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.
This year’s Longwood Graduate Program Symposium will examine that issue with a top-notch series of nationally-recognized speakers on Friday, March 4, 2016 at Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania. They’ve laid out a challenging agenda for dealing with topics such as environmental action, civic responsibility, and the evolution of public gardens as community assets. Here’s their description:
Public gardens and cultural institutions are centers of community, science, and art. Today’s society is often overwhelmed with debates in all of these areas. In a world where misspoken words amplify in a matter of minutes, how can institutions tactfully open discussion on today’s difficult topics? When and where do they provide research, resources, and opportunities to interact with new or contested ideas?
Last week I was a plenary speaker at the Small Museums Association conference, where I talked about ways to rethink mission, vision, and strategy to have greater impact with the 200 people in attendance. Although the conference has been held annually in Ocean City, Maryland for nearly 30 years, it was my first experience and I was incredibly impressed.
Created in 1984 by Lesley van der Lee, executive director of the Montgomery County Historical Society, the conference provides a series of workshops and educational sessions over three days all targeted towards small museums, so the content emphasizes practical approaches for organizations with limited resources. Secondly, the conference is developed, organized, promoted, and managed entirely by volunteers. SMA doesn’t have a staff and it doesn’t seem to have membership in the usual sense–it’s primarily the annual conference. To serve on the board, you have to rise up through the ranks by first working on one of the conference committees (try that with your board!). Finally, meals and receptions are included in the registration fee and lodging is just $68 a night (February is the low season for hotels at the beach).
If you’re based in the Mid-Atlantic region, consider attending the conference next February. Because of the nature of small museums today and the low costs, the conference attracts a wide range of ages and the program committee develops a nice mix of sessions, exhibitors, and speakers (Linda Norris was the other plenary speaker) so you receive good value. For museum studies students, it’s a welcoming introduction to the issues, people, and organizations that represent the majority of museums in the United States.
On an aside, I heard from Heritage Preservation that Conservation Assessment Program grants won’t be announced until the federal budget is passed.
One of the perennial topics at professional conferences and when I meet colleagues are the challenges of working at an historic site, historic house museum, or history museum. They often center around ever-decreasing resources, board members who aren’t raising money, and the constant attention to financial and personnel management. Nothing new about that, except you’ll notice some additional topics depending on the person’s age.
Generation X (those born 1965 to 1980) frequently mentions that career advancement is stagnant. They’ve been blocked by the previous generation, who were the first major generation of trained museum professionals and have held senior positions at museums and historic sites for twenty years or more. These Baby Boomers will be retiring en masse soon to open up many opportunities, but Gen X may be caught Continue reading →
The American Association for State and Local History is offering three free webinars that will particularly interest historic sites: storytelling, interpretive planning, and engaging new audiences. Thanks to an IMLS 21st Century Museum Professionals grant, webinar participation is free and open to staff, volunteers, board members of history organizations and anyone else interested in learning more about visitor engagement. You can register for one, two, or all three!
Telling a Good Story
November 17, 2011
2-3:15 pm Eastern
A good guided tour is a good story, told well, says guest speaker Linda Norris. Join us to explore telling stories to create Continue reading →