On July 1, 2021, AASLH published Making History at 250: The Field Guide for the Semiquincentennial, a new resource with guiding themes and inspiring ideas to help you prepare for 2026. Since its publication, it has been sent to nearly 20,000 organizations across the country, many of whom are already using its themes to organize their Semiquincentennial programs.Whether you’re already planning or are still unsure if you’ll take part, this publication will help all of us fulfill the potential of this anniversary. To view a recording of our virtual launch event, click here.
As the United States prepares to commemorate its 250th (or “Semiquincentennial”) anniversary in 2026. AASLH is providing key leadership for the history community as we all prepare for this once-in-a-generation opportunity. We are monitoring national, regional, and state commemoration plans as they develop, serving as a clearinghouse of information for history organizations and practitioners at the local, state, and national levels. We are publishing resources to help guide commemoration planning, like webinars, blog posts, and other publications. We are in communication with other national initiatives, including the U.S. Semiquincentennial Commission, to help ensure that the values and goals of the history community are represented well in national commemoration efforts. We have organized a national coordinating committee, facilitating communication and collaboration among major organizations, institutions, and agencies. Finally, we are outlining major goals and themes for the anniversary that can help align the work of a diverse and dynamic field over the next several years.
Download Making History at 250: The Field Guide for the Semiquincentennial.
Download the 2022 Semiquincentennial Report.
View AASLH’s resources to support 250th planning.
In order to encourage 250th anniversary programming that presents histories that are inclusive of the full sweep of our nation’s history and relevant to modern-day concerns, AASLH has developed five historical themes to guide commemoration activities. Created with the help of dozens of leading scholars, museum professionals, and public historians, these themes can provide cohesiveness to a multi-faceted, grassroots commemoration and entry-points for organizations in all areas of the United States. We hope you’ll use these themes at your organization and within your community to encourage a deep engagement with the entirety of our past. By exploring common questions in different contexts, this anniversary can help us advance a more widely shared story about our nation’s history, one that acknowledges its many tensions and ambiguities and that informs our present and future.
In Spring 2022, the William G. Pomeroy Foundation funded a second printing of the Field Guide, enabling AASLH to send an additional 13,000 copies to local history organizations across the country.
Each theme, along with a short description, can be found below. For greater detail and guiding questions on how to engage them, please see Making History at 250: The Field Guide for the Semiquincentennial.
Through a wide range of actions, people in what is now the United States have continually challenged our country to live up to its highest ideals. Before, during, and after the Revolution, people have fought for their right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness and worked tirelessly to secure the blessings of liberty. This theme can help audiences consider how America’s founding documents have been used to advocate for change and how members of each of our communities have pressed for liberty and equality throughout American history.
Power of Place
Place offers a powerful lens through which we can view the past, moving beyond modern political boundaries to consider the full history of the space we now call the United States. Place can enable us to reexamine ideas about our natural and built environments and to reorient when and where we find our country’s history. This theme can help audiences consider what was happening in each of our communities during the Revolutionary Era, and how each of our “places” have changed over time.
We the People
Since the nation’s founding, definitions of “the people,” the boundaries of national belonging, and the nature of citizenship have changed. For much of our history, the United States has excluded people from full participation and representation in the life of the nation. Yet over time, the United States has also incorporated people of diverse backgrounds into our society. This theme can help audiences consider how people of different backgrounds experienced and influenced the American Revolution in different ways, and how definitions of “the people” have changed in our communities over time.
The leaders of the founding era did not have all the answers. Though their innovations of representative democracy and rights-based constitutionalism were transformative, they knew the nation was a revolutionary experiment. They expected future generations to improve on the republic they created. The 250th anniversary offers us an opportunity to reconsider the origins of government, democratic institutions, and our national civic life. This theme can help audiences consider how “revolutionary” the American Revolution was, and how our national, state, and other organizing charters have changed over time.
To renew public engagement with history, our field must invite our publics to participate in the process of doing history. This anniversary will challenge our field to explain how we interpret evidence and craft narratives about the past, engaging in open conversations about what history is, the many ways it is done, and why it matters. This theme can help audiences consider what history is, how it differs from “the past,” and how inclusion of multiple perspectives and sources can change our understanding of history.
AASLH has organized a coordinating committee to facilitate communication and coordination among national stakeholders as preparations for the Semiquincentennial proceed. It is chaired by Sara Cureton, executive director of the New Jersey Historical Commission. The committee includes representatives from federal agencies, national organizations, professional associations, and others from across the U.S. history community, including:
- America 250 Foundation
- American Alliance of Museums
- American Association for State and Local History
- American Battlefield Trust
- American Historical Association
- Association for the Study of African American Life and History
- Association of African American Museums
- Association of Tribal Archives, Libraries, and Museums
- Collective Journeys, LLC
- Council of State Archivists
- Creative Strategies 360°
- Federation of State Humanities Councils
- Indiana Historical Society
- Made By Us
- Massachusetts Historical Society
- Museum of the American Revolution
- National Coalition for History
- National Council for the Social Studies
- National Council on Public History
- National History Day
- National Humanities Alliance
- National Park Service
- National Park Service
- Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture
- Organization of American Historians
- Smithsonian Institution
- Smithsonian National Museum of American History
- Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello
- Washington State Historical Society
Across the country, more than 20 states have already established state commissions and other entities to lead preparations for the 250th anniversary and manage their relationship with national planning partners, with several more under active consideration. These state commissions will play an important role in determining the scope and direction of the commemoration, interfacing with the U.S. Semiquincentennial Commission and America250, recognizing local programming, and distributing funding. From state to state, these “state commissions” take different forms, but most opt for one of two general approaches: 1) directing an existing agency/organization to lead preparation and programming, or 2) create a new commission to plan and administer the state’s commemoration activities, with a combination of ex officio members and appointees.
This section contains the legislation or other documents related to the creation of these entities.
Last update: June 9, 2022
Existing Commissions (29 states)
- Alabama created the “Alabama USA Semiquincentennial Commission” in February 2021. The Commission places Alabama’s “American Village” campus as the center of the state’s commemoration effort. Commission members will be appointed by the governor and leaders of the state legislature, with the possibility of a separate advisory committee that includes representatives from the state’s history and tourism organizations and agencies.
- Arizona established the Arizona America250 Commission in March 2022. The commission will include representatives, appointed by the governor, of the historic preservation, tourism, veterans, parks and recreation, arts, education, and business communities, as well as a representative of an recognized Indian tribe.
- Colorado passed their joint “America 250 – Colorado 150” commission in May 2022, placing it within History Colorado, the statewide history organization. It also includes an advisory panel comprised of regional tourism representatives. The commission is authorized to create additional advisory subcommittees as necessary.
- Illinois passed the Illinois America 250 in May 2022. It includes representatives from across the Illinois history and cultural community, and recommends the Commission consider the themes from the AASLH Making History at 250 Field Guide.
- Indiana established the Indiana Semiquincentennial Commission in February 2022. It includes several members appointed by the governor and legislature, representatives from major historical re-enactment and veterans groups, as well as representatives nominated by the state historical society, humanities council, museum association, social studies council, and Native American Commission.
- Kansas created the Kansas Commission for the United States Semiquincentennial within its Department of Commerce in April 2022. It includes 20 members, including state officials, legislative appointees, and representatives from various cultural, historical, and educational organizations.
- Kentucky used executive action to create a state 250th commission in 2020.
- Louisiana created a state America 250 commission in June 2022. It includes representatives from across the state’s historical and cultural community.
- Maryland established a 250th anniversary commission through an executive order from Gov. Larry Hogan in January 2021. The Commission will include up to 30 people, including the state archivist, state historic preservation officer, and chairs of commissions on African American history and culture and Indian affairs, among others.
- Massachusetts established a 250th commission through legislation in July 2021. It consists of 41 members, including representatives from statewide history and education organizations.
- Michigan designated the Historical Society of Michigan and the Michigan Historical Center as their lead organizations for 250th planning through executive action in late 2020.
- Nebraska passed legislation in May 2021 to establish a Semiquincentennial Commission housed within the Nebraska State Historical Society, led by Director & CEO Trevor Jones. The commission will include 17 members, with appointments by the Governor to include a diverse set of members across Nebraska’s three congressional districts from Native American to Latin-American public history professionals. A Semiquincentennial Commission Fund was created to receive funds appropriated by the legislature and gifts, grants, or donations from federal, state, public, and private resources.
- New Hampshire created the “American Revolution Sestercentennial Commission” in April 2022. It includes several elected officials, along with representatives from the state historical society, university, commission on Native American affairs, along with several others.
- New Jersey passed legislation in 2018 requiring the existing New Jersey Historical Commission to establish a program for commemorating the Semiquincentennial and permitting them to enter into a public-private partnership with a nonprofit to plan and carry out that work. It also appropriates $500,000 annually through 2028 for that purpose.
- New York created the New York State 250th Commemoration Commission through legislation in December 2021. It includes the New York State historian as well as representatives with expertise in history, museums, education, and other fields.
- North Carolina created a 250th committee organized by the state’s Department of Natural and Cultural Resources’ Office of Archives and History. This committee was designated as entity responsible for 250th planning in the state by executive action in October 2019.
- North Dakota passed legislation in April 2021 creating their America 250 Commission housed within the North Dakota State Historical Society chaired by the historical society representative. The commission will be comprised of 13 members including a representative from each congressional district and collaboration with the State Society Daughters of the American Revolution. The commission will be funded through both public and private resources, with appropriations from general funds to jumpstart preparations.
- Ohio established its state 250th commission in June 2021, consisting of a combination of political appointees and representatives from relevant state agencies.
- Pennsylvania created the Pennsylvania Commission for the United States Semiquincentennial, or “America250PA,” in 2018. The commission consists of two members from each chamber of the legislature (one from each party), in addition to twenty-four private citizens, four each appointed by the minority and majority leader of each chamber and the Governor. It also includes several ex officio members, including the state’s Attorney General, Auditor General, and Treasurer; the secretaries of Education, Transportation, Conservation and Natural Resources; the chairs of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission and Pennsylvania Council on the Arts; and several others.
- Rhode Island formed a state commission through legislation in June 2021. “RI 250” includes 30 members, a mix of private citizens and government officials, including representatives from the state’s history and historic preservation communities.
- South Carolina in 2019 formed the South Carolina American Revolution Sestercentennial Commission. The Commission includes fifteen members, including the Governor, Chairman of the Archives and History Commission, Director of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism (all ex officio); and four members each appointed by the Senate, House of Representatives, and Governor. The legislation requires that at least one of the members appointed by the Senate, House, and Governor be “of African-American descent.” It further stipulates that “This proper observance of the Sestercentennial must include the role of persons of African-American descent in the Revolutionary War.”
- Tennessee created the Tennessee Commission for the United States Semiquincentennial in 2019. Attached to the Department of Tourist Development, the commission includes the heads of the states major historical and museum institutions (state historical society, state historical commission, state museum, state library and archives) and several others, including the commissioner of tourist development, representatives from the Tennessee chapters of the Sons and Daughters of the American Revolution, the executive director of the East Tennessee Historical Society, and two members from each chamber of the legislature.
- Texas has established the Texas America 250 Commission through legislation passed in May 2021 consisting of members from the Office of the Governor, Economic Development and Tourism, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission, the State Board of Education, the Bullock Texas State History Museum, the Texas State Library and Archives Commission, and other related historical organizations in addition to federal designees residing in Texas. Funding will be provided exclusively through donations and federal funds.
- Utah passed a resolution in 2020 recognizing the U.S. Semiquincentennial and requesting that the Governor organizes a state commission to observe the anniversary.
- Vermont created a 250th anniversary commission through an executive order from Gov. Phil Scott. The Vermont Commission will include up to 14 members, including the state historic preservation officer, state librarian, representative of the Vermont Historical Society, along with members of the public appointed by the governor, stipulated to include a representative from a Vermont history museum, a Revolutionary War historian, a Revolutionary War reenactment group, and a member of the Vermont Commission on Native American Affairs.
- Virginia has a state 250th commission that recognizes a state agency (Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation) and private organization (Virginia Museum of History and Culture) as the state’s lead entities for 250th planning. It includes representatives of both organizations, other private citizens, and several ex-officio members.
- Washington established its Semiquincentennial Committee in March 2022. Its membership includes members appointed by the governor and legislature, as well as members nominated by the Washington State Historical Society; regional history groups and historic preservation groups; state commissions on African American, Hispanic, Asian American, affairs; and LGBTQ and women’s commissions. The Washington State Historical Society will serve as the administrator of the committee.
- West Virginia created the West Virginia Semiquincentennial Commission in March 2021. West Virginia’s commission consists of 24 members that include 10 members appointed by the governor, and 14 ex-officio members consisting of legislators, state officials, a member of the Sons of the Revolution, a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, and the members of the West Virginia congressional delegation.
- Wisconsin created the state’s 250th commission in December 2021. It includes representatives from the state historical society, veterans museum, among other private citizens and government representatives.
Hawaii has passed legislation urging the governor to create a commission through executive action. The list above will be updated if/when that action takes place.
In 2018, as early preparations for the Semiquincentennial began to take shape, AASLH began working with a dedicated group of volunteers to generate several broad aspirations for what the 250th anniversary can accomplish for the field and for the public. In addition to working directly with a group of volunteers, we also held listening sessions at several national conferences—including AASLH, National Council on Public History, Association of African American Museums, and the Association of Tribal Archives, Libraries, and Museums—to help ensure these goals spoke to the needs of our field. These goals, outlined below, helped to guide early planning by the U.S. Semiquincentennial Commission and other stakeholders, and several of the ideas generated in this project were included in the Commission’s Inspiring the American Spirit report detailing their vision for the commemoration.
As 250th planning shifts into a new, more public-facing phase, AASH will continue to update our goals so they most appropriately speak to the needs of our field and the current moment.
250th Anniversary Resources
AASLH’s most recent resource to help those interested in preparing for the 250th anniversary is Making History at 250: The Field Guide for the Semiquincentennial. Featuring guiding historical themes and inspiring ideas, this resource can be useful for history organizations of all types and sizes and in all areas of the country. You can download your free copy of the guide using the form above.
Additionally, for the past several years, AASLH has produced a range of resources help historical organizations and history professionals prepare for the 250th anniversary. For the latest information—including reports on the status of planning, links to state-level 250th commissions, webinar recordings, blog posts, and more—visit our 250th Anniversary Resource page.
February 1, 2022 Recording: Making History at 250: A Special Address about the Semiquincentennial from AASLH President & CEO John Dichtl
Additional funding opportunities are beginning to emerge for projects and initiatives related to the Semiquincentennial. This page will be updated as new funding resources become available.