American Association for State and Local History
The American Association for State and Local History is a national membership association dedicated to helping the history community thrive. For the better part of a century, AASLH has provided leadership and resources to its members who preserve and interpret state and local history to make the past more meaningful to all people.
AASLH is the professional association for history-doers.
What We Believe
Our mission and aspirations are the currents that run through
everything we do and pushes our work forward.
In 1904, the American Historical Association, itself a fledgling professional body, established the semi-autonomous Conference of State and Local Historical Societies to serve the leaders of those agencies. In 1939, a group of Conference members, chaired by Christopher C. Crittenden, director of the North Carolina Department of Archives and History, discussed and then proposed the creation of an independent entity. Its job would be to better coordinate the activities of historical societies and stimulate the writing and teaching of state and local history in North America.
On December 27, 1940, the Conference of State and Local History met and disbanded itself. Then the American Association for State and Local History was born. Its first charter stated that AASLH’s purpose was, simply, “the promotion of effort and activity in the fields of state, provincial, and local history in the United States and Canada.”
Now, more than a century after the first organization was created to serve and support the burgeoning field of state and local history, AASLH is providing services and assistance to over 5,500 institutional and individual members, as well as leadership for history and history organizations nationally. It is the only comprehensive national organization dedicated to state and local history.
AASLH promotes the relevance of history.
- Insists on history rather than heritage, on the provocative rather than the palliative
- Identifies history as the essential shaper of the present and as context for each individual
- Recognizes history as always complex, often contested
- Promotes the methods of history and historical thinking
AASLH acts to build diversity and inclusiveness.
- Finds the creativity, the resources and the will to change (internally) and advances diversity and inclusiveness in the history field
- Recognizes and defines the inequities in the history/cultural profession and addresses them by dedicating intellectual, financial, emotional and structural resources for building a diverse and inclusive field
- Seeks to develop the capacity of member organizations and for itself to build relationships based on mutual trust, balance of power, and recognition of expertise within diverse communities to democratize the historical narrative and sustain the relevance of history organizations to a rapidly changing demographic
- Collaborates with organizations that have successfully developed inclusive policies and programming
- Encourages telling the stories that have not been told
AASLH cultivates an experimental and creative spirit within AASLH and among constituents and partners.
- Leads, models, and is a source for imaginative problem solving, openness, and resourcefulness, while also looking to other fields for inspiration
- Supports a culture of creativity and informed risk-taking in its programs and publications
- Encourages constituents and partners to create laboratories for new methods of attracting and engaging audiences, members, and funders, understanding that failure is an inherent part of experimentation
- Cultivates and supports knowledge-sharing among constituents and partners, encouraging honest reporting and analysis of programmatic and managerial experiments, so that we can all learn from each other’s creative efforts, successes, and disappointments
- Models an adaptive and nimble, yet reflective, culture to address change and quickly take advantage of opportunities
AASLH strengthens organizational sustainability and transparency.
- Operates efficiently, ethically, legally, transparently, and with good stewardship toward the environment
- Promotes the capacity of other historical organizations to do the same
- By being transparent and consistent, membership and the larger community will see our motives and learn to rely on us
- Will be a role model for other non-profits in financial decisions, processes, and reporting
The Value of History Statement
This explanation of the essential importance of history was created by the History Relevance initiative and is endorsed by hundreds of organizations across the country. AASLH continues to play a lead role in the initiative and endorsed the statement in December 2014. For more information, visit the History Relevance website.
IDENTITY » History nurtures personal and collective identity in a diverse world. People discover their place in time through stories of their families, communities, and nation. These stories of freedom and equality, injustice and struggle, loss and achievement, and courage and triumph shape people’s personal values that guide them through life.
CRITICAL THINKING » History teaches vital skills. Historical thinking requires critical approaches to evidence and argument and develops contextual understanding and historical perspective, encouraging meaningful engagement with concepts like continuity, change, and causation, and the ability to interpret and communicate complex ideas clearly and coherently.
TO OUR COMMUNITIES
VIBRANT COMMUNITIES » History is the foundation for strong, vibrant communities. A place becomes a community when wrapped in human memory as told through family stories, tribal traditions, and civic commemorations as well as discussions about our roles and responsibilities to each other and the places we call home.
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT » History is a catalyst for economic growth. Communities with cultural heritage institutions and a strong sense of historical character attract talent, increase tourism revenues, enhance business development, and fortify local economies.
TO OUR FUTURE
ENGAGED CITIZENS » History helps people envision a better future. Democracy thrives when individuals convene to express opinions, listen to others, and take action. Weaving history into discussions about contemporary issues clarifies differing perspectives and misperceptions, reveals complexities, grounds competing views in evidence, and introduces new ideas; all can lead to greater understanding and viable community solutions.
LEADERSHIP » History inspires leaders. History provides today’s leaders with role models as they navigate through the complexities of modern life. The stories of persons from the past can offer direction to contemporary leaders and help clarify their values and ideals.
LEGACY » History, saved and preserved, is the foundation for future generations. Historical knowledge is crucial to protecting democracy. By preserving authentic and meaningful documents, artifacts, images, stories, and places, future generations have a foundation on which to build and know what it means to be a member of the civic community.
- The AASLH Statement of Standards and Ethics provides guidance for members and those in the field of history.
- Position papers provide guidance with implementation of the AASLH Statement of Standards and Ethics and other issues of importance.
- June 2015, Boston, MA
- September 2015, Louisville, KY
- February 2016, Washington, D.C.
- June 2016, Nashville, TN
- September 2016, Detroit, MI
- February 2017, Washington, DC
- June 2017, Boise, ID
- September 2018, Austin, TX
- February 2018, Washington, D.C.
- June 2018, Fishers, IN
- September 2018, Kansas City, MO
- February 2019, Washington, D.C
- June 2019, Sarasota, FL
- August 2019, Philadelphia, PA
What We Do
We provide resources for history lovers, professionals,
volunteers, and enthusiasts.
Standards and Excellence Program for History Organizations (StEPs): A self-paced assessment and benchmarking program designed for small-to mid-sized history organizations.
Visitors Count!: A visitor research program for medium to large museums.
Continuing Education: Numerous webinars, workshops, and online courses offered throughout the year on a wide range of subjects.
Leadership in History Awards: This annual program highlights and celebrates organizations and individuals doing “Good History.”
History Leadership Institute: Formerly “Developing History Leaders @SHA” and “Seminar for Historical Administration,” the History Leadership Institute is an intensive three-week annual seminar held by AASLH and partners to train effective leaders of history organizations.
History News Magazine: A quarterly magazine written by and for leading voices in the field. Subscription is a benefit of membership.
Technical Leaflets: Practical guides for the field on everything from deaccessioning to podcasting. Published quarterly and delivered with History News . Subscription is a benefit of membership.
Books: AASLH publishes a number of books for the field every year through Rowman and Littlefield Publishers.
Blog: The AASLH blog brings you updates from the field, news from AASLH, and opinions on current topics and events, written by AASLH staff and history do-ers in our community.
As the professional association for history practitioners and institutions throughout the country, AASLH takes on a major role providing leadership and advocacy for the history field. By building coalitions around key issues, developing and monitoring best practices for the field, and advocating on behalf of the history community with public officials at the national, state, and local levels, AASLH strives to advance the field and to better position history as a critical component of American life. AASLH Advocacy and Leadership Initiatives