Tag Archives: Ken Turino

Engaging Programs = Engaging Communities?

Engaging_ProgramsEducators 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

So Many Possibilities for Historic Sites at AASLH Annual Meeting

AASLH Louisville 2015The American Association for State and Local History (AASLH) just delivered the preliminary program for its annual meeting, which will be held in Louisville, Kentucky from September 16-19, 2015.  Obviously, the conference is centered around history but there are several sessions, workshops, and field trips that focus on historic sites and house museums, including:

  • Heritage Tourism in the 21st Century with James Stevens of ConsultEcon Inc., who recently studied the heritage tourism sector in Philadelphia
  • Restoration and Reconstruction: Fulfilling the Possibilities of a 21st Century Museum, a discussion about the reinterpretation of the Woodrow Wilson Family Home in South Carolina (also reviewed in the recent issue of the Public Historian and the Journal of American History; not to be confused with the Woodrow Wilson Boyhood Home in Georgia)
  • Old House, New Diverse Stories, a brainstorming session led by Ken Turino of Historic New England
  • An Untapped Resource: How to Locate and Use Legal Cases at Historic Sites, a session to learn how to mine legal case files to find compelling narratives for exhibits and programs
  • Interpreting Religion at Historic Sites, a discussion on leveraging “historical truth when interpreting religion” led by the historian of the Navigators.
  • An afternoon tour of the exuberant Second Empire Culbertson Mansion and Farmington, the Federal-style home of Lucy and John Speed.
  • There may be bourbon at the breakfast for historic house museums when Dennis Walsh from Buffalo Trace Distillery discusses the preservation of this historic sites (and it’s pretty cool website, too)
  • An evening at Locust Grove, a National Historic Landmark, with costumed interpreters, live music, and a three-course buffet.
Sam Winburg

Sam Wineburg

With 65 sessions, there is much, much more happening and you’ll be torn about what to do.  There’s certainly enough to appeal to directors, curators, historians, educators, and preservationists.  I’m particularly eager to hear Sam Wineburg, professor of education and history at Stanford University and author of Historical Thinking and Other Unnatural Acts: Charting the Future of Teaching the Past (see “A History of Flawed Teaching“), and the follow-up discussion led by Tim Grove, chief of museum learning at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.  Wineburg is currently developing new forms of assessment to measure historical understanding and undertaking a longitudinal study on the development of historical consciousness among adolescents in three communities.  But I don’t want to neglect the three other outstanding plenary speakers: Wendell Berry, James Klotter, Renee Shaw, and Carol Kammen.

I rarely ever skip the AASLH annual meeting and I plan to be there this year.  Registration is $250 if you jump in before July 24 and there’s the alternative online conference featuring six sessions.

 

A Process for Rethinking the Historic House Museum

Mission-Sustainability Matrix Next week I’ll be at the Margaret Mitchell House in Atlanta, Georgia leading a workshop with Ken Turino of Historic New England on the rethinking the historic house museum.  We’re not the only ones who are working on this topic, indeed, Michelle Zupan at Hickory Hill  assembled a five-page bibliography of books, articles, and dissertations for the workshop, so long that I’m hesitant to distribute it because it could be discouraging (“what? I have to know all this to rethink my historic house?”).

And if we want to go beyond historic house museums, the list would be even longer. Businesses have been “rethinking” for decades in order to grow in size or increase their profits.  They have the resources to study this topic rigorously and there is a lot we can borrow for our field (and much that doesn’t apply and can Continue reading

Reinventing the House Museum in Portsmouth

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A sold-out crowd of history enthusiasts packed the auditorium at the Strawbery Banke Museum in Portsmouth, New Hampshire on April 21 to discuss ways to reinvent the house museum.  Sponsored by the American Association for State and Local History and the New England Museum Association, the one-day workshop explored ways that historic house museums can more successfully engage their community and improve their financial sustainability.

The morning featured several presentations and the afternoon was a hands-on workshop at a nearby historic house.  I opened the day with a process for developing a plan and then focused on Michael Porter’s Five Forces, a diagnostic tool that’s superior to SWOT for assessing a house museum’s strategic position.   Ken Turino of Historic New England provided a smorgasbord of ideas from house museums around the county to rethink existing conceptions.  Larry Yerdon, CEO of the Strawbery Banke Museum, discussed ways they are introducing new programs and activities to be both more engaging and financially sustainable.

After lunch, we gathered at the Governor John Langdon House, a property of Historic New England, where Joanne Flaherty and Linda Marshall led us on a quick inspection of the property and described its operations and recent efforts to use it for temporary exhibits.  Then the audience became temporary consultants using the Five Forces, analyzing existing and potential competition for exhibits, interests from visitors, and collaborating with exhibit providers.  The consensus seemed to be that an exhibit program could have a competitive advantage if it focused on the collections of Historic New England and may be better suited for rooms other than the parlor or dining room, which are architecturally significant.

This workshop will travel next to Atlanta, Georgia on June 12, where we’ll be using the Margaret Mitchell House as the case study.  To register and for more information, visit AASLH.org.

 

 

How to Get a Behind-the-Scenes Look at Historic New England

Program in New England StudiesHistoric 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.

Expert presenters include: Continue reading

Want to Sharpen Your Historic Site Management Skills?

If you manage an historic site or house museum, there are several ways to sharpen your skills in the next few months.

Historic House Museum workshop at the Haas-Lilienthal House in San Francisco, 2014.

Historic House Museum workshop at the Haas-Lilienthal House in San Francisco, 2014.

For nearly fifteen years, the American Association for State and Local History has offered a two-day workshop on historic house museum issues and operations and next month it will be in Charleston, South Carolina on February 26-27, 2015.  Held in partnership with the Historic Charleston Foundation (one of the oldest historic preservation organizations in the US) and co-taught by me and Dr. George McDaniel of Drayton Hall, we’ll examine a wide range of topics from the unique perspective of house museums and historic sites, including leadership, interpretation, disaster preparedness, membership, and audience, through interactive presentations, group discussions, and site-specific exercises.  You’ll leave with a better sense of how your organization can better fulfill its mission and be more financially sustainable.  Registration is $345, $270 for AASLH members, plus there’s a $40 discount if you register by January 22.  Be sure to add a day to explore the historic sites in Charleston–it’s one of the best places to see a wide variety of visitor experiences in one place.

New this year is “Re-inventing the Historic House Museum,” a one-day workshop offering current thinking, practical information, and solutions to the challenges facing historic sites. The historic house museum in America is not dead nor are most of them dying. The field, however, needs to reflect and renew as the world around our historic sites continues to change.  This workshop was inspired by a sold-out symposium presented by the Historic House Museum Consortium of Washington, DC at Gunston Hall in March 2014, and now has been taken nationally to various regions by the American Association for State and Local History.  Ken Turino of Historic New England and I will be giving the core presentations and the others will vary to take advantage of the workshop location.  We’ll be at Strawbery Banke in New Hampshire on April 21, 2015 and the Margaret Mitchell House in Georgia on June 12, 2015.  Registration is $170; $95 for members of AASLH and NEMA (for April 21).

Program in New England Studies Offering Diversity Scholarships

Program in New England Studies at Hamilton House, 2013.

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

Recap of Historic House Museum Symposium at Gunston Hall

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On Saturday, the Historic House Museum Consortium of Washington DC hosted an all-day symposium on “how are historic house museums adapting to the future?” at Gunston Hall in Virginia.  The sold-out symposium featured three speakers, a tour of Gunston Hall, and lots of time to chat with colleagues during breaks and over lunch.   The cost?  A mere $15, truly a bargain.  The symposium not only attracted professionals from Virginia, Maryland, and DC, but as far away as Connecticut!

I opened the symposium by discussing Michael Porter’s “Five Forces” as a way of identifying opportunities and threats to help historic sites prepare and adapt.  If you’re not familiar with the Five Forces, it’s a framework for identifying those issues that have the biggest impact on your operations.  This is a much more useful alternative to SWOT, which may be a good outline for summarizing an analysis, but it’s not a helpful way to analyze a situation.  If you’d like to get an introduction to the Five Forces and how it applies to historic sites, take look at my presentation (warning: it’s an 18 Mb pdf).  Even better was the discussion that followed, which explored a wide range of ideas from the growing role of photography to changing demographics to the interpretation of African American history.

Jana Shafogoj at Morven Park discussed how the current emphasis on STEM has allowed their site to Continue reading

Are Historic House Museums Adapting for the Future?

Gunston Hall, Lorton, Virginia.

Gunston Hall, Lorton, Virginia.

In March, the Historic House Museum Consortium of Washington, DC will be examining how historic house museums are adapting to the future at its annual Historic House Museum Symposium.  Presented alongside the 2014 Virginia Association of Museums conference, the symposium will feature three speakers, a boxed lunch, and a special tour of Gunston Hall on Saturday, March 15, 2014 from 9 am to 3 pm at George Mason’s Gunston Hall in Lorton, Virginia.  Registration is limited and is $15 per person.

Speakers include Continue reading

New England’s History and Architecture Explored in June

Program in New England StudiesHistoric 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