Workshop: Collections Camp: Military Collections

Do you have military artifacts in your museum collection? This two-and-a-half-day workshop will focus on the care, conservation, and exhibition of military artifacts in museum collections. Spend time working with conservators and curators to learn how to be better stewards of your military history collection.


As a result of this workshop, participants should:

  • Have a general knowledge of the basic types of military artifacts common in American museum collections;
  • Have a general knowledge of the particular needs of military collections including proper identification, handling, and basic conservation;
  • Be familiar with some of the current issues and trends in the preservation of military artifact collections;
  • Be able to ensure the safety of visitors, staff, and artifacts when exhibiting or storing military items;
  • Explore the variety of issues related to exhibiting and storing military history collections;
  • Be familiar with simple conservation procedures that are safe to perform on their military history collections;
  • Be aware of when they should call a professional conservator for problems with their military history collections;
  • Recognize the importance of military collections in American museums.


FORMAT: On-site group workshop

LENGTH: Two and a half days

DATE: July 10-12, 2019

LOCATION: Washington State Historical Society, Tacoma, WA

MATERIALS: Workshop materials will be provided upon registration and in-person at the event.

COST: $300 AASLH members/$425 nonmembers

** Save $40 when you register by June 7, 2019 and use promo code EARLYBIRD19 at checkout! **


Who Should Attend This Workshop

This workshop is intended for museum staff and volunteers who work in any type of museum that holds collections of a military nature.

About the Faculty:

Gordon Blaker is the Director of the US Army Artillery Museum in Fort Sill, OK.

Myers Brown is Director of Archival Technical Services at the Tennessee State Library and Archives in Nashville, TN.

Workshop: Collections Management and Practices

Learn about your institution’s responsibility toward its collection, necessary policies and procedures, and the best practices of collection management. Through lively group discussions and hands-on activities, you will become familiar with current issues and trends to better understand how collections fit within the context of history organizations. The workshop will also explore the role of collections in exhibition and interpretation, the basic steps of collections management from acquisition to disposal, professional standards and ethics, conservation on a shoe-string budget, and the many resources available for collections preservation.


FORMAT: On-site group workshop

LENGTH: Two days (9:00 am - 5:00 pm)

DATE: June 3 - 4, 2019

LOCATION: The Charleston Museum, Charleston, SC

MATERIALS: Workshop materials will be provided upon registration and in-person at the event.

COST: $230 AASLH Members / $345 Nonmembers

** Save $40 when you register by May 3, 2019 and use promo code EARLYBIRD19 at checkout! **




Participants of this workshop may be eligible for an AASLH Workshop Scholarship. Each year AASLH offers scholarships to four individuals in the history field to attend an AASLH onsite workshop. Recipients of the New Professional Workshop Scholarship and Diversity Workshop Fellowship receive registration fee reimbursement for one AASLH workshop and one year Individual Membership in AASLH. Registration for 2019 Workshop scholarships is now open. The deadline to apply is March 1, 2019.



Who Should Attend:

This workshop is targeted to new professionals and dedicated volunteers with responsibility for collections.

About the Faculty:

Samantha Forsko is a Preservation Specialist at the Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts.

John E. Simmons runs Museologica (a museum consulting service); teaches museum studies for Kent State University, the Universidad Nacional de Colombia, and Museum Study LLC; and serves as Adjunct Curator of Collections at the Earth and Mineral Sciences Museum & Art Gallery at Penn State University. He is currently working on a second edition of Things Great and Small: Collections Management Policies (expected fall 2017).

People at a table look at a historic scrapbook with photos.

Improving Exhibits, One Step at a Time

People at a table look at a historic scrapbook with photos.

By Sara Francis, Glenwood Springs Historical Society & Frontier Museum, Glenwood Springs, CO

I am grateful to AASLH for awarding me the New Professionals scholarship to attend the Exhibit Makeovers workshop in Denver last month. New Professional – the term itself makes me itch. As a career librarian, I thought the transition to museums and archives would be more seamless, but there is a huge learning curve. As part-time archivist in a small-town historical society and historic house museum, I have been tasked with the work of archivist, research librarian, and registrar. My director and I share the responsibilities of curation and exhibit work, but we haven’t made significant changes to the exhibits in several years.

The class was a diverse mix of large and small museum staff, solid and shaky budgets, and varying skill level. Though I was excited to have the class at History Colorado and tour some of their exhibits, I started off feeling intimidated: We’re not History Colorado, we can’t do that…

I think it’s easy for small, underfunded organizations to get intimidated by the big sites, and to feel like we don't have the resources to do great work. But I left the workshop with a better sense of scaling projects for what we can do.

Workshop participants use education collection objects from History Colorado for an exhibit planning exercise.

Ultimately, what I appreciated most about the class was that each step in the exhibit design process served to answer a question. I can take questions of story and community back to my museum and start small. I can take a corner of a room or small display case and tell a new story. Our instructor, Ann Craig, was also helpful one-on-one. I was stumped on the lesson of forming a committee to design an exhibit. How do I scale that when I work part-time and in a small community? She helped me generate creative ideas to gather community input on a potential exhibit idea.

Back in Glenwood Springs, I am inspired to make exhibit changes in our museum. There are still things I need to learn about fabrication and physical design, but I understand the workflow of an exhibit now. I tend to get impatient when I look at all the work to be done, but after the workshop, I understand that meaningful change doesn't happen overnight. Now I have the tools to think strategically about how to make incremental changes to the interpretation in our museum and how to make it more meaningful for our visitors.

Learn about upcoming continuing education events on our calendar.

Read more about AASLH professional development scholarships here.

2019 Workshop Scholarships Now Available

We are pleased to offer four scholarships for individuals to attend one of our 2019 onsite workshops. Our onsite workshops brings participants from diverse institutions together at historic sites across the country for intensive sessions of hands-on learning and network-building centered around a particular topic. Whether it's developing exhibits, caring for collections, or managing projects, AASLH workshops create a supportive space for discussing common issues, trying experimental solutions, and connecting with others who share the same challenges in the field.

Diversity Workshop Fellowship
Recipients must be paid employees of history organizations and represent a racial or ethnic minority group in the U.S. Fellowship recipients must write one short essay on their workshop experience for publication on the AASLH blog, and are responsible for their own transportation, lodging, and meals. Two scholarships are awarded annually.

New Professional Workshop Scholarship
Recipients must be paid employees of history organizations and have worked in the field for three years or less, upon applying. Scholarship recipients must write one short essay on their workshop experience for publication on the AASLH blog, and are responsible for their own transportation, lodging, and meals. Two scholarships are awarded annually.

Eligible Workshops
Collections Camp: Textile Collections
April 1-2
Hartford, CT

Exhibit Makeovers
April 29-30
Denver, CO

Project Management
May 20-21
Moline, IL

Collections Management and Practices
June 2-4
Charleston, SC

Creating Programs for Teachers and Students
June 24-25
Austin, TX

Collections Camp: Military Collections
July 10-12
Tacoma, WA

Apply here

Please email Natalie Flammia, Continuing Education Manager, at if you have questions.

Education Crash Course at Locust Grove Workshop

Last month, I attended my first AASLH workshop, "Focusing on Visitors: Public Programming and Exhibits at History Institutions." My attendance was made possible by receiving AASLH’s diversity workshop scholarship. The two-day workshop was held at historic Locust Grove, in my city of Louisville, Kentucky.  The instructors, Alexandra Rasic of the Workman and Temple Family Homestead Museum and Tim Grove of the National Air and Space Museum, facilitated a crash course on education, public planning, and exhibits, with a focus on visitors at different kinds of history institutions. Participants discussed the issues and challenges we face in providing relevant and meaningful programs for a variety of audiences, and worked through concepts presented in the book The Museum Educator's Manual: Educators Share Successful Techniques.

I chose this workshop for professional and institutional development. I am the head archivist for the Ursuline Sisters of Louisville, an organization with a rich history. The sisters arrived in Louisville in 1858, and owned and staffed schools (preschool to college) until 1990 in Kentucky and other states. The Ursuline Sisters of Louisville’s archive is connected to the Sacred Heart Schools (pre-kindergarten to high school), and is located on the campus. The sisters sponsor Sacred Heart Schools at Ursuline Campus. I attended the workshop hoping to learn how to better advance the mission of the archive (interpreting the history of the Ursuline Sisters) and how to attract a more diverse population to our archive. Additionally, I hoped to learn how to strengthen our relationships with our current visitor populations (students, teachers, alumni, and researchers).

I learned a lot in two full days!  It was a very diverse group, which included people from various sized institutions and states, including Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, Tennessee, West Virginia, and Washington D.C.  For both days, we combined large group discussions with focused small group activities. The small group activities focused on real life situations that were important to my site, such as training volunteers, brainstorming interactive exhibits, and connecting to audiences and finding relevancy at our sites.

We covered various topics the first day, including defining museum education, discussing general topics in museum education, and planning at our sites. We defined museum education according to the three professional standards of accessibility, accountability, and advocacy.  The group began to dive into museum education and discuss general issues we thought were important to succeed, such as our expectations for visitors, relevancy, and active learning. Next, we discussed planning, including getting to know visitors, creating more opportunities for conversation, reaching different audiences, and understanding barriers to visitation. Lastly, we talked about the role of volunteers at our sites including management, recruitment, and training.  At the end of the day, we went on a tour of Locust Grove, hosted by two staff members who also participated in the workshop, so we could see how the principles of museum education were carried out at this eighteenth-century farm site and National Historic Landmark.

The second day focused on learning about the educational uses of interactives. We started by defining good interactives (those having one clear learning objective), then we discussed different museum apps and examined the importance of using social media at our sites. My favorite small group activity of the day was brainstorming interactive exhibitions for a particular audience. It was exciting to plan an exhibit with team members from such different sites, and also interesting to hear how other groups planned their exhibits with the goal of designing for diverse audiences. We also brainstormed about rethinking public tours, including ideas like taking down the ropes at historic sites and highlighting children during the tour.

I thoroughly enjoyed my experience at this workshop, and would highly recommend attending a workshop in the future if you can. The experience helped me to grow professionally, and is helping me to improve my site by being a better leader and utilizing the ideas and methods from the workshop to further the mission of my archive. I am honored to have attended the workshop, and to be a part of the AASLH community.

Out with the Old, In with the Slightly More Updated and Stimulating Exhibit Experience

The Hezekiah Alexander House on the Charlotte Museum of History's property dates to 1774.


By Sara Blanchett

Through the AASLH Diversity Workshop Fellowship, I was fortunate to attend the two-day Exhibit Makeovers workshop in Charlotte, North Carolina, at the Charlotte Museum of History in early March.  I chose to attend this workshop because I have worked more as an interpreter and educator, and now that my job focuses more on collections management and exhibit curation, I wanted to learn about the modern practices of the exhibit process in hopes that these skills can be translated to my current position and beyond.

I was excited to learn the tricks of the trade from Dr. Alice Parman and Ann Craig, who literally wrote the book on exhibit makeovers.  Everyone received a copy of their book, Exhibit Makeovers: A Do-It-Yourself Workbook for Small Museums, which will be a very helpful resource for creating exhibits in the future.

I liken our first day to warming up before a serious run.  We went around the room and introduced ourselves, what organizations we worked for, and the reasons why we attended the workshop. Each table consisted of 4-5 people, and that group was responsible for creating an exhibit based on artifacts that the Charlotte Museum of History had on a table in the room. Each table came up with an exhibit topic and ways to incorporate each artifact as a part of the exhibit.  These group exercises allowed us to see how important it is for curators to successfully convey the exhibit’s message through design, artifact selection, and physical placement.

The second day of the workshop took what we learned the day before (our warm-up) and implemented it by writing exhibit text and designing the physical space. We began to learn things that were extremely eye-opening, and made me look back to my own visitor experience going through museums. What you don’t realize as a visitor is that the minute you step into a museum, everything is designed with a purpose. From the tables and chairs to the hands-on activities and stimulation of the five senses, everything is done to draw you in to connect with the subject matter.

The Charlotte Museum of History graciously let us explore and critique their exhibit space. We shared with the staff our thoughts, suggestions, and recommendations for their space, and it’s a humbling experience to then go back to your own museum or historic site and find all the things that could be given a makeover as well. What I learned when going back to my own historic site, is that there are ways to make over exhibits or areas of the site without having to spend a lot of money or jump through political hoops.  Subtle changes can be made that can provide visitors with a fresh look and renewed interest if the work is put in by staff, support groups, and volunteers.

At the end of the workshop, I believe all of us wanted to go back to our museums and overhaul everything. I’m sure we’ll do as much as we can now that we are armed with the knowledge to pull our museums into the twenty-first century.


Check out our full calendar of upcoming workshops, webinars, and online courses here.

Relevancy, Fun, Engagement: Focusing on Visitors at the Harriet Beecher Stowe House

Locust Grove in Louisville, Kentucky

What do Locust Grove in Louisville, Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, and the Harriet Beecher Stowe House in Cincinnati have in common? One, they all had connections to cholera. But more importantly, they all possess a strong desire to take a fascinating historical tidbit and demonstrate its relevancy today.

Relevancy persisted as one of the major themes of the mid-March AASLH Workshop, Focusing on Visitors: Public Programming and Exhibits at History Institutions, which I was able to attend thanks to a New Professional scholarship. As I look back on my notes, I see “relevancy – fun – engagement.” Those ideas permeated our discussions, our thoughts, and our interactions. While the room was filled with an eager group of museum educators representing diverse historic and archival sites, the larger questions loomed. “So what?” and “Why should we care?”

These questions are especially pertinent to our museum today. The Harriet Beecher Stowe House, an Ohio History Connection site, is on the cusp of a major renovation and expansion project. Harriet learned about abolitionism and gained the experiences she needed to write the pivotal anti-slavery novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, while living in Cincinnati. Our museum now has the opportunity to create modern exhibits and innovative ways of storytelling which embody the spirit of social justice and writing to make a difference.

I have started to think about how to translate the relevancy issues permeating throughout the workshop to our historic site. Two big takeaways were evident. First, we have to be cognizant of different learning styles and design exhibit and presentation areas to actively engage visitors in the discovery process. Second, in the planning process, we need to invite many people with a variety of perspectives to assist in the construction of these visitor experiences. This second point is particularly difficult because we currently have very limited staff. However, we do need to consciously engage others in the process to make sure that those “why should we care” questions are asked. During the workshop, this teamwork approach was exemplified when my group brainstormed an exhibition about commercial aviation.

When considering my own house museum, I have started to generate ideas for active learner engagement. Two future “exhibit spaces” will cover the topics of Catharine Beecher and the Green Book.  Harriet’s oldest sister, Catharine – a resident of the Beecher House in the 1830s and 1840s – wrote books on domestic economy. Therefore, instead of simply discussing her ideas regarding household management, we need to demonstrate those ideas, let people try them out, compare those actions for cooking, cleaning, and household arrangement with standard practices of today. In this manner, visitors will be encouraged to make connections with their own lives and evaluations of nineteenth-century housekeeping. Interactive and immersive experiences, based on documentation from A Treatise on Domestic Economy, could allow participants to think critically and evaluate changes in housework between the nineteenth century and now.

Likewise, instead of just stating that the house was an African-American boarding house and tavern in the 1930s that was listed in the Negro Motorist Green Book, we need to provide a visceral experience of what it meant to worry about what accommodations were available to African Americans during this time. We can use an inquiry method to get people to come up with their own possible solutions to combat segregation in the past, then have them extend that problem-solving mentality to come up with ways to combat problems in society today. One learning component could include a simple exercise that asks participants to list a word they associate with “Green Book” before the program experience and then again after the encounter.

Baby Charley Stowe’s cholera-induced death in 1849 had concrete effects on Harriet. Her own grief fueled her empathy towards slave mothers who frequently lost their children through slave auctions. Maternal loss encompasses one of the plot lines of Uncle Tom’s Cabin and permeates the novel. We can make numerous connections between the dreaded nineteenth-century disease, common throughout the Ohio River Valley, and similar societal health and welfare issues present today. Placement of settlements, race and equity, technology and innovation, family and public health, loss of infrastructure, epidemics – the list is endless. Have you taken for granted that drink of water you had today? Are you really healthier for having washed your hands? Why should we care? Stay tuned.


Check out our full calendar of upcoming workshops, webinars, and online courses here.

Small but Mighty: Empowering You to Make Over Your Exhibit

By Crystal Wimer, Executive Director, Harrison County WV Historical Society

I want to begin this blog by thanking AASLH for awarding me a New Professional scholarship, so that I could attend their Exhibit Makeovers workshop in Charlotte, North Carolina in March. No matter the size of our institution, my fellow museum professionals and I have a mutual responsibility to help our museums and historical societies share our unique history and protect our cultural materials. Also, we all are aware that it is necessary to take advantage of training such as this to make our museums the best possible institutions despite our differing financial and capacity challenges.

If your small museum is in any way like mine, your exhibit’s “makeover” is long overdue. The reasons why are numerous. But the good news is that you are not alone, and help is out there.

AASLH’s Exhibit Makeovers workshop is a must if your museum is ready to shake things up. For two days at the Charlotte Museum of History, Alice Parman and Ann Craig, two of the authors of Exhibit Makeovers: A Do-It-Yourself Workbook for Small Museums, led us through a series of hands-on exercises that involved us forming teams and flexing our creative muscles to develop an exhibit theme, design, and text using artifacts from our host museum.

Artifacts from the Charlotte Museum of History’s collection that our teams used for a hypothetical exhibit’s story, design, and text.

Each team developed an entirely unique exhibit concept that had ambitious goals and designs because we had no hypothetical budget. We also were given a guided tour of the Hezekiah Alexander Homesite, evaluated the museum’s exhibits, and provided feedback to the staff. To cap off an already awesome workshop, we were given an opportunity to brainstorm with our temporary exhibit team for the makeover of our home institution.

Throughout the workshop, one theme kept coming up: exhibits should have “take-home messages.” So, in the spirit of sharing, here are some of my “take-home messages” from the workshop. First tip: the goal of your exhibit is for your visitors to fall in love with its story. The exhibit’s story and text should represent multiple perspectives as well as inspire curiosity in your visitors. Secondly, don’t be afraid to borrow exhibit ideas. If you see something done well at another museum, it is okay to adapt those concepts or design to fit your museum’s mission and capacity. I purposely visited Charlotte’s Levine Museum of the New South the day after the workshop to photograph several exhibit text and design ideas that I believed we could re-work for the future Clarksburg History Museum.

Ideally, we all want to incorporate technology in our exhibits. But using the appropriate amount of technology is key, and you don’t have to use the latest thing. Most of the time, the proven and reliable technology is the best route to take with your exhibits. Sometimes it is not about the complexity but simplicity, like changing out the artifacts. You can still have a transformation without the stress and expense of revamping the whole museum. Lastly, build yourself a good team of people to help you. Never do an exhibit makeover alone. Exhibit changes are a huge endeavor involving lots of talented people, so use that talent to the fullest.

Examples of exhibit body text from our writing exercise.

To say I was energized after this workshop is an understatement. It was refreshing to get out of my office to problem solve with other museum professionals who are experiencing the same challenges. I am excited, rather than anxious, about the new exhibits for the Clarksburg History Museum and the Stealey-Goff-Vance House. Furthermore, I cannot wait to share these exhibit makeover strategies with my fellow professionals in West Virginia.

Like other small museums in rural areas, the majority of us are volunteer-managed or maybe have one paid staff person, and there is not much of a budget for attending workshops or conferences out of state. That is why organizations such as the West Virginia Association of Museums (WVAM) is so vital to professionals and volunteers working in my state. As a recently elected board member-at-large for WVAM, it is my goal to expand our workshop opportunities, and I say with certainty that exhibit makeovers will join our workshop schedule in the coming year. When we share knowledge, our museums become stronger no matter their size.


Check out our full calendar of onsite workshops, webinars, and online courses here.

Does Your Historic House Need Reinventing?

AASLH is helping historic sites around the US look at how they engage with their communities and their sustainability and in a one-day symposium, Reinventing the Historic House Museum. After successful workshops in session in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, Atlanta, and Woodstock Vermont, last year, we kicked off this year with St. Louis in April. Another is slated for May 20, 2016 in New Orleans.


Photo by Max A. van Balgooy
Photo by Max A. van Balgooy

The Historic House Museum in America is not dead nor are most of them dying. The field, however, needs to take time to reflect and renew as the world around our historic sites continues to change. This one-day symposium is designed to offer practical information, including ways to analysis your historic sites competitiveness. Presenter Max van Balgooy, President, Engaging Places LLC, says “The real point of competition is not to beat your rivals but to find a position in the community that ensures you are distinctive, sustainable, and mission driven.” The workshop also offers solutions to the challenges facing historic sites, and shows plenty of examples of successful sites who have connected to their communities, become sustainable, and attracted visitors.


Symposium in St. Louis
Symposium in St. Louis

After looking at current reports to the field such as the Historic Site visits of the Humanities Indicators , Max van Balgooy discusses The Five Forces that are Affecting Your Historic House Museum, his analysis of the most important opportunities and threats facing historic sites in America. This presentation is based on the latest social and economic research and includes a discussion on strategies for responding to these external forces at your house museum. We follow this with a practical exercise in how you can take this tool back and use it strategically to evaluate programs and your site.

Photo by Ken Turino
Photo by Ken Turino

I provide participants with a comprehensive understanding of the rewards and challenges facing historic house museums today by giving examples of sites across the country who have implemented creative forms of interpretation and programming as well as ways to earn income all to become more sustainable.

In these symposiums we have plenty of time for discussion and visit a historic site visit. If you would like to join us at the Historic New Orleans Collections you can register here.

Apply for a 2015 AASLH Workshop Scholarship

Are you new to the field and looking to improve your skills, but can’t afford to attend an AASLH workshop? AASLH offers four scholarships for new professionals and minority professionals to take advantage of our top notch training programs. The deadline for applying for 2015 is January 15.

Click here to apply for scholarships.

AASLH workshops offer a great opportunity to build your career network as well as your professional toolkit.

Workshop blog

George Neptune, museum educator at the Abbe Museum in Maine wrote of his experience as an AASLH scholarship winner for the 2014 Annual Meeting. “Not only was I surrounded by people who, like me, have a passion for history and education, but the workshops and sessions I attended left me inspired and exhilarated.”

Recipients receive registration fee reimbursement for an AASLH onsite workshop and a one year individual membership in AASLH. Recipient is responsible for his/her own transportation, lodging, and meals.

Don’t miss the deadline and apply today!