On June 11-12, George McDaniel and I led the AASLH workshop, “Historic House Museum Issues and Operations” at the Homestead Museum in California. This was our 18th workshop and we open every one by asking the participants to share the biggest challenge facing their museum, which we revisit at the end to ensure we adequately addressed their issue.
In the latest workshop, a dozen participants provided this list:
- Irresponsible stewardship by the city despite local community support.
- Lost connection to the local community and parent organization.
- Relationship with the parent organization. Aging volunteer base.
- Shifting priorities, finding overarching vision with changing leadership and multiple stakeholders.
- Managing growth and change; coordinating mission and vision of the site. Relevance to people 20-35 years.
- Prioritizing a lot of maintenance and repair issues. Should the site become a house museum?
- Prioritizing issues and engaging volunteers to help (one person trying to do it all).
- Connecting to interests and needs of the local communities; being a service to the community.
- Increase recognition of the site’s significance and value to the community and open site to the public as a museum; ensure the preservation of site if sold to a developer (e.g., easements).
- How to grow volunteer program (older volunteers moving out; younger volunteers have different interests and needs; engaging new or different cultures in the local community)
- How to drive traffic into the museum.
- Outreach to new audiences (currently “oldtimers”; want to add underprivileged communities who don’t know the history of the area; make relevant to all residents, have ownership).
- Overcoming preconceptions of historic house museum and negative perceptions of history.
- Connecting to the needs and interests to the community through the collection (e.g., hot issues); get people excited about history and empowering them to care for their own collections (tangible pieces of history).
I’ve anonymized and reorganized the list so the participants aren’t identified and on further reflection, I’ve come to a few conclusions: Continue reading