Educators and interpreters are increasingly expected to engage the community to build support, attract audiences, and confront contemporary issues. So how do you get started? What does an effective community engagement project look like? How do you maintain it?
On Thursday, September 7, 11:00 am – 12:15 pm at the AASLH Annual Meeting in Austin, I’ll be moderating a session that will bring together three projects—Haymarket Project in Boston, James Madison’s Montpelier in Virginia, and El Pueblo History Museum in Colorado—to discover how they successfully engaged three different audiences in the local community—immigrants, African American descendants, and Latina teenage girls. Joining me will be Ken Turino (Historic New England), Christian Cotz (James Madison’s Montpelier), and Dawn DiPrince (History Colorado). Based on their experiences and with contributions from the audience, we will Continue reading →
“I cannot live without books,” said Thomas Jefferson in this letter on display at the New-York Historical Society.
Did you know that one of the largest collection of manuscripts related to Thomas Jefferson are in Massachusetts, not Virginia? And for a few months, 36 of these documents and artifacts are on display in Thomas Jefferson: The Private Man at the New-York Historical Society. It’s not much but it’s amazing. I’ve read about them over the years and sometimes seen images, but there’s nothing like seeing Jefferson’s actual garden book, his last letter to John Adams, his sketch of a slave cabin, manuscript leafs from his Notes on the State of Virginia, early drawings of Monticello, a copy of the Declaration of Independence in Jefferson’s hand, and the oft-quoted letter that states, “I cannot live without books.” Cool!
“Thomas Jefferson: The Private Man” at the New-York Historical Society.
So how did they get to Massachusetts? President Jefferson’s granddaughter, Ellen Wayles Randolph, married Joseph Coolidge of Boston in 1825. Their son purchased Jefferson’s documents from the Randolph family in 1898 and donated them to the Massachusetts Historical Society, where he was a member. The collection continued to grow with gifts from subsequent generations and are now digitized and available online thanks to a grant from Save America’s Treasures (a superb funding program that was eliminated by President Obama in 2010, alas).
But the ties between Massachusetts and Virginia continue. Their granddaughter, Dr. Catherine Coolidge Lastavica, loved the family history so much that in 1968 she built the Brick House on the family estate in Manchester, Massachusetts, modeling it on the George Wythe House in Williamsburg, Virginia—that’s where Jefferson studied law under Wythe’s tutelage. Historic New England recently accepted the Brick House as a study property and conference facility in partnership with the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Center. Wow, what a small world.
Thanks for several generous donors, Historic New England is providing scholarships for its outstanding Program in New England Studies (PINES). The scholarships are available to mid-career museum professionals and graduate students in the fields of architecture, decorative arts, material culture, preservation or public history. Candidates from diverse cultural backgrounds are encouraged to apply.
The Program in New England Studies is an intensive week-long exploration of New England decorative arts and architecture that runs from Monday, June 19 to Saturday, June 24, 2017. Participants travel throughout New England to hear lectures and presentations by some of the country’s leading experts in regional history, architecture, preservation, and decorative arts. There are workshops, visits to Historic New England properties, other museums, and private homes and collections.
If you’ve always wanted to study the architecture or decorative arts of New England, don’t let money stop you. This year, PINES offers two generous scholarships: Continue reading →
With the new year on the horizon, I’ve been evaluating my projects from the last year to determine how I can help historic places better connect to their audiences. For the past two years, I’ve used Twitter to share news about history, historic sites, historic preservation, and history museums. Each morning I scan the New York Times and other newspapers for stories, aiming to tweet about three stories daily to my @maxvanbalgooy account so that my followers can quickly learn what’s happening. The result? I have created 4,180 tweets and attracted nearly 500 Followers since I joined Twitter in June 2009. This blog, on the other hand, has 1000 subscribers, so it seems my time is better spent on my blog than Twitter. It could be very different for you, but how do we decide if Twitter is effectively engaging your audiences?
A useful place to start is with the metrics that Twitter provides: Followers and Likes. Likes are a low level of engagement because they only require that readers support a specific tweet or find it especially useful or enjoyable—but that’s it. Followers are a mid-level form of engagement because it means that a reader wants to engage with you and read everything that you tweet (“read” is probably overstating things; “scan” is more appropriate for Twitter). Retweets engage at a high level because your Followers share your tweet to their Followers (did you follow that? it’s about the impact of the multiplier effect)—unfortunately, there’s no easy way to measure Retweets (but boy, we would have more impact if we promoted Retweeting instead of Liking).
To better understand how effectively Twitter can engage audiences, I collected statistics for a variety of major history organizations to measure Tweets, Followers, and Likes as of today (December 8, 2016) to develop the following chart: Continue reading →
Historic New England presents its annual Program in New England Studies(PINES), an intensive week-long exploration of New England from Monday, June 15 to Saturday, June 20, 2015. PINES includes lectures by noted curators and architectural historians, workshops, behind-the-scenes tours, and special access to historic house museums and collections. The program offers a broad approach to teaching the history of New England culture through artifacts and architecture in a way that no other museum or historic site in the Northeast can match. It’s like the Attingham Summer School as a week in New England.
Examine New England history and material culture from the seventeenth century through the Colonial Revival with some of the country’s leading experts in regional architecture and decorative arts. Curators lecture on furniture, textiles, ceramics, and art, with information on history, craftsmanship, and changing methods of production. Architectural historians explore architecture starting with the seventeenth-century Massachusetts Bay style through the Federal and Georgian eras, to Gothic Revival and the Colonial Revival.
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!
Program in New England Studies at Hamilton House, 2013.
Historic New England presents its Program in New England Studies, an intensive week-long exploration of New England from Monday, June 16 to Saturday, June 21, 2014. Now entering its second decade, the Program in New England Studies features lectures by noted curators and architectural historians, workshops, behind-the-scenes tours, and special access to historic house museums and collections. Last year I had a chance to talk with some of the participants and they said they were attracted by the chance to see the houses and collections, but found that they really loved the expert lectures.
This year, Historic New England launches a diversity scholarship to support a mid-career museum professional or graduate student. Applicants must represent a racial or ethnic minority group in the U.S. The scholarship covers the full registration fee of Continue reading →
This 38:00 freshly produced documentary follows the transformation of an historic clothing factory in Lebanon, NH into an art center. Directed by Ken Turino of Historic New England and produced in collaboration with AVA Gallery and Community Access Television of Upper Valley, it features interviews, oral histories, and historic images.
Historic New England presents the tenth annual Program in New England Studies (PINES), an intensive learning experience with lectures by curators and architectural historians, workshops, and behind-the-scenes tours of Historic New England’s properties and collections, as well as of other museums and private homes in the region. This year’s program begins on June 17 with Cary Carson on the 17th century in the Boardman House and ends on June 22 with Richard Nylander and Nancy Carlisle on the Colonial Revival at Beauport.
PINES examines New England history and material culture from the seventeenth century through the Colonial Revival, and delves into building design and technology, and the wide-ranging lifestyles illustrated by the historic sites on the itinerary. Highlights include private tours of Historic New England properties in Greater Boston; Essex County, Massachusetts; Portsmouth, New Hampshire; South Berwick, Maine; and Woodstock, Connecticut; workshops in furniture, ceramics, and textiles at Historic New England’s facility in Haverhill, Massachusetts; and a private tour of Continue reading →