White text against a darkened facade of the bay window of a historic house.

Workshop: Reinventing the Historic House Museum

Workshop Description

The one-day workshop, Reinventing the Historic House Museum includes an analysis of the most important opportunities and threats facing historic sites in America based on the latest social and economic research, with a discussion on how they may relate to the participants’ house museum. We share a series of field-tested tools and techniques drawn from such wide-ranging sources as non-profit management, business strategy, and software development. Drawing from innovative organizations, we profile historic sites that are using new models to engage with their communities to become more relevant, are adopting creative forms of interpretation and programming, and earning income to become more financially sustainable. A key component of the workshop is a facilitated brainstorming session to reinvent an event or program. Working with an actual house museum not only puts theory into practice but demonstrates the value of multiple perspectives for analysis.

Why should I attend?

Historic house museums face a wide range of challenges in today’s continually changing environment. Traditional methods no longer seem to be as successful but new approaches seem uncertain or risky.  By the end of the workshop, participants will be able to analyze their operations, programs, and events to make better informed decisions, learn how to use a variety of tools and techniques that can be applied to a wide range of activities at museums big and small, identify ways to make their house museum more distinctive and relevant, and feel more confident to try new and different approaches.

Indeed, the workshops have been incredibly helpful to the host sites, who serve as the case study for the brainstorming session:

“Reinventing the Historic House Museum sparked many great ideas on how we can use our historic homes in dynamic, innovative ways. Since attending the workshop, we have implemented many changes, including a new self-guided tour with interactive elements that have increased our attendance and engaged the public in brand new ways.”

Sarah Bader-King, Director of Public Programming & Events,
Wornall/Majors House Museums, Kansas City, Missouri

Reinventing the Historic House Museum helped us visualize how the Margaret Mitchell House could connect with the community around us. While the site was very popular with tourists, we were hidden in plain sight from our own community. Our goal was to discuss the challenges we faced and to pursue practical solutions. The workshop allowed us to collaborate with area professionals and hear from colleagues facing similar challenges. We left the workshop with good ideas and a commitment to reimagine our site. As a result of that work we have increased visibility in the community, created programming relevant to the neighborhood, and are partnering with area organizations to become a community resource and connector.”

Jessica Van Landuyt, Director of 20th Century Houses,
Atlanta History Center, Atlanta, Georgia

Topics include:

  • Recognizing the Myriad Challenges Facing House Museums Today
  • Conducting a Holistic Assessment of Your House Museum’s Public Programs
  • Analyzing the Five Forces that Affect Public Programs and Events
  • House Museums That Are Successfully Reinventing Themselves
  • Discovering Your House Museum’s Unique Value and Distinctiveness

Details

FORMAT: In-person group workshop

LENGTH: One day (8:30 am - 5:00 pm)

DATE: Friday, October 12, 2018

LOCATION: Glessner House Museum, 1800 South Prairie Avenue, Chicago, IL, 60616

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

LUNCH: Lunch provided

COST: $30 per person

This workshop is made available at a reduced cost thanks to the gracious generosity of our funders and sponsors. 

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Our support

Thank you to our gracious funders and sponsors for supporting this workshop. 

Funders

Partners

Who Should Attend This Workshop

Boardmembers, staff, and volunteers who manage house museums and historic sites or who develop public programs and events. This workshop is designed for organizations large and small who are seeking to increase the impact and sustainability of their house museum, as well as for paid or volunteer staff who want to expand their professional skills.

Register Here

Instructors

Max A. van Balgooy is president of Engaging Places LLC, a design and strategy firm that connects people and historic places.  He has worked with a wide range of historic sites on interpretive planning and business strategy, including James Madison’s Montpelier and Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage. He is an assistant professor in the Museum Studies Program at George Washington University, directs the History Leadership Institute (formerly known as the Seminar for Historical Administration), serves on the editorial board of Curator, the Museum Journal, and regularly leads workshops at regional and national museum conferences. He is a frequent contributor to professional journals and books, and with Ken Turino of Historic New England, he is preparing an anthology on reinventing the historic house museum for publication by Rowman and Littlefield in early 2019. These experiences provide a rich source of ideas for EngagingPlaces.net, where he blogs regularly about the opportunities and challenges facing historic sites and house museums.

Kenneth Turino is Manger of Community Engagement and Exhibitions at Historic New England, the oldest, largest, and most comprehensive regional heritage organization in the country. Ken oversees community engagement projects throughout the six New England states and is responsible for the exhibitions program. Prior to coming to Historic New England, Ken was Executive Director of the Lynn Museum, an active local history museum in Lynn, Massachusetts. He has worked at a number of historic houses including the Paul Revere House in Boston and is a Trustee of the House of Seven Gables in Salem. He frequently consults on interpretive planning and community engagement projects at historic sites. These include Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage, Nashville, Tennessee,  James Madison’s Montpellier, Orange, Virginia, Connecticut Landmarks, on the Palmer Warner House in East Haddam, Conneticut and with Donna Harris the Charnley-Norwood House in Ocean Springs, Mississippi. Ken is on the faculty of Tufts University in the Museum Studies Department where he teaches a course, Revitalizing Historic House Museums.


Workshop: Reinventing the Historic House Museum

Reinventing the Historic House Museum is a 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 by historic house game-changers and local historic site administrators, 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.

Details:
Date: October 5, 2017
Location: Alexander Majors House & Barn, Kansas City, Missouri
Cost: $30 per person

Register

Full Symposium Description:

Reinventing the Historic House Museum is a 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 by historic house game-changers and local historic site administrators, 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.

Why should I attend?

Reinventing the Historic House Museum goes beyond basic questions about Historic Houses to delve deeper into core issues regarding relevance, funding, and preparing for the future.

Here are some of issues and challenges that participants from the previous workshop have discussed:

-How to use the house’s history to tell the larger story of the city and county, as well as the house.
-Moving town museum into a historic house, so how to interpret both the house/family and town collections? How to renovate the house for museum purposes.
-What are the best ways to preserve the collections when we have no environmental controls (tarnishing of silver, textiles, rugs, photographs)?
-How to raise funds to maintain buildings at a state-owned site.
-Finding new ways to interpret the house to keep it engaging and interesting.
-How to change community perceptions of the site/museum?
-Attracting funding, developing maintenance plans and building attendance at a very rural location.
-Balancing long-term thinking versus everyday demands.
-Balancing preservation/conservation with being more available/access/education.
-Need to take a look at the bigger picture of operations and management.
-How to educate the board about the challenges and needs of museums.
-How do I better prepare students for careers in museums (particularly historic sites)?

Register

Who should attend?

Participants in this class have ranged from emerging professionals and volunteers, to academic historians and professionals nearing the end of their careers. All have seen the value in the class and have been able to implement change at their organizations. In short, anyone who is interested in developing the skills to make their historic house interpretation and management better for their audiences and their stakeholders should attend this workshop.

 

Why Onsite?

Onsite workshops allow participants to not only observe the great work other institutions are doing, but also gives them a chance to network with other museum professionals. Of those who choose to attend an AASLH workshop, many make career-long connections with people who are as passionate about the field as they are.

Topics include:

What You Ought to Know about Opportunities and Threats
Led by Max van Balgooy, Principal, Engaging Places, LLC
Historic house museums face numerous challenges but figuring out which ones are serious or benign, urgent or important, temporary or long-term, isn’t easy. Max van Balgooy will present his analysis of the most important Opportunities and Threats facing historic sites in America based on the latest social and economic research, with a discussion on how they may relate to your house museum.

Reinventing the Historic House Museum
Led by Ken Turino, Manager of Community Engagement and Exhibitions, Historic New England

The purpose of this session is to provide participants with a comprehensive understanding of the rewards and challenges facing historic house museums today. Historic sites are looking for creative and sustainable ways to make themselves relevant to their communities. What is very exciting now is that many sites have risen to this challenge using different models and ways of interpreting to look beyond traditional models. The presentation will look at specific ways and examples of how historic houses have engaged with their communities, implemented creative forms of interpretation and programming as well as ways to earn income all to become more sustainable.

Each event will also include the perspective of a local historic site administrator as well as an onsite experience session at a historic house museum.

Register

About the Faculty:

3333346Max van Balgooy is a national leader in historical interpretation and community engagement, with extensive experience in developing solutions in collaboration with volunteers, staff, trustees, residents, scholars, design professionals, business leaders, and elected officials.  A recognized researcher, author, and speaker on the trends, challenges, and opportunities facing museums, historic sites, and cultural organizations, Max uses his skills as a facilitator and consultant for developing plans for business strategy, historical interpretation, public programming, marketing, and online media. He also operates Engaging Places, LLC, a design and strategy firm that “connects people and historic places”

ken-turino

Kenneth Turino is Manger of Community Engagement and Exhibitions at Historic New England, the oldest, largest, and most comprehensive regional heritage organization in the country. Ken oversees community engagement projects throughout the six New England states and is responsible for the traveling exhibitions program at Historic New England. Prior to coming to Historic New England, Ken was Executive Director of the Lynn Museum, an active local history museum in Lynn, Massachusetts. He has worked at a number of historic houses including the Paul Revere House in Boston and is a Trustee of the House of Seven Gables in Salem. He frequently consults on interpretive planning and community engagement projects at historic sites. These include the Nicholas House Museum, Boston, The Hermann-Grima and Gallier Historic Houses, New Orleans, and most recently with Donna Harris on the future of the Charnley-Norwood House in Ocean Springs, Mississippi.

Register

 

Visit our Calendar of Events to learn about more AASLH Continuing Education Opportunities.

 

This workshop is generously underwritten by Freedom's Frontier National Heritage Area. Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area is dedicated to building awareness of the struggles for freedom in western Missouri and eastern Kansas. Freedom’s Frontier empowers partners and residents to preserve and share our diverse and interwoven stories by providing training and cooperative opportunities such as this workshop.

For more information on Freedom’s Frontier visit www.freedomsfrontier.org


Historic House Call: Developing Discussion Based Interpretation

Conversation. Chat. Dialogue. Discussion. These are words that visitors may not often associate with the guided tour. However, historic house museums have the unique opportunity to invite visitors in, offer them a place to sit, and give them a voice. This webinar illustrates how conversation promotes individual and group learning and helps to build connections to historic sites. It will provide strategies for encouraging conversation and discussion on tours, including asking the right questions, listening, and breaking down barriers to comfort and connection. Attendees will also receive resources and training materials for interpreters.

Register

Details:

Date: August 23, 2017

Time: 3pm EST/2pm Central/1pm Mountain/12pm Pacific/10am Hawaii/4pm Atlantic

Cost: Free for AASLH members/$40 nonmembers

 

Register

About the Instructor:

Jessica VanLanduyt is Deputy Mission Officer at the Atlanta History Center. She is responsible for interpretation of the center’s four historic house museums and works collaboratively to implement mission related institutional objectives. Jessica holds a Master’s Degree in Heritage Preservation with a concentration in Public History from Georgia State University in Atlanta.

About the Facilitator:

Ron M. Potvin is Assistant Director & Curator of the John Nicholas Brown Center for Public Humanities & Cultural Heritage at Brown University. His responsibilities include preservation and interpretation of the National Historic Landmark Nightingale-Brown House (1792) and its collections and overseeing gallery spaces and exhibitions. He also teaches courses on historic house museums, museum collections, and material culture. He can be contacted at ronald_potvin@brown.edu.

 

 

 

 

Historic House Calls are online discussions featuring hot topics for historic house museums. Led by experts in the field, and organized by members of AASLH Historic House Affinity Group Committee, they encourage attendees to join in the discussion

Register

StEPs Spotlight: Grassmere Historic Farm Finding its Way Within a Larger Organization

Exciting changes are happening at the 800+ organizations taking part in the StEPs program (Standards and Excellence Program for History Organizations).

Our "StEPs Spotlight" series highlights accomplishments by the participating organizations.

Join us each month to read how StEPs is helping these organizations take a leap forward by improving policies and practices, opening lines of communication, and setting goals for a bright future. 

 

Grassmere Historic Farm at the Nashville Zoo

Grassmere Historic Farm at the Nashville Zoo features a house built in 1810 by Col. Michael C. Dunn. It is one of the oldest residences in Davidson County that is open to the public. Originally built in the Federal style, Dunn’s grandson renovated the home after the Civil War changing it to Italianate.

In 1964, Dunn’s descendents, Margaret and Elise Croft who were still living in the home, entered into an agreement with the Children's Museum of Nashville (now the Adventure Science Center). The agreement stated the museum would assist with upkeep of the home while the descendents lived the remainder of their lives there. After their deaths, the museum would own the property and buildings. The agreement also stipulated that the property would be maintained as a nature study center with the mission to educate about animals and the environment.

The Nashville Zoo began managing the site in 1996. By 1998 the home had been restored and opened to visitors. In 1999, the farm opened. You can read more about the history of the site here. 

Grassmere has one full-time staff member, six seasonal staff who conduct tours, and six or so dedicated volunteers who assist with everything from spring cleaning, Christmas decorating, crowd control, and greeting visitors.

What would you say is the most significant improvement within your organization as a result of taking part in StEPs?

We are a zoo first and a historic site second. StEPs has helped zoo administrative staff who are not directly associated with Grassmere Historic Farm understand the importance of taking care of what we have, and has led to a deeper understanding of museum standards and why they matter. The zoo's board is not normally focused on the historic site―we're operating a zoo! But StEPs has helped create more awareness within the board. 

Can you offer specific examples of other positive changes within your organization as a result of StEPs?

Several big things have come from our involvement with StEPs. We did not have a collections policy, nor did we have the associated documents (accession/deaccession forms, loan agreements, deed of gift, etc.) so I spent a good deal of time creating a policy that would work within our organization. Once that was done and approved by the zoo's education curator and chief operating officer, we could check off several Basic performance indicator boxes in the StEPs workbook.

We were still missing some vital components, however, namely having each item in our collection accessioned and numbered. Through StEPs I was able to show the education curator and COO the importance of this process which then paved the way for me to purchase the Nomenclature 4.0 book and basic supplies to begin the numbering and cataloging process. In turn, our education director used StEPs to convince the zoo board of the importance of this process which allowed him to get budget approval for the purchase of PastPerfect software. 

ca. 1900

Tell us how your organization is making its way through the program.

Grassmere was invited to participate in StEPS as part of an AASLH grant project funded by the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee. We joined eight other small history organizations that met quarterly to work together on answering the self-assessment questions in the StEPs workbook. The group focused on one section at a time, beginning with Stewardship of Collections.

Over the next two years we also covered the Audience, Interpretation, and Stewardship of Historic Structures and Landscapes sections as well. Being a part of the group helped us, along with the other seven organizations, to stay accountable, work through common issues and struggles, be creative in problem solving. It was a great way for all of us to meet quarterly and hear about each other’s progress in StEPs and overall. It helped give us all a stronger sense of community. Although the grant has officially ended the group still meets.

Has your organization been able to use StEPs as leverage in fundraising or in other ways?

Not in fundraising, but in a budget increase for Grassmere that allowed us to purchase PastPerfect software and other collections-care items (shelving, acid-free boxes)

What advice do you have for organizations just starting in StEPs?

Do it! It may seem daunting and you may think you'll never make it through the book, but start! You will likely be able to check off more boxes than you first think is possible. The workbook is wonderful at helping you identify what is important and what you need to focus on. Find small museums in your area that are interested in working on StEPs too. Go through the sections together. It's great camaraderie! You don't feel so alone, and tackling problems and projects together is very rewarding.

Since StEPs is a self-paced program, there is no pressure to GET IT DONE. Work on a little bit at a time. Find what's blatantly missing and tackle it first. Getting one task done will lead you to the next one. Just do it! 

Finally, which section of the workbook has been your favorite?

I have really enjoyed the Collections section. I like to have things in order and that's definitely a “things in order” section! It was a lot of work creating a collections policy, but it was VERY rewarding. It is going to take us a while to check all of the remaining Basic boxes (namely due to the big job of accessioning our collection,) but it is a work in progress. Every time I get another item accessioned, marked, and in the system it's one more done and one more step closer to the big check mark.

Our thanks to Tori Mason, Grassmere Historic Site Manager, for providing information for this blog post.

Grassmere website | Grassmere Facebook

 

 


Relevancy on the Prairie: Lawrence Welk’s Childhood Home

The Welk Homestead State Historic Site, located near Strasburg, ND. Photo by Diane Rogness .

The Welk Homestead State Historic Site, a farm located near Strasburg in south central North Dakota, features a historic house, built in 1899 of sun-dried mud brick known locally as batsa. This is not a house of the wealthy, with beautiful decorative arts, but rather the comfortably and simply furnished house of an immigrant family— Germans from Russia—making a life on the northern Great Plains. The site’s main claim to fame is famous band leader and television personality Lawrence Welk, who was born in the house and lived on the farm until 1924, when he turned twenty-one.

The main floor of this one-and-a-half story house is less than six hundred square feet. Eight children and their parents lived here between 1899 and the 1920s. An outside stairway provides access to the upper level, used as a bedroom by the four boys and also as storage—perhaps for curing hams and sausages. There was no electricity or indoor plumbing; the outhouse or outdoor privy is just a short walk from the house. Other buildings include a summer kitchen, blacksmith shop, granary and buggy house, and a barn.

 

Portion of the interior wall with siding removed to show batsa (mud brick with one mud brick encased on table).  The size of the brick determined the thickness of the walls, in the case of this house approximately a foot thick.  Photo by Diane Rogness.

The State Historical Society of North Dakota (SHSND) acquired this rural property in 2015. The site was previously owned by Lawrence Welk’s nieces and managed by a private non-profit. Visitation had declined and the dedicated volunteers managing the site were aging. How do you revitalize a site after the main reason for its existence (Lawrence Welk) has lost its relevance?

SHSND decided to shift the focus of interpretation to include additional historically significant elements of the site, including the architecture of Germans from Russia and their farming practices.

The home provides a fascinating look at German-Russian construction.  Visit the Great Plains, and you’ll notice the lack of timber. For this 1890s couple, the closest railroad was fifty miles away over open prairie, so even shipped timber was hard to access. Homesteaders made do with materials at hand–mainly mud mixed with dried grass or hay and maybe some manure. This mixture was put in wooden forms and left to dry in the sun.  The home’s interior and exterior walls were built using these 12-inch thick bricks. Wood siding was applied to keep the bricks from deteriorating in the weather. The mud walls help keep the house cool in the summer and warm in the winter. These construction methods were learned on the Russian steppes, and it is ideal for the Great Plains. Indigenous tribes on the plains also built earth lodges hundreds of years. Green technology, anyone?

Another new focus is agriculture, still a top industry in North Dakota. The site was homesteaded in 1894 by Lawrence Welk’s parents, and their youngest son operated the farm from 1928 to 1965. During that time agriculture transitioned from a primary crop of wheat to more diversified crop use. Agriculture is still changing. This area of the state remains heavily dependent on agriculture to fuel the local economy. The site is surrounded by crop land (owned and farmed by a great-grandson of the original owners), giving us a unique opportunity to compare past and present agricultural practices.

Ethnic heritage is also a focus. Thirty percent of North Dakota’s population claim German from Russia as their nationality. In the tri-county area of this site, seventy to eighty percent of the residents still list their ethnicity as German or German from Russia on the census forms. For decades, this group of people has moved from Germany to Russia and to the United States and other countries, managing to retain their language, religion, customs, and food-ways. Visitors at the local coffee shop may still hear the distinct dialect of this group of Germans from Russia being spoken.

And of course, there is Lawrence Welk–popular with a mostly older audience. He made his fame elsewhere, not here on the farm. But visitors come to see where he started, how he grew up, and how he lived. And yet–some younger visitors also recognize his name and fame. Two girls visiting the site last year, ages six and eight, were very excited to be there. They watch the Lawrence Welk show every Saturday night (airing nationally since 1955; check local PBS stations for times) and dance to the music.

By expanding the site’s story and adding new programs, we increased visitation during our first year. We’re optimistic that continuing to add historic connections appealing to a broader audience will help us engage a new generation of visitors.

 

Hosted by big band leader Lawrence Welk from Strasburg, ND, the Lawrence Welk Show ran nationally on the ABC network from 1955 to 1971, and first-run syndication from 1971 to 1982. The shows are still airing on PBS.

Want to write for AASLH? Learn more and submit an article here


Workshop: Historic House Museum Issues and Operations

Why are historic houses necessary to their communities? How are historic house museums unique?

This workshop focuses on the unique needs, management, and interpretation of historic houses. With a focus on historic house museums, topics covered include collections care, types of research appropriate for historic house museums, exhibition development, interpretive tours, volunteers, and building and landscape maintenance.

See a sample agenda

Details:

Date: April 6-7, 2017

Location: Strawbery Banke | Portsmouth, New Hampshire

Cost: $270 members/$385 nonmembers
FLASH SALE: $50 off all registrations from March 9-13!

Register

What Participants Said:

“The ‘notebook’ of articles is a great idea and a tangible helper to take back with us. The faculty’s experiences were invaluable–they will be a great resource, too!”

“The most helpful part was seeing institutions’ actual documents.”

“The enthusiasm & varied backgrounds of the participants was helpful.”

“As a volunteer–gave me a realistic view of the job description of our curators, staff & us as volunteers.”

Register

About the Faculty:

3333346Max A. van Balgooy is the president of Engaging Places, LLC, a design and strategy firm that helps connect people with historic places. He is a national leader in historical interpretation and community engagement, with extensive experience in developing solutions in collaboration with diverse audiences, including volunteers, staff, trustees, residents, scholars, design professionals, business leaders, and elected officials. He has more than 35 years of experience working in museums historic preservation, heritage tourism, and historic sites, including senior positions at the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Workman and Temple Homestead Museum. A recognized researcher, author, speaker, and blogger on the trends, challenges, and opportunities facing museums, historic sites, and cultural organizations, he is a frequently requested facilitator, trainer, and consultant on business strategy, historical interpretation, public programming, marketing, and online media.

He also teaches in the Museum Studies Program at George Washington University, sits on the editorial board of Curator journal, is a MAP Peer Reviewer with the American Alliance of Museums, and served on the AASLH Council. He received his M.A. in history from the University of Delaware as a Hagley Fellow, his B.A. in history from Pomona College, and participated in the Historic Deerfield Summer Program in Early American History and Material Culture and the Attingham Summer School for the Study of Historic Houses and Collections.

 

gwm-headshot-may-2013-150-dpi-3-400x377

George W. McDaniel is President of McDaniel Consulting, LLC, a company George established after serving 25 years as Executive Director of Drayton Hall, a historic site in Charleston, SC owned by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. McDaniel Consulting’s tag line, “Building Bridges through History,” is grounded in George’s personal beliefs and his experience in site management, preservation, education, board development, fundraising, and community outreach. Rather than using history to divide us, he strives to help organizations use history, especially local history, to enhance cross-cultural understanding and to support local museums, preservation, and education.  As an example, George recently led volunteer efforts with Emanuel AME Church and historical organizations in Charleston to use historic preservation to enhance racial reconciliation and healing.

A native of Atlanta, he holds a B.A. in history from Sewanee, an M.A.T. in history from Brown University, and a Ph.D. in history from Duke University.  The author of numerous publications, he has written two essays for 2017 AASLH publications:  “Commemorating Tragedy, Healing Wounds: Mother Emanuel AME Church” in Commemoration: An American Association of State and Local History Guide, and “Building Bridges through Local History” in Encyclopedia of Local History. Also due for publication in 2017by the University of Virginia Press is his essay, "Stepping Up and Saving Places: Case Studies in Whole Place Preservation,” in Stewards of Memory: The Past, Present, and Future of Historic Preservation at Mount Vernon. A frequent presenter at workshops, conferences, and public gatherings, he earned in 2015 the South Carolina Environmental Awareness Award and in 2016 the S.C. Governor’s Award for Historic Preservation, the first person in the state to have won the leadership awards in both fields.

 

Register

Workshop: Reinventing the Historic House Museum

This workshop is full. Please check our calendar for future offerings of this workshop.

Reinventing the Historic House Museum is a 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 by historic house game-changers and local historic site administrators, 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.

Details:

This workshop is full. Please check our calendar for future offerings of this workshop.
Date: March 22, 2017
Location: Cliveden of the National Trust, Philadelphia, PA
Cost: $25 per person

Full Symposium Description:

Reinventing the Historic House Museum is a 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 by historic house game-changers and local historic site administrators, 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.

Why should I attend?

Reinventing the Historic House Museum goes beyond basic questions about Historic Houses to delve deeper into core issues regarding relevance, funding, and preparing for the future.

Here are some of issues and challenges that participants from the previous workshop have discussed:

-How to use the house’s history to tell the larger story of the city and county, as well as the house.
-Moving town museum into a historic house, so how to interpret both the house/family and town collections? How to renovate the house for museum purposes.
-What are the best ways to preserve the collections when we have no environmental controls (tarnishing of silver, textiles, rugs, photographs)?
-How to raise funds to maintain buildings at a state-owned site.
-Finding new ways to interpret the house to keep it engaging and interesting.
-How to change community perceptions of the site/museum?
-Attracting funding, developing maintenance plans and building attendance at a very rural location.
-Balancing long-term thinking versus everyday demands.
-Balancing preservation/conservation with being more available/access/education.
-Need to take a look at the bigger picture of operations and management.
-How to educate the board about the challenges and needs of museums.
-How do I better prepare students for careers in museums (particularly historic sites)?

Who should attend?

Participants in this class have ranged from emerging professionals and volunteers, to academic historians and professionals nearing the end of their careers. All have seen the value in the class and have been able to implement change at their organizations. In short, anyone who is interested in developing the skills to make their historic house interpretation and management better for their audiences and their stakeholders should attend this workshop.

Why Onsite?

Onsite workshops allow participants to not only observe the great work other institutions are doing, but also gives them a chance to network with other museum professionals. Of those who choose to attend an AASLH workshop, many make career-long connections with people who are as passionate about the field as they are.

Topics include:

What You Ought to Know about Opportunities and Threats
Led by Max van Balgooy, Principal, Engaging Places, LLC
Historic house museums face numerous challenges but figuring out which ones are serious or benign, urgent or important, temporary or long-term, isn’t easy. Max van Balgooy will present his analysis of the most important Opportunities and Threats facing historic sites in America based on the latest social and economic research, with a discussion on how they may relate to your house museum.

Reinventing the Historic House Museum
Led by Ken Turino, Manager of Community Engagement and Exhibitions, Historic New England

The purpose of this session is to provide participants with a comprehensive understanding of the rewards and challenges facing historic house museums today. Historic sites are looking for creative and sustainable ways to make themselves relevant to their communities. What is very exciting now is that many sites have risen to this challenge using different models and ways of interpreting to look beyond traditional models. The presentation will look at specific ways and examples of how historic houses have engaged with their communities, implemented creative forms of interpretation and programming as well as ways to earn income all to become more sustainable.

Each event will also include the perspective of a local historic site administrator as well as an onsite experience session at a historic house museum.

About the Faculty:

3333346Max van Balgooy is a national leader in historical interpretation and community engagement, with extensive experience in developing solutions in collaboration with volunteers, staff, trustees, residents, scholars, design professionals, business leaders, and elected officials.  A recognized researcher, author, and speaker on the trends, challenges, and opportunities facing museums, historic sites, and cultural organizations, Max uses his skills as a facilitator and consultant for developing plans for business strategy, historical interpretation, public programming, marketing, and online media. He also operates Engaging Places, LLC, a design and strategy firm that “connects people and historic places”

 

ken-turino

Kenneth Turino is Manger of Community Engagement and Exhibitions at Historic New England, the oldest, largest, and most comprehensive regional heritage organization in the country. Ken oversees community engagement projects throughout the six New England states and is responsible for the traveling exhibitions program at Historic New England. Prior to coming to Historic New England, Ken was Executive Director of the Lynn Museum, an active local history museum in Lynn, Massachusetts. He has worked at a number of historic houses including the Paul Revere House in Boston and is a Trustee of the House of Seven Gables in Salem. He frequently consults on interpretive planning and community engagement projects at historic sites. These include the Nicholas House Museum, Boston, The Hermann-Grima and Gallier Historic Houses, New Orleans, and most recently with Donna Harris on the future of the Charnley-Norwood House in Ocean Springs, Mississippi.

Visit our Calendar of Events to learn about more AASLH Continuing Education Opportunities.

This workshop is generously underwritten by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage. The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage is a multidisciplinary grant maker and hub for knowledge-sharing, dedicated to fostering a vibrant cultural community in Greater Philadelphia. The Center invests in ambitious, imaginative projects that showcase the region’s cultural vitality and enhance public life, and engages in an ongoing exchange of ideas concerning artistic and interpretive practice with a broad network of cultural practitioners and leaders.


Reimagining Historical Societies:  A Community Collaboration

Moore-Youse Home Museum in Muncie, Indiana

Last Fall, the Delaware County Historical Society approached Ball State University for help in reimagining their organization. The students who participated in this collaboration researched how Indiana historical societies have faced sustainability issues and wrote a recommendation report to the DCHS based on those findings.

The Delaware County Historical Society in Muncie, Indiana faced an issue that many similar organizations around the nation currently combat. It no longer appealed to the community in which it resides. As a result, the historical society and the Moore-Youse Home Museum under its stewardship suffered declining membership and visitation. The current Board of Directors felt that the organization needed a rebrand within the community and approached Ball State University for help through its immersive learning program. This initiative at the university partners with local organizations that have a specific need or challenge they must overcome.  At the same time, these learning opportunities offer students with professional experience. Last Fall, the university sponsored one of these collaborative classes for the Delaware County Historical Society under the direction of Dr. Ronald V. Morris that would provide recommendations to the organization discussing how best to rebrand their image within the community. The students that participated in the Delaware County Historical Society project majored in History, Public History, and Historic Preservation with differing levels of academic experience ranging from new students beginning their freshman year to a third year graduate student.  They were Lucas Cauley, Sarah Laskowski, Ashley Purvis, Alexis Robertson, and Gwen Stricker.

 

Left to right: Lucas Cauley, Ashley Purvis, Sarah Laskowski, Dr. Ronald V. Morris, Gwen Stricker, Alexis Robertson, and Braydon Fox. Photo taken by Robbie Mehling.

In the beginning stages of the project, the students discussed the best methods to achieve the their desired results. The group settled on interviewing historical societies within the state to discover how they approached the relevancy issue within their respective communities. The students developed a thematic list of tailored questions that focused on aspects of the historical societies such as administrative development, finances, community outreach, and space usage within the museums. From the interviews, the students charted trends with the information and based the recommendations to the Delaware County Historical Society on those trends with case-specific knowledge of the society. Overall, the group felt that the organization should rebrand into the Indiana Women’s History Museum. From its inception, the Moore-Youse Home Museum had served as a family museum commemorating the Moore-Youses. The museum derived its uniqueness from the fact that three generations of Moore-Youse women lived in the house and finally donated it to the historical society when the last member passed away in the eighties. As a result, the society focused its efforts on collecting materials related to domestic life. This past strategy would allow the Delaware County Historical Society to easily rebrand into a museum focused on the lives of Indiana women while also providing opportunities for collection development and marketing within the state.

 

A screenshot of the architectural model that Gwen Stricker built to help the Delaware County Historical Society reimagine the space in the Moore-Youse Home Museum.

The students also recommended some general suggestions to the historical society for their immediate future.  As of the end of the project, the society was in the process of organizing, storing, and cataloging their materials into Past Perfect.  They needed to continue this process while also deaccessioning some of their materials.  Much like many similar organizations, the Delaware County Historical Society suffered from a serious lack of storage within their facilities.  Along these lines, the society should focus more of their efforts on community outreach and redeveloping their relationship with the Muncie community as well as the greater Delaware County area.  Finding space to utilize both within the house and research center will greatly aid them in this mission and could help them financially in terms of using it for rental space.  Gwen Stricker developed a three-dimensional model of the Moore-Youse Home Museum that provided a nice visualization for the historical society members in terms of thinking about space usage.  All of the students’ suggestions were well-received by the Board of Directors, and they plan to take steps to follow through with them.

This opportunity working with the Delaware County Historical Society supplied the students with a highly valuable learning opportunity. The class gave the group a greater appreciation for the hurdles that non-profit organizations have to overcome in order to remain sustainable and engaging while also giving us more perspective on the intricacies of museum management. It helped the students become better collaborators for the future in the professional world and allowed the group to develop interpersonal skills through the interviews, interactions with the society, and within the small class. The interviews provided opportunities to network with other people and organizations for future prospects and projects.  The recommendation report even contributed or cultivated skill sets.  The students had to analyze, chart, and draw conclusions from the interview data while writing a professional report that greatly differed from the normal style of academic writing for a university class. To show the historical society the final results, the students presented the information with a PowerPoint, which provided experience with public speaking. As an added bonus, the students worked for the betterment of the Delaware County Historical Society, and the project has spurred a great deal of interest from within the museum studies field.

Read the full report:

[gview file="https://cdn.aaslh.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/23/2017/03/DCHS.Recommendation.pdf"]

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A Historic House Exposed: Why Millermore is Pulling Back the Curtain for Visitors

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The Master Bedroom currently contains all of the modern things that complete a historic home.

In honor of Dallas Heritage Village's 50th anniversary, a new exhibit in their signature home, Millermore, shows visitors how historic house exhibits are created.

My younger self was belly down on the antique rug, stretching to extend the vacuum hose under a bed and eradicate an extensive spider colony. Fifteen years ago my belly was much flatter and my job at Dallas Heritage Village was cleaning the exhibit buildings. I got to know the period room displays very well, every knick-knack, every dust catcher, every old stain. I noticed a certain degree of repetition. In 2001, Dallas Heritage Village had 21 fully made beds on display. In 2015, Dallas Heritage Village still had 21 fully made beds on display. As of September 1, we are down to 15 and if Goldilocks is sleepy she need not bother to visit Millermore because none of them are there.

In August, me and my merry band of exhausted furniture movers changed everything in Millermore. The last time Millermore changed much was when it moved to our site in 1969, when I was 6 years old. I am now 53 and find vacuuming while prone increasingly difficult, because things change with the passage of time. Even history changes. We learn new facts, think about them differently, and ask questions people didn’t ask when Millermore first opened its doors to the public.

 

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A parade of chairs exits Millermore. The parade is led by Lynn Vogt, granddaughter of DHV’s founder and the children of staff members.

So right now (until the end of July), Millermore is a mess, a careful, artful mess of which I am quite proud. Instead of showing what Millermore looked like in 1861, it now shows how a curator would go about making it look like it did in 1861. Different rooms show the resources available for that project, including actual Miller possessions, assorted reproductions, and a giant pile of non-Miller owned antiques without which the museum house could never have been furnished. I have recorded the curator’s thoughts on notes in the windows and tags on the furniture. If you ever assumed being a curator is a lofty intellectual and artistic profession filled with great thoughts, you may need to change your mind.

Speaking of your mind, Millermore wants you to exercise it, maybe even strain a muscle, to see a new side of the house. If a future historian visited your home to learn about our time, the lesson would be different with each visit. One day your family is intrigued by news of national importance entering your world by various twenty-first-century media. The next you are constructing a giant homecoming mum and trolling the internet for the best deal on electric service. A family member could be observed experiencing our lack of cure for the common cold, while an eighteen year old son is off to register for selective service. And for no logical reason Fido is wearing a rhinestone collar and a plumed hat.

 

The formal parlor is currently full of all the period pieces that make up the majority of the contents of the house.

If your house can be a multifaceted and ever-changing exhibit space, Millermore can change its message at least once. Millermore and I have both grown up enough now to see that we should be bold. So our current exhibit, “Millermore Exposed,” not only sounds slightly dirty but is different than what was there, and I make no limiting promises about what will appear there in the future. Or what you may see in Sullivan, or the bank, or that purple house that we currently call the Blum house but there were never any Blums so we are going to call it something else. Dallas Heritage Village is a museum about history, not an unchanging snapshot of one moment in history. Our visitors can handle more than one lesson at the Village. In fact, they might prefer some surprises.

 

Evelyn (left) and Mandy roll up one of the carpets as DHV staff empty Millermore in preparation for a fresh coat of paint.
Evelyn (left) and Mandy roll up one of the carpets as DHV staff empty Millermore in preparation for a fresh coat of paint.

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Finding Eleanor Pack: Challenges and Methods in Researching Domestic Staff at Nemours

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Kitchen at Nemours, undated. Nemours Estate Archive.

Historic estates are living in a post-“Downton Abbey” world and visitors frequently ask about the domestic staff. Interpreters usually have one or two factoids to share, but traditionally,  sites haven’t spared too much thought about the men and women who occupied the margins of the larger “estate” narrative. Yet the newest challenge facing many of us in the field is how we can locate these invisible actors within the social and economic (not to mention physical) landscape of the household.

At Nemours, the historic estate of Alfred I. duPont in Wilmington, Delaware, I am engaged in an ongoing graduate student project to create an interpretive narrative about the domestic staff. I’m tracing them from the early days of the duPont’s residency through periods of marriage, family, war and death, ending in 1970. Throughout the decades, many types of people came to  live and work at Nemours, some traveling from as far as Sweden and others coming in from the neighborhood. While many identities can fortunately be recovered through payroll records and census data, I’m often left with more questions than answers. Therefore, I’d like to share some of my struggles and strategies for breathing new life into the long-departed staff.

 

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Nemours, estate of Alfred I. duPont, 1934, Hagley ID. J. Victor Dallin Aerial Survey collection (Accession 1970.200), Audiovisual Collection s and Digital Initiatives Department, Hagley Museum and Library, Wilmington, DE 19807

The name Eleanor Pack began surfacing on the duPont payrolls in 1933 as a Lady’s  Maid. As most early twentieth century guides to the domestic economy will tell you, this position was among the highest paid and most intimate. Lady’s Maids worked exclusively with the mistress of the house to service her daily needs. I know very little about Eleanor Pack—she worked for Jessie Ball duPont until the early 1950s and passed away in 1954. She was English, and received a steady raise in her wages throughout her tenure, remaining a loyal companion to Mrs. duPont in her later years. Jessie’s diary mentions Eleanor only a few times: once in 1947 to note that Eleanor was studying for a license in massage, and then later to record that Eleanor had given her a massage. After accompanying Jessie on an outing in Europe, she wrote that “Eleanor enjoyed the trip as much as we did!” Unfortunately, that’s really all we have about Eleanor from those diaries.

I think about Eleanor Pack a lot as I work through letters between the duPonts and their staff. I know quite a bit about the superintendents and chauffeurs of the estate—all male--but what do I do with an absence of a voice in the archives? There are certain ways that a historian can reconstruct a person’s life. As I previously noted, primary source accounts like treatises on household management provided descriptions of domestic labor and instructed mistresses in proper management of their staff. I also have the duPont’s own rules and regulations for the household. I know when Eleanor ate, what the cook prepared for the staff meals, when she had free time to go to the movies, and that she accompanied the duPonts to their Florida estate Epping Forest nearly every winter. Oral History also yielded some interesting tidbits, a strategy that most historic house professionals would be wise to adopt. Accounts taken of the children of employees who actually grew up on the estate provided some of the most beneficial and personal data for my narrative. We know through the son of James Dolan, one of the estate’s chauffeurs and longest-serving employee, that Dolan and Eleanor Pack accompanied the duPonts on their travels. It became a long running joke within the Dolan family that the duPonts didn’t normally pay for the unmarried Eleanor and married Dolan to have separate rooms. From the oral account of James Dolan Jr., I know that while the relationship between Eleanor Pack and Jessie Ball duPont was affectionate, even perhaps familial, the reality of their employer-employee relationship often made itself known in these subtle and careless ways.

 

Servant’s Dining Room at Nemours, undated. Nemours Estate Archive.
Servant’s Dining Room at Nemours, undated. Nemours Estate Archive.

My research into the domestic staff at Nemours also led me to consider demography. The duPonts followed in the footsteps of other wealthy American estates by employing immigrant men and women. Roughly half of the domestic staff at Nemours were foreign-born and hailed from the British Isles, Central Europe and Scandinavia. When Jessie Ball duPont became mistress of the estate in 1920, she put an ad in the paper stipulating that applicants for domestic employment be “Protestant, English, or Scottish.” Irish girls were notably left off this list, reflecting larger ethnic and religious biases of the period. This says much about how the duPonts may have conceptualized English-born Eleanor Pack. Pack represented an ideal Lady’s Maid by virtue of her perceived respectability and ethnic credentials.

Researching domestic staff provides wonderful opportunity for innovative interpretation. Oral history, material culture, social history and demography each provide a means of telling the story of the men and women who worked at Nemours, and I imagine they might work for any other historic estate. Looking beyond the traditional “Great House, Great Men” narrative lets us tell a multilayered story of race, ethnicity, class and gender through a single site. I myself hope to move Eleanor Pack out of the margins of the Nemours story and into the minds of every visitor who enjoys the estate in the future.

Editor's Note: For more resources on interpreting domestic servants at historic sites, check out this free recording of AASLH's recent webinar Interpreting Servants.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K5ut9kw1h28

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