Against a black background sit, from left to write, a white microphone icon, white text reading

Webinar: History Relevance Coffee Break with Ford's Theatre

Been noodling on a sticky problem without a clear solution? Ford’s Theatre staff have long been batting around ideas on how to make history more relevant to the 235,000 students who visit the site every year. Working with strategist/evaluator Kate Haley Goldman, Ford’s Theatre did a series of six week-long sprints to build rough prototypes of some of these ideas and test them with actual students on-site. Join Associate Director for Interpretive Resources David McKenzie in a focused discussion with History Relevance initiative standing committee member Conny Graft to learn about the successes and lessons learned in this exhausting, but exhilarating, exercise in human-centered design.

This webinar is part of the History Relevance Coffee Break webinar series. Each webinar in this short-form series showcases projects by history organizations that are making history relevant to their communities in meaningful, measurable, and replicable ways. Webinar participants will glean practical tips for how organizations can connect issues of the past to issues of the present and meet their relevance goals.

Details:

DATE: Thursday, December 13, 2018

TIME: 3:00 – 3:30 pm EASTERN (Remember to adjust for your time zone!)

COST: $Free Members / $5 Non-members

Closed captioning available upon advanced notice. Please contact learn@aaslh.org for more information.

REGISTER HERE

Description and Outcomes:

Interview Questions:

  • Tell us about how you connected issues of the past with issues of the present?
  • What were some of the challenges you faced in implementing this project?
  • What did you learn from the evaluation of your project?
  • Based on your experience making history relevant through this project, what are the three most important suggestions you have for others working to make history relevant at their institutions?

Participant Outcomes:

  • Learn how Ford's Theatre makes history relevant in measurable and replicable ways
  • Feel inspired by the featured organization to endorse the Value of History Statement
  • Feel inspired to employ formal survey and evaluation techniques when evaluating the success of their projects
  • Feel motivated to think creatively about how they can make history relevant through projects at their own institution
  • Learn practical tips for how organizations can connect issues of the past to issues of the presents

Speakers:

  • Conny Graft, Steering Committee Member, History Relevance Initiative
  • David McKenzie, Associate Director for Interpretive Resources, Ford's Theatre

Against a black background sit, from left to write, a white microphone icon, white text reading

Webinar: History Relevance Coffee Break with Washington State Historical Society

Take a virtual "coffee break" with Gwen Whiting of Washington State Historical Society and Elisabeth Marsh of the Organization of American Historians and the History Relevance initiative. During this thirty-minute interview, Gwen and Elisabeth discuss the challenges faced and lessons learned in the development of Washington State Historical Society's new permanent exhibit, "Washington, My Home."

This webinar is part of the History Relevance Coffee Break webinar series. Each webinar in this short-form series showcases projects by history organizations that are making history relevant to their communities in meaningful, measurable, and replicable ways. Webinar participants will glean practical tips for how organizations can connect issues of the past to issues of the present and meet their relevance goals.

Details:

DATE: Thursday, November 29, 2018

TIME: 3:00 – 3:30 pm EASTERN (Remember to adjust for your time zone!)

COST: $Free Members / $5 Non-members

Closed captioning available upon advanced notice. Please contact learn@aaslh.org for more information.

REGISTER HERE

Description and Outcomes:

Interview Questions:

  • Tell us about how you connected issues of the past with issues of the present?
  • What were some of the challenges you faced in implementing this project?
  • What did you learn from the evaluation of your project?
  • Based on your experience making history relevant through this project, what are the three most important suggestions you have for others working to make history relevant at their institutions?

Participant Outcomes:

  • Learn how Washington State Historical Society makes history relevant in measurable and replicable ways
  • Feel inspired by the featured organization to endorse the Value of History Statement and employ formal survey and evaluation techniques when evaluating the success of their projects
  • Feel motivated to think creatively about how they can make history relevant through projects at their own institution
  • Learn practical tips for how organizations can connect issues of the past to issues of the presents

Speakers:

  • Elisabeth Marsh, Director of Membership and Program Development, Organization of American Historians; Steering Committee Member, History Relevance Initiative
  • Gwen Whiting, Lead Curator, Washington State Historical Society

Against a black rectangular background sit, from left to right, a white microphone icon and white text reading

New Webinar Series: History Relevance Coffee Breaks

Against a black rectangular background sit, from left to right, a white microphone icon and white text reading"History Relevance Coffee Break." Below the black rectangle are the AASLH logo, a collection of circles and "AASLH" written in green text, and the History Relevance logo, writing in blue text.AASLH, in partnership with the History Relevance initiative, is proud to present a new webinar series: History Relevance Coffee Breaks. This short-form webinar series showcases projects by history organizations that are making history relevant to their communities in meaningful, measurable, and replicable ways. In an interview facilitated by a member of the History Relevance initiative steering committee, featured organizations and endorsers of the Value of History Statement share the challenges faced and lessons learned in the development of projects that helped them meet their relevance goals.

Participants of History Relevance Coffee Break webinars will gain practical tips for how organizations can connect issues of the past to issues of the present. Each webinar will aim to meet five participant outcomes. Participants will:

  • learn how the featured organization makes history relevant in measurable and replicable ways
  • feel inspired by the featured organization to endorse the Value of History Statement
  • feel inspired to employ formal survey and evaluation techniques when evaluating the success of their projects
  • feel motivated to think creatively about how they can make history relevant through projects at their own institution
  • learn practical tips for how organizations can connect issues of the past to issues of the present

Each webinar in the History Relevance Coffee Break series is free for members and only $5 for nonmembers!

Please join us for our first History Relevance Coffee Break webinars this year:

  • Thursday, November 29 from 3:00 pm – 3:30 pm EST with Gwen Whiting of the Washington State Historical Society. Gwen will share takeaways from her organization's work relating past stories of immigration to immigration today through a new permanent exhibit, “Washington, My Home.”
    Learn More

  • Thursday, December 13 from 3:00 pm – 3:30 pm EST with David McKenzie of Ford’s Theatre. David will discuss how Ford’s Theatre’s prototyping "sprints" have influenced their efforts to connect the past to the present.
    Learn More

History Relevance in Canada

Tim Grove is Chief of Museum Learning at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, a founding member of the History Relevance initiative, and Chair of the Program Committee for AASLH’s 2018 Annual Meeting in Kansas City, “Truth or Consequences.” This post also appears on the National Council on Public History's History@Work blog.

Photo: Brittany Gawley

Recently I ended a trip to Canada a bit jealous that Canadians have figured out how to give history a national spotlight, something that has proven more elusive in the United States. While we do find ways to award excellence in history, they are not concentrated and diverse and on such a national stage.

I had been invited to Canada to represent the History Relevance initiative and to share a little of the history, motivations, and goals of this national effort. Stephanie Rowe, executive director of the National Council on Public History, and I participated in several events during Canada History Week 2017, an annual showcase of Canada’s rich history. Three big events of the week revolved around the Governor General’s History Award winners from across the nation.

Janet Walker, president and CEO of Canada’s History, the organizer of the event, welcomed everyone, saying “History is essential for understanding the complex issues that face us today. As individuals, communities, and nations, we engage with the past to help navigate the present and contemplate the future. History stimulates us to be thinkers, innovators, leaders, and engaged citizens.”

At the Canada’s History Forum, held at the Canadian Museum of History and hosted in collaboration with NCPH, the theme was “Making History Relevant.” In my presentation during the morning session, I discussed why History Relevance was founded and how it produced the Value of History Statement. In particular, I emphasized the effort within History Relevance to strengthen history’s “brand,” using the Value of History Statement to develop and share a common language for use by history practitioners. I also highlighted the need to gather solid data to show effective history projects that impact their communities. Other speakers included Jean-Pierre Marin, staff historian for Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada and former NCPH board member, Andrea Eidinger, creator and editor of the blog Unwritten Histories, Dominique Trudeau, head of education at the McCord Museum in Montreal, and Lindsay Gibson, assistant professor of social studies education at the University of Alberta and participant in the Historical Thinking Project. All speakers highlighted the challenges of presenting complex history.

The evening featured a gala dinner in the great hall of the Canadian Museum of History, next to the towering totems. The enthusiastic guests included the history award winners, members of Parliament (MPs) and the museum’s president and CEO. The day before the award winners had traveled to Parliament Hill to meet with MPs, less to advocate than to brag about their projects.

Credit: MCpl Vincent Carbonneau, Rideau Hall, OSGG

The second day was the big awards ceremony at Rideau Hall, the residence of Canada’s governor general, the Queen’s representative. Governor General Julie Payette, a former astronaut, presided over the formal ceremony that honored students, teachers, authors, and public historians for their excellence in making history accessible to Canadians. Their ages ranged from about seven to seventy. Eight teachers received awards, including a teacher whose students created a museum that has grown to six hundred items and one thousand visitors, two teachers who created an oral history program matching students with veterans, and two teachers who developed a program for high school students at the First Nations University of Canada focused on treaty history and education. Museum practitioners were honored for opening a new permanent gallery called Hodul’eh-a—A Place of Learning in the Exploration Place Museum and Science Centre in Prince George, British Columbia. This gallery is a model for how Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities can work together to preserve, understand, and respect Indigenous history and experiences. Exploration Place  is located within Lheidli T’enneh Memorial Park—the site of the traditional hunting grounds and village for the Lheidli T’enneh Nation.

Thinking back on my visit to Ottawa, I am encouraged by the potential power of shared efforts and common goals. The history communities in both countries strive to demonstrate history’s relevance and the power of teaching historical thinking skills. The Historical Thinking Project is a national Canadian effort to give attention to promoting critical historical literacy in the twenty-first century at learning venues across Canada. As Stephanie Rowe said in her opening and closing remarks for the Forum, “we hope this is just the beginning of more collaboration between public historians in the US and Canada. There are many of us working to move the study of history from nice to essential and our efforts will only be strengthened by our awareness of one another and our efforts to work together.” I also invited attendees to ask their organizations to endorse History Relevance’s Value of History Statement and actively articulate the seven values it features. Together, we can work to raise the profile of history.


Join AASLH at Museums Advocacy Day 2018

Members of the AASLH Council, AASLH President John Dichtl, and External Relations Coordinator John Marks invite you to join them at 2018 Museums Advocacy Day, February 26-27, in Washington, D.C. Joining 300 other advocates in Washington is a powerful way to support history organizations and their visitors and to press the issues impacting museums. Last year, museum advocates hit the hill in record numbers. It’s also an exciting form of professional development for you.

Registration is free to AASLH members using this code: MAD2018_AASLH. American Alliance of Museums staff and others will provide policy briefings and schedule meetings for you on Capitol Hill.

Whether you can go or not, AAM has developed a long list of resources to help build advocacy skills, learn about Congress, make the case for our field, and get involved in advocacy for your museum. To make the case for history, there’s help in the Value of History statement from the History Relevance folks at historyrelevance.com/value-statement.

It is important for all public officials (local, state, and national) to know about the vital work historical organizations do to educate the general public and the role your organization plays in a democratic and civil society, making citizens more thoughtful about the decisions they make and the consequences of those decisions.

That is why AASLH sponsors, advocates, and lobbies on behalf of state and local history at the national level through strategic partnerships with other organizations and at important events like Museums Advocacy Day.


What You Can Do on Summer Vacation

Did you ever have to write the typical “What I Did on Summer Vacation” essay on the first day of school? It seems like it was a rite of passage to talk about vacations, camps, and exciting days as you started back to school. Since we are at the beginning of summer, I wondered about the things we as history professionals could do on our summer vacations to help our organizations and ourselves.

Here are four things I encourage you to do this summer to help you think about your work in a fresh way:

1. Actually take a vacation. Many history professionals who work in small museums have a hard time actually taking time off due to the unique demands of an organization where they may be the only paid staff person. It is easy to get in the mindset that the organization will not survive if you are not there to run it. This is not healthy for you as a person and a professional and leads to burn-out. We all need some time away from work to rest and recharge. You don’t have to go far from home, but at least schedule a Netflix or pool day (or two) to unplug from the daily grind and recharge your spirit so that you can be more effective in your job.

2. Do something that inspires you that is not history related. This may sound like blasphemy for history lovers, but we work in history every day. While we are great audiences for history museums on vacation (my kids will attest to the fact that we always visit at least one history museum or historic site no matter where we go), they can give us tunnel vision. Think about what else inspires you. Maybe it is art, nature, great food, or great conversation. Carve out time for that this summer. I have discovered that art museums are a great source of inspiration for me. I can enjoy the pleasure of a museum visit without getting hung up on the details that I deal with on a regular basis in my job. I can simply experience the beauty of the art and maybe take away some techniques from the art museum world that I can use when I get back home.

 

Columbus Museum of Art in Columbus, Ohio3. Look for lessons in unlikely places. Even though we are on vacation, we are always thinking about work in some capacity. I think that is unique to the nonprofit world because we do our work because we love it. So as you are out and about on vacation or weekend outings this summer, pay attention to lessons you can take back to your history institution from unlikely places. One great way to get tips (or learn from bad experiences) while traveling is to think about the visitor journey map. As Max van Balgooy of Engaging Places, LLC writes on his blog, a journey map is “a diagram that lays out every step in the visitor experience from home to historic site to back home.” Theme parks, in particular, are a great way to think about the journey map. Pay attention to your full experience from website research to purchasing tickets to finding the parking lot and entrance, to entering the park. How does the journey to get to your destination affect your experience? Then, after you get back to work, apply the lessons learned to your organization because the visitor experience does not start with the tour or gallery visit.

Bethany and her daughter at the Margaret Mitchell House in Atlanta, Georgia

4. Be a “secret shopper.
This topic came up on a conference call with AASLH’s Creative and Experimental Task Force last week and I am going to borrow it for this blog. If you are traveling and visiting historic sites and museums is on your itinerary, consider providing a service for your colleagues by being a secret shopper. Reach out to someone on staff and offer to evaluate their visitor experience. If you don’t know someone at the museum, check out the staff page on their website and email them. We all know that it is impossible to evaluate our own sites and tours. A colleague might welcome the opportunity to have another history professional provide constructive feedback about their visitor experience. It also might give you the opportunity to grow your professional network.

So, as we head into the heart of the summer season, I encourage you to take advantage of the longer days and pleasant weather to find ways to relax, recharge, and be inspired.

Want to write for AASLH? Learn more and submit a blog post here. 


Master Local Historian: AASLH Launches Historian Training Program for the Public

A photograph of the Tennessee State Library and Archives building taken on July 17, 1956, a few short years after it opened in 1953.
State Library and Archives Agency Photographs

AASLH is proud to announce that we have been awarded a grant from Humanities Tennessee to pilot our newest program, Master Local Historians.

The Master Local Historians project is a training program that highlights the relevance of historical inquiry for the general public and provides people with an opportunity to hone their historical research, writing, and interpretation skills. Participants will learn the basic tools and methods of the craft of history to better understand, and even explain, the world around them. By the end of the course, they will have a greater appreciation for the work of public history and be better able to assist history organizations in a variety of ways.

This project is funded by a grant from Humanities Tennessee, an independent affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, and in-kind matching support from AASLH.

History—both knowledge of the past and the practice of researching and making sense of what happened in the past—is crucially important to the well-being of individuals, communities, and the future of our nation. On a state-by-state, community-by-community basis, people are figuring out what history means in the context of today. AASLH continually evaluates the opportunities history organizations have to employ history’s essential role in nurturing personal identity, teaching critical skills, helping to provide vital places to live and work, stimulating economic development, fostering engaged citizens, inspiring leadership, and providing a legacy. The Master Local Historians program is one such opportunity.

In the beginning stages of this project, AASLH has pulled together a team of national and Tennessee humanities scholars and advisers to review existing materials from similar programs and map a framework for a Master Local Historian program. This includes a curriculum that focuses on the basics of the historical profession, with three of those basics being piloted by partner organizations in West, Middle, and East Tennessee, including the Morton Museum of Collierville History, the Tennessee State Library and Archives, and the East Tennessee History Center. After the completion of a successful piloting period, AASLH plans to seek funding to launch the Master Local Historians program nationally.

Morton Museum of Collierville History

(Read a local news profile on the Morton Museum of Collierville History 's involvement in this project, featuring an interview with museum director Brooke Mundy.) 

The institutions will host the workshops in winter 2017/2018. AASLH will evaluate the individual sessions and the success of the program as a whole and in 2018 begin to create the full Master Local

 Historian curriculum based on the Tennessee pilots. The program highlights the continued relevance of history, a major theme of AASLH strategic plan since 2016.

AASLH is proud to have the following people serve as Humanities Scholars on this project, including Dr. Lorraine McConaghy (Public Historian), Myers Brown (Tennessee State Library and Archives), Dr. Carroll Van West (Tennessee State Historian), Adam Alfrey (East Tennessee History Center), Dr. Larry Cebula (Public Historian), Dr. Teresa Church (Public Historian), Dr. Jay Price (Public Historian), Brooke Mundy (Collierville Museum of History), Steve Murray (Alabama Department of Archives and History), Stuart Sanders (Kentucky Historical Society), Dr. C. Brendan Martin (MTSU) and Local Historians: Betsy Millard (Columbia Pacific Heritage Museum), Carol Kammen (Tompkins County (NY) Historian), and Beverly Tyler (Three Villages Historical Society).

For more information about Master Local Historians, contact John Marks at marks@aaslh.org.

 

East Tennessee History Center

Chief Storytellers and the Search for Relevance: What History Organizations Can Learn from This For-Profit Trend

Over the weekend, I was having a conversation with my husband, who works for a regional financial institution. He told me that his company recently hired a Chief Storyteller. Their job is to travel throughout their region to gather stories from fellow employees and clients about how they used the bank to achieve financial confidence.  They have a specific website (separate from their official company website) that promotes the idea of financial confidence with tools to sell this part of the company’s mission; these inspirational stories are the main focus. (I can’t link to the website due to privacy regulations for employees of the financial institution where my husband works.)

I was fascinated by the idea of a Chief Storyteller—someone whose job is to talk about mission impact—and the implications of this role for history organizations. I started doing some research (i.e. Google search) and learned that this is a current trend in marketing for many companies, although Nike has employed a Chief Storyteller since the late 1990s. These positions usually fall into the marketing department and help focus brands on their overall mission. They also help companies define their relevancy to the public by showing the impact they have on real people.

So what do these companies mean by the term “storytelling?” The Chief Storyteller for Microsoft explained it this way: “Storytelling is not selling directly–it’s social selling, selling indirectly, selling using the power of content.” Microsoft uses storytelling to humanize their brand.

 

Storyteller by Anker Grossvate, 1884

I would argue that history organizations need to embrace this idea of social selling; history is a brand that needs humanizing in today’s culture. After all, we are in the business of telling stories. We tell stories all the time, but they look toward the past. We’re not as experienced or effective at telling stories about how our institutions impact our contemporary communities. Do you regularly collect stories that show the impact of your work, how it is connected to your mission, and how it makes you relevant to today’s world?

The History Relevance Campaign is a great example of why telling compelling stories about our impact is so important. The History Relevance Campaign is a diverse group of history professionals posing questions about what makes the past relevant today. They aim to serve as a catalyst for demonstrating, discovering, and promulgating the value of history for individuals, communities, and the nation.

In order to show the importance of the relevance of history, this group has been seeking stories from history organizations about their impact, but finding those stories has proved to be difficult. History organizations need to learn from the for-profit world and social services nonprofits about the importance of sharing the stories of our impact on society.

Here are four strategies for becoming your organization’s Chief Storyteller from inc.com:

  1. Be intentional about the story you write.
  2. Take advantage of the opportunity before someone else does.
  3. Take an open approach.
  4. Humanize yourself.

These tips can help us think about telling our organization’s story in a different light. Corporate storytelling lives on if it is done right.

Rachel Spielman writes, “Those stories we painstakingly research, piece together and build are nothing short of treasures! And yes, attention in the digital age is short-lived, but great stories aren’t. The stories that matter are memorable; they live on in your connection and loyalty to a brand, company, or an individual. And the more of these meaningful stories you tell, the stronger that connection becomes.”4

How can the history field reframe our “elevator speech” or typical luncheon presentation to focus less on who we are and what we do and more on our impact on society? If we can do this, we can ensure our institution’s story lives on.

I challenge you to do some reading on the Chief Storyteller trend and think about how you can incorporate it into your history organization. After you have thought about it, visit the History Relevance Campaign website and connect to their Impact Project.  Sharing your story will help raise the profile of history organizations across the board.

Bethany L. Hawkins is the Chief of Operations for the American Association for State and Local History. She can be reached at hawkins@aaslh.org.

Want to write for AASLH? Learn more and submit a post here
Online Resources about Chief Storytellers

 

 


AASLH Joins Over 100 Organizations Around the Country Endorsing the Values of History Relevance

 

Nashville, TN (March 15, 2017) — The American Association for State and Local History today joins more than 100 historical organizations around the country to endorse the History Relevance Value Statement and declare the importance of teaching and learning history.

To celebrate, AASLH is urging history fans to post a selfie of themselves enjoying their favorite historical spot, and use the hashtag #HistoryRelevance.

The Value Statement is comprised of seven distinct tenets delineating critical ways the study of history is essential to individuals, communities, and our shared future. The full Value Statement can be found at https://www.historyrelevance.com/value-statement.

Endorsement of the Value Statement sends a positive message to raise the value of history in American society and help history organizations of all kinds to better articulate the value of history with a common language. History studies create a sense of awareness and identity, cultivate critical thinking and analytical skills, and lay the groundwork for empowered communities. They preserve the past and spark inspiration for the future.

“There is no better way for AASLH to provide leadership and support for its members than to have helped create and share the Value Statement,” said AASLH President & CEO John Dichtl. “As we have tried to transform the history community with the History Relevance statement, the statement has helped transform all that we do. Promoting the relevance of history, in fact, is now a cornerstone of our strategic plan.”History Relevance comprises over 150 like-minded organizations around the world, from the Smithsonian Institution and National Archives to historical societies and archivists; associations and nonprofits; and museums, trusts, estates, and local institutions. The Value Statement is endorsed by organizations that promote and encourage a sense of awareness, identity, and interconnectivity in a multicultural world through history-driven courses of study.

“We are thrilled with AASLH’s endorsement of our Values Statement,” said Tim Grove, History Relevance spokesperson. “History – including knowledge as well as the processes of research and reflection – is critically important to our society, culture, and the individual citizens who live it each and every day.”

For more information about History Relevance, go to www.historyrelevance.com. 

About History Relevance

History Relevance seeks to foster a dialogue regarding how study of the past links people to the present. The group serves as a catalyst for discovering, demonstrating, and promulgating the value of history for individuals, communities, and the nation. We believe that history can have more impact when it connects the people, events, places, stories, and ideas of the past with people, events, places, stories, and ideas that are important and meaningful to communities, people, and audiences today. For more information, visit www.historyrelevance.com.


AASLH's John Dichtl Visits DC to Discuss the Humanities Indicators Project, History Relevance

AASLH President & CEO John Dichtl meets with the Humanities Indicators team in DC.
AASLH President & CEO John Dichtl meets with the Humanities Indicators team in DC.

I didn’t feel like it leaving my house at 4:40 in the morning, but Friday the 13th turned out to be an auspicious day. Every leg of the journey and every discussion went particularly well. I flew to Washington, D.C., for a five-hour meeting with the Advisory Committee for the Humanities Indicators project, a committee I’d recently been invited to join, then raced over to the National Endowment for the Humanities office to talk about the History Relevance effort. On the flight home that evening, back to Nashville, this daily bicycle commuter was lucky enough to sit next to our city’s new bicycle and pedestrian transportation planner. Friday, January 13, hit three key areas for me: the health of the humanities, the relevance of history, and progress on sustainability.

In my airborne conversation about bicycle paths, urban transportation needs, gentrification, and rapid city growth I heard how keen local business leaders are to develop sustainable transportation for Nashville’s continued health and expansion. City business and government leaders, here and in many other metropolises, will have to be less reliant on federal funding and are exploring state and private sources for the change they know is necessary to keep this a liveable city. Similarly, history organizations will have to adapt to new funding realities and build new alliances, emphasizing how history adds to quality of life.

Hence, the History Relevance Campaign and making the case to state and county officials, local business leaders, private funders, and taxpayers becomes more important. I won’t summarize here what the History Relevance group is up to, having posted that update last week. But during this trip, fellow History Relevance member, Max van Balgooy, and I, along with Randi Korn of Randi Korn & Associates, Inc., met NEH staff to discuss the possibility of three overlapping efforts. One is the Metrics of Impact project for history organizations to be able to demonstrate their effect on their communities. The second involves a series of public conversations exploring the Value of History statement that the History Relevance campaign developed. And the third would research the gap between how historians and how the public talk about history and history institutions.

 

Public transportation in Washington, D.C.
Public transportation in Washington, D.C.

The primary reason I was in Washington and the organization that paid for the trip was the American Academy of Arts & Sciences' Humanities Indicators project. This two-person branch of the Academy, Director Robert Townsend and his colleague Carolyn Fuqua, majestically manage 336 data sets or “indicators.” The statistical information they sort, clean, keep up-to-date, analyze, and selflessly share provides a picture of how the humanities are faring in the United States.

Humanities Indicators cover five broad areas: K-12, Higher Education, Workforce, Funding & Research, and Public Life. Members of the historical community will be especially interested in the “Public Life” section, looking, for example, at indicators for “State Humanities Councils Programs” and “Historic Site Visits.” The “Funding & Research” section is also highly pertinent for history organizations. Have a look at indicators such as “State Library Agency Revenues, by Source,” “Distribution of Foundation Grants among Humanities Activity Types,” “Number of Not-for-Profit Humanities Organizations, by Type, 1989–2012,” and “Not-for-Profit History Organizations and Their Revenues.” For example, a quick look at State Humanities Councils Conducting Programs of Various Kinds reveals that “discussion” and “technology” have become ubiquitous program activities and that there was a jump in programs related to “preservation,” while state humanities councils in the aggregate have backed off on efforts categorized as “publication,” “radio,” “speakers bureau,” “TV,” “Literacy,” and “Collegiate.”

There’s a wealth of information there, and I highly encourage you to explore. But most exciting to me, and perhaps the best part of my Friday the 13th meetings, was learning that Humanities Indicators, as part of a cooperative agreement with NEH, will be creating a National Inventory of Humanities Organizations (NIHO). This will be an online data resource that will list every humanities—and thus history—organization in the country. One of the several data sets that NIHO will be built upon is the IMLS’s Museum Universe Data File (MUDF), which in 2014 counted 35,000 museums in the nation, over half of which (55%) were history organizations. At the time, IMLS announced that the number was double what the government had previously estimated, and history groups, including AASLH, shared the startling news that there were thus about 19,300 history organizations in the United States. Subsequent versions of IMLS’s MUDF, as it cleaned up the data set, brought the total down to something like 33,000 museums and related organizations.

Soon the field will have a reliable tool for counting, comparing, and reaching history and other humanities organizations across the country. It will be critical for making the case for history.