate description of how well a company is performing.”
Knowing that most people working at historic sites don’t have access to an academic library, I thought I’d share a few articles around some major topics that caught my eye. This is not a thorough review of the last 18 months, just a casual glance backward to highlight some studies that relate to the preservation, management, and interpretation of historic sites and house museums.
More Professors are Combining Local History and Service Learning to Engage Students
Henthorn, Thomas C. “Experiencing the City: Experiential Learning in Urban Environments.” Journal of Urban History 40, no. 3 (2014): 450-461.
Henthorn describes various student experiences to engage them in history, including a course on American urban history that combines an historical study of Flint, Michigan with an off-campus service learning project and a collections internship in automotive heritage at the Sloan Museum.
He concludes by finding that, “experience and place combine to prepare students for active citizenship. This is arguably the most difficult to instill among students and in the same way one class will not change students understanding of a subject, one experience will not awaken in students a sense of civic responsibility. At the very least, by linking the classroom with the community, students learn to respond creatively to critical issues confronting them. But active citizenship requires Continue reading →