The Encyclopedia of Local History will issue its third edition in 2017.
Carol Kammen and Amy Wilson are preparing the third edition of the Encyclopedia of Local History for publication in early 2017 and invited me to update my entry on “Historic House Museums in the 21st Century” as well as contribute a couple new entries, including “Mission Statement.” I’ve long been familiar with mission statements (who isn’t nowadays) but drafting this encyclopedia entry gave me a chance to step back to look at its evolving history as well as a today’s context to see what’s happening. Here’s what I submitted (and remember, while books have been written about this topic, I have to condense it into a short summary):
Mission Statement. A mission statement describes the purpose of an organization and directs the planning, implementation, and evaluation of its programs and activities. These statements can vary as seen in these two historic sites that are adjacent to each other in Hartford, Connecticut:
Mark Twain House and Museum: to foster an appreciation of the legacy of Mark Twain as one of our nation’s defining cultural figures, and to demonstrate the continuing relevance of his work, life, and times.
Harriet Beecher Stowe Center: to preserve and interpret Stowe’s Hartford home and the Center’s historic collections, promote vibrant discussion of her life and work, and inspire commitment to social justice and positive change.
Had Twain or Stowe heard the term “mission statement” in their lifetimes, they probably would have regarded it as Continue reading →
Chowder Inc. recently produced this 4:45 video promoting the Mark Twin House and Museum in Connecticut. It’s a gentle tour of the house interspersed with comments by “visitors” wearing Twain’s signature mustache.
During the last couple months the Washington Post has been running a series of articles on financial fraud at non-profit organizations using the annual Form 990 report. According to their research, more than a thousand organizations have disclosed “a significant diversion” of assets (such as embezzlement) since 2008. “Significant” means it exceeds $250,000 or five percent of the organization’s assets or receipts, so minor occurrences of fraud are not revealed. Charitable organizations (such as museums and historic sites) were by far the most common victims, representing about 65 percent of the total. Educational institutions were the second most common victims, but fell far behind at about 15 percent.
In the last few years, I’ve encountered a surprising number of cases of embezzlement–the internal theft of assets–at many of the non-profit organizations where I’ve worked or been on the board. The experience not only undermines the trust among colleagues and friends, but also threatens the survival of the organization, many of whom are often skirting the edge of bankruptcy and now have a smaller bank account and a diminished reputation. Given how frequently I’ve encountered it, I did a quick search about embezzlement at museums and historic sites in the last five years and discovered nearly a dozen heart-wrenching stories:
On November 21, 2011, in Bridgeport, Conn., Donna Gregor, of East Hartford, was sentenced to 42 months in prison and three years of supervised release, for embezzling more than $1 million from the Mark Twain House & Museum. On August 5, 2011, Gregor waived her right to indictment and pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud and one count of filing a false tax return. According to court documents and statements made in court, between 2002 and 2010, Gregor employed two different schemes to defraud the Mark Twain House. In the first scheme, Gregor submitted false information via the Internet to the Mark Twain House’s payroll management vendor in order to receive, as a direct deposit in her personal bank account, an additional amount of pay to which she was not entitled. Gregor then adjusted Continue reading →