The 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.
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.