The latest edition of the Encyclopedia of Local History just arrived with a thud on my doorstep. Weighing nearly three pounds and two inches think, it’s a small beast. I served on the advisory board, suggested writers, and contributed entries and photographs, but didn’t realize what a hefty book it would become until a copy arrived at my door. At 800 pages, the third edition added another 150 pages to the second edition of 2013, so if this keeps up, the fourth edition will need a handle.
Edited by Amy Wilson, the Encyclopedia is a wide-ranging assortment of definitions, topics, organizations, primary sources, historical approaches, and individual state histories, along with appendices on studying various ethnic groups and religion, and contact information for state historical societies and National Archives facilities. Certainly it’s a reference tool for “local history” jargon that you might be able to find online (what is “historical thinking” or “repatriation” or “Soundex”?) but it also contains mini-articles on provocative subjects (such as “Building Bridges through Local History” by George McDaniel, “Local Historical Societies and Core Purpose” by Anne Ackerson, or “Museums and Families” by Linda Norris). The contributors are among the best people in our field, so the information is solid. You’ll not only want to use it to look up a term occasionally but to let it open to a random page to explore the many aspects of local history (Cyndi’s list? fakelore? social purity? Tweedsmuir History Prize?).
At $145, it’s not a book everyone can afford, but it would be great addition to a reference library of a historical society or local public library.
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 →
For the past 15 years, McDaniel also taught the AASLH Historic House Issues and Operations Workshop with Max van Balgooy, most recently in Charleston, South Carolina.
The Drayton Hall Preservation Trust (DHPT), a privately funded nonprofit organization responsible for the operation and administration of Drayton Hall, a National Trust Historic Site, today announced that President and Executive Director George W. McDaniel, Ph.D. would be stepping down on June 30.
“Drayton Hall has been my passion and purpose for more than 25 years,” said McDaniel, “and I can’t imagine a better or more fulfilling vocation. But the time has come to turn over leadership responsibilities so I can focus on family, research, writing and other projects. I thank the Drayton family, whose vision made all of this possible, and the Drayton Hall Preservation Trust board of trustees, our outstanding staff and the thousands of Friends and visitors who have supported us during my tenure.”
On April 26-29, 2015, the Preservation Society of Newport County (aka the Newport Mansions) is hosting a symposium on the cultural connections between the North and South from the Colonial Period to the Gilded Age as seen through furnishings, silver, textiles, painting, architecture, and interiors. Scholars include:
Daniel Kurt Ackerman, Associate Curator, Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts
Registration is $600 and includes an opening reception at Rosecliff (1902) and dinner in the Great Hall at the Breakers (1895). Scholarships are available to undergraduate and graduate students, as well as arts and humanities professionals. To register or for more information, contact symposium@NewportMansions.org or call 401-847-1000 x 160. Tell them that you heard about it from Engaging Places and you’ll receive a 10% discount!
Charleston, South Carolina has one of the most active convention and visitor bureaus in the nation and it has embraced the value of history and historic preservation in its promotion of the region. This past year they launched a series of videos on different distinctive aspects of Charleston, including “History Lives,” which features interviews with George McDaniel of Drayton Hall, Kitty Robinson of the Historic Charleston Foundation, Charles Duell of Middleton Place, and Robert Russell of the College of Charleston. At 5:41, it’s a bit longer than most videos I’ve shared previously but it’s a good example of content, production, and pacing. If you’d like to see all of their videos, visit the Charleston Area Visitors and Convention Bureau website or their channel on YouTube.
Last week I led an AASLH workshop with George McDaniel on the management of historic house museums at Oaklands, a mid-nineteenth century house in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Eighteen people participated, most from Tennessee, but we had a couple from as far as Alaska! Adding to the diversity were several graduate students from Middle Tennessee State University (which has strong programs in history, public history, and historic preservation) and even though it was near the end of the semester and finals were on their minds, they helped enrich the discussions.
One of the features in the workshop is that every participant brings an issue or problem that they’d like to address. The range is wide and unpredictable, but it’s a helpful way to check the pulse on the challenges facing historic sites. In this class, these issues were:
How to prevent staff burn-out (how to keep growing despite small staff; finding the right mix of skills for staff)
This week I’m teaching a workshop on historic house museum management with George McDaniel for the American Association for State and Local History. It’s great fun working with people from all over the country because we learn so much from each other.
One of the most popular sections is membership (who doesn’t want more supporters?). George uses his experience from Drayton Hall to demonstrate some techniques in the tour for showing “membership dollars at work,” which gets visitors so excited that many join at the end of the tour. With members in more than 7,500 households in all 50 states, Drayton Hall must have one of the nation’s largest membership programs for an historic site, so their techniques work.
I provide a complementary perspective, using profiles to understand member motivations and interests. In an exercise, I have the class combine a mission statement with a member profile to develop a membership program or activity. I’m always surprised by Continue reading →
Project Management for History Professionals
Dates: March 7 – 8
Location: History Colorado, Denver, CO
Instructor: Dr. Steven Hoskins, Trevecca Nazarene University, Nashville, TN
Cost: $475 members / $550 nonmembers
$40 discount if payment is received by January 31 (coming up next week!)
This unique two-day workshop improves how history museums operate and serve their community by teaching the fundamentals of project management to history professionals. Everyday work—exhibitions, programming, fundraising, special events, outreach, and collections care—benefit from the knowledge gained. Registration for the onsite workshop also includes access to an online course with related material.
From Children to Adults: Public Programming at History Organizations
Dates: March 14 – 15
Location: Homestead Museum, City of Industry, CA
Instructors: Tim Grove, National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC; Alexandra Continue reading →
Working in historic house museums often can often seem like an isolated job but not in the nation’s capital, where there is the Historic House Museum Consortium of Washington, DC, an active association of forty sites that mutually support and promote each other. Every two years they also host a half-day symposium that attracts about one hundred museum guides, docents, and interpreters. This year it was held on September 17 at the impressive George Washington Masonic Memorial in Alexandria, Virginia and I joined Dr. George McDaniel of Drayton Hall and Rebecca Martin of the National Archives to talk about various aspects of tours and the visitor experience:
George laid out that the visitor experience is much more than the tour and extends to the visitors’ planning, arrival, and departure. He emphasized the importance of little things, such as the directional signage, staff hospitality, and the condition of grounds and restrooms can have on visitors’ attitudes even before the tour starts
In “Before You Get Engaged: Advice for Lovers of History and Historic Sites,” a light-hearted perspective on visitor engagement, I discussed three issues to consider before getting engaged with visitors: don’t marry a stranger (know your audience), don’t share everything you know about a site on a tour (keep it mysterious), and let them know what you care about (keep your passion alive).