Thanks to the support of The Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington at Mount Vernon, the steering committee of the History Relevance Campaign held a retreat this past week to plan its next steps. Randi Korn facilitated the retreat to clarify our impact and distinctiveness as well as begin to draft outcomes for our work. It was a long day and a half but we made tremendous progress. Although we won’t be ready to share the results for another month or so (our draft ideas are still being discussed), we are making progress in several other areas:
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.
Last week the Virginia Association of Museums (VAM) held its annual conference at the Homestead Resort in Hot Springs, Virginia, and I was fortunate to be asked to speak at their historic house forum. It was my first time at their conference and I was so impressed by the quality of the sessions and the camaraderie of the participants. I wasn’t able to stop by every session, but I wanted to provide some highlights from a few I did attend.
The Nexus of Art and Science. Rebecca Kamen, professor of art at Northern Virginia Community College, talked about the ability of art to interpret historic scientific and medical collections found in museums and libraries. Rachel Carson’s The Sense of Wonder (1965) prompted her to work with such diverse institutions as the American Philosophical Society, Chemistry Museum, and the National Institutes of Health. A recent work, “Divining Nature: An Elemental Garden,” explores the orbital rotations of elements in the periodic table through sculptures. I’ve seen lots of examples of science being explained in new ways, but I’ve only encountered a few glimpses of it being done with history–anyone have any suggestions?
Using Social Media to Conduct Historical Research. Lynn Rainville, a professor at Sweet Briar College, discussed how she used Facebook, Tumblr, and other social media to study Continue reading →
On Monday, March 11, I’ll be a plenary speaker at the Virginia Association of Museums conference to discuss the trends, challenges, and opportunities facing historic house museums. It will be followed by a forum with historic site managers, tourism experts, preservationists, and community leaders on the needs and opportunities for historic sites in Virginia, such as a statewide association for historic house museums. It’s great timing for this topic: Governor McDonnell declared 2013 as the Year of the Virginia Historic Home in recognition of the bicentennial of the Executive Mansion and Virginia’s more than 100 historic homes, most of which are open to the public as museums and historic sites.
Whenever I’m asked to give a presentation or write an article, it’s an opportunity to do some research and reading to gains some new or deeper perspectives on the issue. For the VAM presentation, I’ve been looking closely at the Survey of Public Participation in the Arts by the National Endowment of the Arts. For decades, NEA has interviewed thousands of people across the United States to learn about their involvement in music, art, theater, festivals, reading, and dance. NEA conducted the last survey in 2008 and published a series of analytical reports in 2009-2011.
Looking back over 30 years, the survey confirms that attendance closely correlates with Continue reading →