Onsite Workshop: Reinventing the Historic House Museum

Reinventing the Historic House Museum

October 27, 2016
History Colorado: Denver, Colorado

Cost: $99 members/$175 nonmembers


This one-day symposium is designed to offer current thinking, practical information, and solutions to the challenges facing historic sites. The Historic House Museum in America is not dead nor is it dying. The field, however, needs to take time to reflect and renew as the world around our historic homes continues to change.

The symposium will include presentations, discussion, a boxed lunch, historic site visit, and a brainstorming workshop at a historic house museum to try out the new ideas proposed during the symposium.

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Presidential Medal Given to Students Opposed to Slavery Program at President Lincoln's Cottage


Students Opposing Slavery (SOS), a youth education program of President Lincoln’s Cottage, was awarded the Presidential Award of Extraordinary Efforts to Combat Trafficking in Persons on Monday, October 24th, 2016 at the meeting of the President’s Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons at the White House (see video coverage of the meeting). The award, presented by Secretary of State John Kerry, was accepted by three students, Daniel Becker, Courtney McCrimmon and Beatrice Greeson, representing all SOS participants. President Lincoln’s Cottage CEO, Erin Mast and Associate Director for Programs, Callie Hawkins were also present for the ceremony.

Founded by students in 2012, SOS is a network committed to empowering youth leaders and raising awareness about human trafficking among young people—one of the demographic groups most vulnerable to human trafficking. President Lincoln’s Cottage, located in Northwest Washington, D.C. adopted the program in 2013 and established the annual SOS International Summit, a signature, award-winning program. Over the past four years, President Lincoln’s Cottage has hosted 110 participants from across the United States as well as 16 other countries spanning five continents at the multi-day summit.

In his remarks, Secretary Kerry described the “student-led network committed to empowering young leaders’ awareness [of] how to stop trafficking” as “pioneering an innovative movement.” While only four years old, SOS boasts a growing network of youth abolitionists in active SOS chapters around the globe: American chapters stretch from Washington, D.C. to Washington state, and international chapters bridge Moldova to Myanmar. The program was recently honored with the prestigious EdCom award from the American Alliance of Museums and an award of merit from the American Association for State and Local History.

"This is a powerful recognition and platform for the work of SOS,” Dr. Jean Baderschneider, Board Member of President Lincoln’s Cottage, explained. “With the home of the Emancipation Proclamation as its base, SOS is creating a global network of young abolitionists fighting modern day slavery. These students are building a movement for freedom from the ground up, starting in their schools and communities. This honor will, no doubt, inspire them to go further.”

Ms. Mast described SOS as, “mission-critical to President Lincoln’s Cottage’s purpose of serving as a ‘Home for Brave Ideas.’” She continued, “Abraham Lincoln’s ideas and policies on emancipation were shaped here at the Cottage. Over 150 years later, his vision of a nation without slavery has not yet been realized. These students are working to end this injustice. This impact this recognition will have on their work cannot be overstated. It’s a great honor.”

The Presidential Award for Extraordinary Efforts to Combat Trafficking in Persons is given out once a year to outstanding individuals or organizations that display a steadfast commitment to fight against modern slavery.

Historic House Call: Lights, Cameras, Action, Oh My! Filming at Your Historic Site

Historic sites are continuously looking for new revenue sources. Commercial filming has the potential to earn additional income and give your site great exposure. However, there are a lot of factors to consider, and guidelines to set in place, before signing the contract. This historic house call intends to provide resources, share do's and don’ts, and answer questions associated with filming.

Listen in and chat with Jessica VanLanduyt, Historic House Manager at the Atlanta History Center and AASLH Historic House Committee member, as she shares her experience with filming at two historic houses, and provides tips and resources for dealing with all aspects of film shoots. Jessica has supervised two feature film shoots, reality and television shows, an art film, and news media filming. Swan House is President Snow’s Executive Mansion in three of four Hunger Games films, has been featured in The Amazing Race 19, Vampire Diaries, and numerous reality television shows. AASLH Historic House Committee member, Joshua Campbell Torrance will serve as moderator and provide additional insight from his experience with filming.

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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.

Food History Television Program "A Taste of History" Films at the Polk Home

AASLH Member Since 1979

On November 16, award-winning chef and culinary historian Walter Staib and his crew arrived at the James K. Polk Home in Columbia, Tennessee, to film an episode of the Emmy Award winning television show A Taste of History. This unique series explores American history through food and cooking, and connects viewers with the past through authentic historical recipes and locations.

Columbia Daily Herald
Columbia Daily Herald

At the invitation of Polk Association President Elect Beth Gilbert, the Taste of History film crew decided to examine early American cuisine in the home of the eleventh president. With the help of Susie Jackson, Polk's hearth demonstration cook, Chef Staib prepared a nineteenth-century meal in the home's kitchen and discussed the history of the home and the Polk family for the show. Director John Holtzapple and Curator Tom Price also contributed their expertise and historical context to the episode. Local blacksmith Anthony Martin of Red Tail Forge Works outfitted the kitchen with historically-accurate reproduction cooking implements.

The episode will air in season seven in 2016 on PBS, so stay tuned!

Meet a Member: Sewall-Belmont House & Museum

We are excited to launch a new biweekly blog series called “Meet a Member.” AASLH has 5,500 fascinating members working hard for the field of history, and we want to show them off. We will feature one organization and one individual each month.


Sewall-Belmont House & Museum

Member of AASLH since 2007


The Sewall-Belmont House & Museum on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. is a women’s history museum owned and interpreted by the historic National Woman’s Party, a leader in the twentieth century campaigns for suffrage and equal rights for women. The Museum, located in the historic headquarters of the National Woman’s Party, preserves the legacy of its members and their tireless efforts to win suffrage and advance equal rights. It is committed to preserving for the community a premier collection of banners, periodicals, photographs and more, and providing resources and support towards the ongoing effort to elevate women’s history.


Sewell-Belmont Historic House and Museum by Bruce Guthrie Photography
Sewall-Belmont House & Museum by Bruce Guthrie Photography

When and why was the museum established? 

The Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage founded the Woman’s Party in 1916, and later merged the two groups to form the National Woman’s Party (NWP) in 1917. The organization was formed to continue the Congressional Union’s trailblazing lobbying efforts to win woman suffrage via a federal amendment to the Constitution. Members of the National Woman’s Party braved severe weather and angry crowds to picket the White House, demanding democracy and liberty for American women.

After suffrage was won in 1920 through the nineteenth amendment, the National Woman’s Party turned their attention to the attainment of total legal equality for women. This included working for numerous pieces of equality legislation and lobbying extensively for an Equal Rights Amendment.

In 1997, the National Woman’s Party officially transitioned to a 501(c)3 educational organization, and today functions as a Museum dedicated to preserving the collection and educating the public about the incredible activism of American women.


Tell us about your staff and volunteers.

Currently, the Sewall-Belmont House & Museum has a core staff of four as well as a roster of part-time Museum Assistants. The Museum is led by a Board of Directors comprised of seventeen members who are each active leaders in their fields and in the community. Currently, a small number of volunteers provide research support to the Museum. The Museum also benefits from the talents of several dedicated consultants, a regular Collections Intern, and a maintenance staff person.


What does an AASLH membership mean for your museum? How has the museum benefited from AASLH membership?

AASLH membership provides valuable resources, professional development, and community/partnership-building opportunities for our staff and institution that help us to advance our mission of preserving and sharing untold women’s stories for the benefit of our local, national, and international communities.


Why is history important to your museum?

History and its enduring importance and relevance—in schools, in communities, and online—is at the core of what we do. In particular, we are committed to raising the profile and widening the reach of women’s history and women’s history sites in order to create a richer and more inclusive history that recognizes women’s extraordinary and continuing contributions.

We find that many visitors to our site are unfamiliar with the long and grueling campaign that American women sustained in order to win the right to vote. We strive to make this history more widely known and appreciated.


What is happening or upcoming at your institution?

We will wrap up 2015 with a Holiday Open House where we will share special collection items, and open the Museum to self-guided tours.

In 2016, we will mark the centennial of the organization’s founding, and are currently in the process of developing programs, exhibits, and social media initiatives to recognize the strategic and committed organizing that took place 100 years ago when the Woman’s Party officially formed.

Upcoming highlights include our Women’s History Month celebrations and new exhibit opening in March 2016; our continuing partnerships with individuals and organizations including private collector, Ann Lewis, and the Kettering Foundation; and our upcoming social media campaign to highlight key anniversaries and milestones of the National Woman’s Party.


Is there anything else you would like to share about your institution?

We are currently working towards a number of exciting projects that will increase the visibility of women’s history and augment public access to our collection.

In 2020, we will celebrate the centennial of the passage of the nineteenth amendment granting American women the right to vote. In collaboration with other women’s history institutions and scholars, we are working to develop networks, resources, and programs to reinvigorate this history and celebrate this anniversary on a national scale.

We are also continuing to explore and share our collection and archive through digitization, social media, and our blog. These projects help us to highlight unknown women’s stories and to share more of our immense collection of textiles, periodicals, scrapbooks, lobbying records and more.

We also hope to continue our efforts to bring more women’s history into the classroom by working with school teachers and educators to explore resources and methods for teaching and igniting interest in women’s history. We will continue to partner with organizations offering professional development to educators, and to further develop our own educational resources.

Sewall-Belmont Website | Sewall-Belmont Facebook | Sewall-Belmont Twitter

These answers by Page Harrington, Executive Director of the Museum, were edited for length and clarity. Want to be featured? Email Hannah Hethmon for more information. Click here to read about more featured members. Not a member? Click here to learn more about the benefits of an AASLH membership.