Five years ago I posted an essay about embezzlement at history organizations while I was on AASLH Council and in the midst of recovering from the financial fraud perpetrated by its chief financial officer. History News recently published my updated version and included a sidebar by John Dichtl to describe the fraud at AASLH. When it occurred, AASLH wanted to be open and transparent about the situation and use it to help others, and yet, we often found ourselves silent and frustrated because it could have jeopardized the criminal investigation and lawsuits. Now that the CFO has been sentenced, AASLH can discuss it more openly (although some aspects are covered by confidentiality agreements). Please share this article with your colleagues to help them tighten their financial controls and reduce the chances of embezzlement at their organizations.
By the way, this issue of History News has lots of good articles for historic sites, including:
“The Many Voices of a Historic House” by Jane Mitchell Eliasof (about the effort reinterpret the Crane House in Montclair, New Jersey as an African American YWCA from 1920 to 1965)
“Like a Phoenix: Opportunities in the Aftermath of Disaster” by Samantha Engel (about the fire that occurred during a construction project at the Whaley Historic House Museum in Flint, Michigan)
“A Please Touch Historic House Tour” by Christine Ermenc, Christina Vida, and Scott Wands (a case study of an award-winning program at the Strong-Howard House in Windsor, Connecticut).
History News is one of the best benefits of membership in AASLH. Along with a quarterly copy in the mail, they recently added online access through JStor and send members a pdf version in advance via email. I’ve been a member for nearly 40 years and if you want to find consistently useful ideas for managing your historic site or house museum, there’s no better place than AASLH.
It’s mid-June and the spring 2013 issue of History News just arrived. If you’re wondering why it’s late, it’s my fault.
Katherine Kane and Bob Beatty invited me to write an article that would highlight this year’s annual meeting theme: “Turning Points: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Change.” I was honored—and challenged. Heroic stories of ordinary Americans changing history would be inspirational but too easy. So I focused on us —the ordinary people who work in history organizations—to explore how we can provoke extraordinary change in our communities and audiences. Nice idea, but it went through a dozen revisions that trampled deadlines in the process. I hope it’s worth the wait. I’ll be posting excerpts from it along with the entire article starting next week (have to give the AASLH members first opportunity!).
But if you don’t find my article satisfying, there are plenty of alternatives in this issue: Continue reading →
The Winter 2013 issue of History News, the quarterly magazine of the American Association for State and Local History, just hit my desk and focuses on the annual meeting held last fall in Salt Lake City. Featured are the speeches of out-going president Stephen Elliott, award-winner Robert Archibald, and keynote speaker Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, which include such memorable quotes about history and museums, such as:
Ulrich: “It is a truism that without sources there is no history, but we also need to understand those sources. Most people who had looked at Martha Ballard’s diary said it was filled with mundane detail of little interest, filled with trivia. The same has been said of Patty Sessions. What I want to emphasize is that there is, if not drama in these humdrum records, a powerful story. It is a history that pushes back against conventional sources.”
Elliott: “To appreciate who others are and where they’re coming from, it’s important to Continue reading →
The autumn 2012 issue of History News arrived in my mailbox a couple weeks ago and its four feature articles on interpretation that will be of interest to historic sites:
“From Quiet Havens to Modern Agoras: Libraries and Museums in an Era of Participatory Culture” by Nancy Rogers, Susanna Seidl-Fox, and Deborah Mack is a report, including the key overarching messages, from an international seminar held in Salzburg, Austria in October 2011.
“‘No More Wiggle-Tail Water’: Interpreting the History of Morgantown’s Water Supply at the West Virginia Botanic Garden” by Barbara Howe is a case study on integrating history in a place that focuses on horticulture and nature.
“When Histories Horrify: Supporting Visitors’ Responses through Responsible Interpretation” by Linda Norris, Danny Cohen, and Stacey Mann is a continuation of a session at the American Alliance of Museum’s annual meeting on the roles and responsibilities of museums in preserving and mediating horrific histories of crimes, violence, terrorism, and oppression, with references to the Kilmainham Gaol, Majdanek, Robben Island, and the Greensboro Woolworth.
“Entering the Mainstream: Interpreting GLBT History” by Ken Turino and Susan Ferentinos addresses four common challenges (institutional policies on discussing sex, lack of documentary evidence, applying modern labels to historical figures, pressure to avoid controversial topics) using examples from Pendarvis, Walt Whitman House, Beauport, Sarah Orne Jewett House, Alice Austen House, and Charles Gibson House.