History Shark Tank: New for #AASLH2019!

(Yes, we know these are dolphins. Keep reading and it will all make sense.)

By Tim Grove

Have you seen ABC’s popular show Shark Tank, where rich shark-like potential investors listen to business pitches from entrepreneurs and then grill them about the product, the market, and the company’s history? The sharks determine if the business is a good investment opportunity and sometimes provide funds. The products range from serious to wacky, and the sharks sometimes fight each other for strong potential products.

Taking a cue from this entrepreneurial show and supporting AASLH’s Creative and Experimental Aspiration, AASLH’s 2019 Annual Meeting will feature a session called Shark Tank: Pitching New Ideas for Sites and Museums on Friday, August 30, from 4-5:15 pm. Public history professionals will pitch their most exciting ideas to a panel of seasoned history professionals with expertise galore, although less attitude and less money than the ABC television series.

This group is more like a pod of smart and friendly dolphins, the shark’s ocean mammal cousin, who have a passion for encouraging risk-taking and new ideas and will be offering a small pot of pledged money that will go to the strongest idea at the end of the session.  

They will ask questions and challenge the presenter to think in different ways about the idea. There may be some disagreement along the way; who knows? We haven’t had history sharks before.

We’re seeking presenters to make a short pitch (5 minutes) to the sharks. Thomas Jefferson once said, “I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past.” Have you allowed your audacious dreams for the future to be constrained by the daily grind? Are you putting off something you always wanted to do? Polish up your audacious, innovative, best dream, and share it for feedback, support, and workshopping. Submit your ideas here.

The goal of this session is to normalize risk-taking and model analysis and discussion of big ideas. We promise a fun, supportive environment; great feedback; and a small investment for one presenter.

Like the TV sharks, the history sharks will not have heard the ideas or seen the presenter list before the session. Jackie Barton, Birch Wood Planning/ARCUS Leadership Program, is the moderator, and the sharks are:

  • Bill Adair, the Pew Center for Arts and Heritage – specialty fundraising and thinking outside the box
  • Melanie Adams, new director of the Smithsonian’s Anacostia Community Museum – specialty community engagement
  • Tim Grove, Grove History Consulting (formerly of the Smithsonian) – specialties education, exhibitions, and relevance
  • Tobi Voigt, the Michigan History Center – specialties education, marketing, and community engagement

So, join in the fun. Pitch an idea and come see what happens.

Pitch the sharks here.

Donate to the pool here.


Learn more about #AASLH2019 and check out more Creative and Experimental sessions!

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The American Association for State and Local History (AASLH) is a national association that provides leadership and support for its members who preserve and interpret state and local history in order to make the past more meaningful to all people.

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