Tim Grove facilitating a lively conversation about historical thinking at the AASLH Annual Meeting in 2015.
The annual meeting of the American Association for State and Local History always offers a good mix of educational sessions, social events, and opportunities to visit museums and historic sites around the country. This year, Sam Wineburg, a Stanford University professor and author of Historical Thinking and Other Unnatural Acts (2001), prompted an ongoing discussion with his plenary address on the first day of the annual meeting. Through his research on students and scholars, he showed that the analysis of historical documents is a sophisticated skill that isn’t apparent to most people (and I can confidently say this also applies to objects, buildings, and landscapes). He went on to argue that teaching people to think historically isn’t about teaching history but making them better citizens. John Dichtl, president of AASLH, discusses this further on the AASLH blog.
These ideas were pursued the next day at a packed session facilitated by Tim Grove of the National Air and Space Museum. Using excerpts from Wineburg’s book, Tim encouraged a lively dialogue that allowed me to report out 15 Tweets, including:
Historical thinking: multiple perspectives; analysis of sources; context; and based on evidence.
Are we underestimating visitors if we don’t give them oppty to debate ideas & issues at museums/historic sites?
Debates always happen, but history gets flattened over time. Build multiple perspectives, uncertainty, & questions into exhibits.
Challenge for marketing & communications staff about handling provocative topics in social media era.
Are museums & sites imposing their ideology on visitors? Have we become arrogant? Do we need to learn about visitor interests?
which resulted in 31 favorites and 20 retweets. Just to be clear, these ideas didn’t come from me but from the persons gathered in the room. I could have tweeted out many more but I couldn’t listen and type them out quickly at the same time.
If you weren’t able to attend, there’s next year in Detroit. In the meantime, enjoy these snaps from the recent meeting in Louisville (and thanks to everyone at the Kentucky Historical Society for being such gracious hosts).
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)
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.
Discussing the History Relevance Campaign at a packed session at AASLH in St. Paul. Photo by Lee Wright.
At the American Association for State and Local History annual meeting in St. Paul, the History Relevance Campaign presented an update on their work to a packed audience. During the session, we presented the Impact Project, a year-long process for identifying and studying historic sites and history museums that are making history relevant in their community. The goals of the Impact Project are to:
Increase the use of history as a way to understand and address critical community issues.
Help board members and staff make an impact in their communities by integrating best practices into their strategic and interpretive plans
Encourage AASLH and other professional associations to include standards on community relevance and impact
Encourage academic programs in history, public history, and museum studies to include community relevance and impact in their curriculum
Encourage elected officials, funders, and communities to provide more support for history organizations that are making an impact
Provide every Governor with at least one example of history organizations that are making an impact in their state
We Need Your Help
We are looking for history museums, historic sites, and similar organizations that are Continue reading →
St. Paul, Minnesota along the banks of the Mississippi River.
This week I’m attending the annual meeting of the American Association for State and Local History in St. Paul, Minnesota, where I’ll be part of a couple educational sessions, debuting my new book on the interpretation of African American history and culture, and concluding my term on the Council. The Minnesota Historical Society has worked hard to encourage participation and radio raconteur Garrison Keillor is giving the keynote address, so this is expected to be among the largest annual meetings in AASLH’s history. The AASLH annual meeting has lots going on including more than 70 sessions and workshops, evening gatherings at the Minnesota History Center and Mill City Museum, a dozen tours of local museums and historic sites, affinity group luncheons, poster and pop-up sessions, an exhibit hall of vendors and companies, and lots of receptions. It’s an ideal place to keep up with what’s happening in the field as well as catch up with my colleagues and friends. If you won’t be able to make it in person, consider attending online (deadline to register is 5 pm on Wednesday, September 17).
Politics and Prose, the famous independent bookstore in Washington DC, hosted a booksigning for Tim Grove, chief of museum learning at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, that attracted seventy-five listeners this past Saturday. It’s not often that museum folks share a stage that recently included Patrick Buchanan, Timothy Geithner, Lynn Sherr, and Michelle Obama. His talk will be aired on C-Span.
A self-professed history geek, Tim shares his love for history in A Grizzly in the Mail and Other Adventures in American History (University of Nebraska Press, 2014), a collection of stories from his years working at Colonial Williamsburg, Missouri Historical Society, National Portrait Gallery, and the National Museum of American History. Tim wants to improve the public image of history by demonstrating the fun of history and “help history haters change their minds.” To do this requires provoking a deeper thinking about historical programs and activities to better link past and present As he states in his book,
The staff at [Colonial] Williamsburg and other history sites wants visitors to “experience” history. What does this mean? One can visit Yosemite National Park and experience the beauty and grandeur of nature. One can go whitewater rafting and experience the rush of the river and the cold wetness of the water as it splashes the face. But experiencing history? Do you experience history when you walk the hallowed ground of a battlefield or visit a historical house? Experience in verb form implies action. What action is actually taking place?
Tim demonstrates that “action” through a wide assortment of stories, from conquering a high wheel bicycle and questioning the significance of Eli Whitney’s cotton gin to navigating the legacy of Lewis and Clark, and yes, unpacking a grizzly bear Continue reading →
We’ll be discussing the Heart of the Matter report and the state of history at the AASLH annual meeting this week, first at today’s CEO Forum chaired by Kent Whitworth of the Kentucky Historical Society, which will include presentations by Conny Graft and Pharabe Kolb and discussions facilitated by me. Tomorrow, Tim Grove of the Smithsonian Institution moderates a general session with Conny Graft, Pharabe Kolb, and Kim Fortney. I’ll be sharing the results of those meetings in the weeks that follow.
Project Management for History Professionals
Dates: March 7 – 8
Location: History Colorado, Denver, CO
Instructor: Dr. Steven Hoskins, Trevecca Nazarene University, Nashville, TN
Cost: $475 members / $550 nonmembers
$40 discount if payment is received by January 31 (coming up next week!)
This unique two-day workshop improves how history museums operate and serve their community by teaching the fundamentals of project management to history professionals. Everyday work—exhibitions, programming, fundraising, special events, outreach, and collections care—benefit from the knowledge gained. Registration for the onsite workshop also includes access to an online course with related material.
From Children to Adults: Public Programming at History Organizations
Dates: March 14 – 15
Location: Homestead Museum, City of Industry, CA
Instructors: Tim Grove, National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC; Alexandra Continue reading →
Local history lovers, rejoice–the second edition of the Encyclopedia of Local History has just been published by AltaMira Press. Under revision for the past few years by editors Carol Kammen and Amy H. Wilson, it’s a significant update from the 2000 edition and comes in at 655 pages as a result of 200 contributors and a gazillion entries (okay, I’m exaggerating a bit). Encyclopedias are for quick reference, not reading from A to Z , however, if you’re a local history buff, you would enjoy dipping in at random and learning about a topic (copyright or culinary history), organization (Cambridge Group or History News Network), or source (maps or inventories) from some of the best minds in the field including Stuart Blumin, John Bodnar, Simon Bronner, Michael Kammen, David Kyvig, Brown Morton, Mary Beth Norton, Sandra Oliver, Philip Scarpino, and Carol Shull. This encyclopedia also includes entries on every state of the union and Canada (and some other English-speaking nations), providing a Continue reading →
Some of you may know Tim Grove as the Chief of Education at the National Air and Space Museum or as the History Bytes columnist in History News, but you may not know he started a weekly blog about historic places in April. Through a wide variety of sites, he posts ideas and opinions about interpretation, visitor experience, and historical significance. It’s part travelogue, part museum studies. Most recently he’s discussed the C & O Canal near DC, the Forbidden Drive in Philadelphia, Appomattox Court House, and Fort Mantanzas in Florida. If you’re enthusiastic about historic sites, check out his blog at HistoryPlaces.WordPress.com.