A stack of books and binders is shown behind a purple banner with the text

Online Course: Leadership and Administration for History Organizations

History museum leadership is more complex and demanding than ever before, requiring updated and innovative ways to meet mission and keep organizations healthy. Thoughtful, intentional museum administration and leadership matters, regardless of the size or focus of your organization.

Administration and leadership matter, regardless the size or focus of your organization. This online course covers governance and administrative structure, nonprofit status, mission and vision, board and staff responsibilities, the relationship between board and staff, strategic planning, human resource management, and leadership.

Details

DATES: February 4 - March 29, 2019

COST: $195 AASLH Members/ $295 Nonmembers

OPEN REGISTRATION: December 7, 2018 - January 28, 2019; 20 Person Limit

REGISTER HERE

Logistics:

FORMAT: Online, weekly-paced course

LENGTH: 8 weeks

PARTICIPATION STYLE: Weekly real-time telephone and online chats (schedule to be determined based on student availability); weekly assignments; final course assignment

MATERIALS: Two recommended texts

CREDIT: Successful completion of this course will earn one credit toward the Small Museum Pro! certificate from AASLH.

Description & Outcomes:

During the eight weeks of this course, modules addressing governance and administrative structures, nonprofit status and the public trust, mission and vision, the relationship between board and staff, including their roles and responsibilities; strategic planning, human resource development and management, and leadership will be covered. The course includes a combination of topical reading assignments and related weekly assignments and online chats. A final course assignment is due the last week of class.

Participant Outcomes

After completing this course, participants will understand principles and best practices of Leadership and Administration including the following:

  • the public trust role and governance structure of most nonprofit museums;
  • the importance of museum mission, vision, change, and strategic planning;
  • the major administrative and leadership roles and responsibilities of the board and staff;
  • the key issues in human resource management, including building effective teams
  • why leadership matters at all levels;
  • charting your museum’s future and measuring effectiveness; and
  • where the museum field is heading in the future.

Sample Curriculum

  • Week 1: Course overview; an inside look at nonprofits, public trust and governance
  • Week 2: Museum Boards, Their Roles, Responsibilities, Expectations, and Their Relationship to Museum Staff
  • Week 3: The Importance of Museum Vision and Mission
  • Week 4:  Administrative and Management Responsibilities, Relationships, Structures, Systems and Networks
  • Week 5:  Human Resource Management – Building Effective Teams and Mentoring
  • Week 6:  Why Leadership Matters, At All Levels
  • Week 7:  Charting Your Museum’s Future and Measuring Effectiveness
  • Week 8:  Putting It All Together: Where the Field is Heading and How You Fit In

Texts Used (sold separately)

Recommended Texts:

Anne W. Ackerson and Joan Baldwin, Leadership Matters, https://rowman.com/ISBN/9780759121850/Leadership-Matters

Hugh H. Genoways and Lynne M. Ireland (revised by Cinnamon Catlin-Legutko), Museum Administration 2.0, https://rowman.com/ISBN/9781442255524/Museum-Administration-2.0

Who Should Attend:

Successful participants will be individuals in institutional leadership positions at the staff, board, and volunteer levels (where volunteers supervise others), who have significant decision-making responsibilities and who have the ability to affect positive, substantive change within their organizations.  This course is not appropriate for students, interns, or volunteers who do not have managerial responsibilities. We recommend that only one person per institution take this course at a time. To read about a participant’s experience, take a look at this blog post by a Leadership and Administration student: Leadership Matters At Every Level.

Instructor

In a career spanning three decades, Anne Ackerson has served as director of several historic house museums and historical societies in central and eastern New York, the director of the Museum Association of New York, and now currently serves as the executive director of the National Council of State Archivists.

In 1997 Anne began an independent consulting practice focusing on organizational development issues for the smaller nonprofit cultural institution. She writes regularly about management and leadership issues for cultural institutions in her blog, Leading by Design. She is a frequent workshop/webinar presenter on issues of museum ethics, executive leadership, financial management, and board roles and responsibilities. In addition to teaching this course, she developed curriculum materials and a webinar on strategic planning for the American Association of State and Local History’s StEPS program, a national standards program for history museums.


AASLH Announces the HLI Class of 2018

By Max van Balgooy, HLI Director

AASLH welcomes the Class of 2018 to the History Leadership Institute (HLI) next week in Indianapolis. HLI is a three-week residential program for mid-career history professionals working in museums, historical societies, historic sites, archives, and similar organizations who wish to tackle some of the most pressing issues facing the field, such as decolonization, sensitive topics, public tragedies, and sustainability, through cutting-edge techniques, including alignment, systems thinking, and adaptive leadership.

This year's Associates are:

  • Stephanie Boyle, Dumbarton House (Washington, DC)
  • Cathy A. Burton, Great American Songbook Foundation (Carmel, IN)
  • Christina M. Claassen, Whatcom Museum (Bellingham, WA)
  • Elaine Heavey, Massachusetts Historical Society (Boston, MA)
  • Guinn Hinman, State Historical Society of North Dakota (Bismarck, ND)
  • Nicholas J. Hoffman, Missouri Historical Society (St. Louis, MO)
  • Kimberly F. Kelderhouse, Leelanau Historical Society (Traverse City, MI)
  • Heidi Kloempken, Minnesota Historical Society (St. Paul, MN)
  • Jennifer McElroy, Minnesota Historical Society (St. Paul, MN)
  • Patrick McGuire, Elkhart County Historical Museum (Mishawaka, IN)
  • Sarah E. Morin, Conner Prairie (Fishers, IN)
  • Trisha Nelson, History Nebraska (Lincoln, NE)
  • Casey Pfeiffer, Indiana Historical Bureau (Indianapolis, IN)
  • Jonathan Sebastian, Fischer Farm/Bensenville Park District (Bensenville, IL)
  • Daniel Shockley, Indiana Historical Society (Indianapolis, IN)
  • MaryMikel Stump, Washington State Historical Society (Tacoma, WA)
  • JaMarcus Underwood, Jack Hadley Black History Museum (Thomasville, GA)
  • Jennifer Van Haaften, Wisconsin Veterans Museum (Madison, WI)
  • Jessica R. VanLanduyt, Atlanta History Center (Atlanta, GA)

AASLH awarded the Denny O'Toole Scholarship to JaMarcus Underwood of the Jack Hadley Black History Museum and a Diversity Scholarship to Christina Claassen of the Whatcom Museum.

HLI graduates have been shaping the field since 1959, when Edward Alexander of Colonial Williamsburg established the program as the Seminar for Historical Administrators. It is now the foremost mid-career training program for history professionals in the United States and supported by some of the nation's leading history organizations: Conner Prairie, History Nebraska, Indiana Historical Society, Missouri Historical Society, National Association for Interpretation, Georgia Historical Society, Massachusetts Historical Society, and Minnesota Historical Society. Graduates work in executive positions in a wide variety of organizations such as the Abbe Museum, Brucemore, Thomas Jefferson's Monticello, Strawbery Banke, President Lincoln's Cottage, Senator John Heinz History Center, Preservation Society of Newport County, National Society of the Colonial Dames of America, Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation, and the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art. To apply for the Class of 2019 or for more information, visit HistoryLeadership.org.


AASLH Welcomes New Council Officers and Members

NASHVILLE, TN— The American Association for State and Local History (AASLH) welcomed the following history professionals to the AASLH Council and the Leadership Nominating Committee on September 28 at its Annual Meeting in Kansas City, Missouri.

The Council sets policy and provides leadership, is responsible for strategic planning, and represents AASLH members and the field at large.  The Leadership Nominating Committee works with staff and the AASLH Council to identify AASLH's and the field's leadership and points direction for a slate of offices, Council members, and LNC members. New committee members began their terms at the 2018 Meeting of the Membership in Kansas City.

New Council Officers are:

  • Chair: John Fleming, Director, National Museum of African American Music, Nashville, TN
  • Vice Chair: Norman Burns, President and CEO, Conner Prairie, Fishers, IN
  • Treasurer: Brent Ott, Vice-President of Business Operations and Chief Financial Officer, The Henry Ford, Dearborn, MI
  • Secretary: Dina Bailey, International Coalition of Sites of Conscience, Atlanta, GA

New Council Members are:

  • Christy Coleman, CEO, American Civil War Museum, Richmond, VA
  • Jeff Matsuoka, Vice President, Business and Operations, Indiana Historical Society, Indianapolis, IN
  • Alexandra Rasic, Director of Public Programs, Workman and Temple Family Homestead Museum, City of Industry, CA
  • Dennis Vasquez, Superintendent, Petroglyph National Monument, Albuquerque, NM
  • Steve Murray, Director, Alabama Department of Archives and History, Montgomery, AL

New Leadership Nominating Committee Members are:

  • Helen Wong Smith, Librarian/Archivist of State Historical Preservation Division and Executive Director of Kaua'i Historical Society, Lihu'e, HI
  • Gretchen Sullivan Sorin, Director, Cooperstown Graduate Program, Cooperstown, NY

AASLH President and CEO John Dichtl says, "Bringing on this new class of leaders for AASLH and the field at this moment in the associations history is truly exciting.  Each brings a depth and breadth of experience that we will be relying on to advance relevant and inclusive history across the country."

AASLH is governed by a twenty-one-member council, elected by the membership for the Association. The Council is comprised of leaders in the field of public history, with wide-ranging specialties.  Council members serve four years.

The American Association for State and Local History provides leadership and support for its members who preserve and interpret state and local history in order to make the past more meaningful to all people. Based in Nashville, the organization provides services and assistance to over 5,500 institutional and individual members, as well as leadership for history organizations nationally. It is the only comprehensive national organization dedicated to state and local history. For more information, please visit www.aaslh.org.


A stack of books and binders is shown behind a purple banner with the text

Online Course: Leadership and Administration in History Organizations

History museum leadership is more complex and demanding than ever before, requiring updated and innovative ways to meet mission and keep organizations healthy. Thoughtful, intentional museum administration and leadership matters, regardless of the size or focus of your organization.

Administration and leadership matter, regardless the size or focus of your organization. This online course covers governance and administrative structure, nonprofit status, mission and vision, board and staff responsibilities, the relationship between board and staff, strategic planning, human resource management, and leadership.

Details:

DATES: September 17 – November 12, 2018

COST: $195 AASLH Members/ $295 Nonmembers

OPEN REGISTRATION: August 8 – September 14, 2018; 20 Person Limit

Register Here

Logistics:

FORMAT: Online, weekly-paced course

LENGTH: 8 weeks

PARTICIPATION STYLE: Weekly real-time telephone and online chats (schedule to be determined based on student availability); weekly assignments; final course assignment

MATERIALS: Two recommended texts (See below)

CREDIT: Successful completion of this course will earn one credit toward the Small Museum Pro!certificate from AASLH.

Description & Outcomes:

During the nine weeks of this course, modules addressing governance and administrative structures, nonprofit status and the public trust, mission and vision, the relationship between board and staff, including their roles and responsibilities; strategic planning, human resource development and management, and leadership will be covered. The course includes a combination of topical reading assignments and related weekly assignments and online chats. A final course assignment is due the last week of class.

Participant Outcomes

After completing this course, participants will understand principles and best practices of Leadership and Administration including the following:

  • the public trust role and governance structure of most nonprofit museums;
  • the importance of museum mission, vision, change, and strategic planning;
  • the major administrative and leadership roles and responsibilities of the board and staff;
  • the key issues in human resource management, including building effective teams
  • why leadership matters at all levels;
  • charting your museum’s future and measuring effectiveness; and
  • where the museum field is heading in the future.

Sample Curriculum

  • Week 1: Course overview; an inside look at nonprofits, public trust and governance
  • Week 2: Museum Boards, Their Roles, Responsibilities, Expectations, and Their Relationship to Museum Staff
  • Week 3: The Importance of Museum Vision and Mission
  • Week 4:  Administrative and Management Responsibilities, Relationships, Structures, Systems and Networks
  • Week 5:  Human Resource Management – Building Effective Teams and Mentoring
  • Week 6:  Why Leadership Matters, At All Levels
  • Week 7:  Charting Your Museum’s Future and Measuring Effectiveness
  • Week 8:  Putting It All Together: Where the Field is Heading and How You Fit In

Texts Used (sold separately)

Recommended Texts:

Anne W. Ackerson and Joan Baldwin, Leadership Matters, https://rowman.com/ISBN/9780759121850/Leadership-Matters

Hugh H. Genoways and Lynne M. Ireland (revised by Cinnamon Catlin-Legutko), Museum Administration 2.0, https://rowman.com/ISBN/9781442255524/Museum-Administration-2.0

Who Should Attend:

Successful participants will be individuals in institutional leadership positions at the staff, board, and volunteer levels (where volunteers supervise others), who have significant decision- making responsibilities and who have the ability to affect positive, substantive change within their organizations.  This course is not appropriate for students, interns, or volunteers who do not have managerial responsibilities. We recommend that only one person per institution take this course at a time. To read about a participant’s experience, take a look at this blog post by a Leadership and Administration student: Leadership Matters At Every Level.

Register Here

Instructor

In a career spanning three decades, Anne Ackerson has served as director of several historic house museums and historical societies in central and eastern New York, the director of the Museum Association of New York, and now currently serves as the executive director of the National Council of State Archivists.

In 1997 Anne began an independent consulting practice focusing on organizational development issues for the smaller nonprofit cultural institution. She writes regularly about management and leadership issues for cultural institutions in her blog, Leading by Design. She is a frequent workshop/webinar presenter on issues of museum ethics, executive leadership, financial management, and board roles and responsibilities. In addition to teaching this course, she developed curriculum materials and a webinar on strategic planning for the American Association of State and Local History’s StEPS program, a national standards program for history museums.


AASLH Announces Election Results

We are proud to announce the election results for four open spots on the AASLH Council, three Council officers, and two spots on our Leadership Nominating Committee.  The Council sets policy and provides leadership for the Association, is responsible for strategic planning, and represents AASLH members and the field at large. The Leadership Nominating Committee works with staff and the AASLH Council to identify AASLH’s and the field’s leadership and points direction for a slate of officers, Council members, and LNC members. New committee members will begin their terms at the 2018 Meeting of the Membership in Kansas City, and we look forward to welcoming them!

Council Officers

Vice Chair

  • Norman Burns, President and CEO, Conner Prairie, Fishers, IN

Treasurer

  • Brent Ott, Vice-President of Business Operations and Chief Financial Officer, The Henry Ford, Dearborn, MI

Secretary

  • Dina Bailey, International Coalition of Sites of Conscience, Atlanta, GA

New Council Members 

  • Christy Coleman, CEO, American Civil War Museum, Richmond, VA
  • Jeff Matsuoka, Vice President, Business and Operations, Indiana Historical Society, Indianapolis, IN
  • Alexandra Rasic, Director of Public Programs, Workman and Temple Family Homestead Museum, City of Industry, CA
  • Dennis Vásquez, Superintendent, Petroglyph National Monument, Albuquerque, NM

New Leadership Nominating Committee Members

  • Helen Wong Smith, Librarian/Archivist of State Historic Preservation Division and Executive Director of the Kaua’i Historical Society, Lihu’e, HI
  • Gretchen Sullivan Sorin, Director, Cooperstown Graduate Program, Cooperstown, NY

AASLH Announces Election Slate for Council and Leadership Nominating Committee

We are proud to announce the slate of candidates for four open spots on the AASLH Council, three Council officers, and two spots on our Leadership Nominating Committee.  The Council sets policy and provides leadership for the Association, is responsible for strategic planning, and represents AASLH members and the field at large. The Leadership Nominating Committee works with staff and the AASLH Council to identify AASLH’s and the field’s leadership and points direction for a slate of officers, Council members, and LNC members.

The election will open June 1 and close on July 1, and members will receive notice of how and when to vote by email.

Council Officers

Vice Chair

  • Norman Burns, President and CEO, Conner Prairie, Fishers, IN

Treasurer

  • Brent Ott, Vice-President of Business Operations and Chief Financial Officer, The Henry Ford, Dearborn, MI

Secretary

  • Dina Bailey, International Coalition of Sites of Conscience, New York, NY

 

Council Candidates  (4 open seats)

  • Christy Coleman, CEO, American Civil War Museum, Richmond, VA
  • Jeff Matsuoka, Vice President, Business and Operations, Indiana Historical Society, Indianapolis, IN
  • Alexandra Rasic, Director of Public Programs, Workman and Temple Family Homestead Museum, City of Industry, CA
  • Dennis Vásquez, Superintendent, Petroglyph National Monument, Albuquerque, NM

 

Leadership Nominating Committee Candidates (2 open seats)

  • Anne Ackerson, Independent Museum Consultant, Troy, NY
  • Kaia Landon, Executive Director, Brigham City Museum, Brigham City, UT
  • Helen Wong Smith, Librarian/Archivist of State Historic Preservation Division and Executive Director of the Kaua'i Historical Society, Lihu'e, HI
  • Gretchen Sullivan Sorin, Director, Cooperstown Graduate Program, Cooperstown, NY

Women Who Mentor: Mindy Porter, Director of Education, Scott Family Amazeum

The Scott Family Amazeum.

One of the founding objectives of the Women’s History Affinity Group at AASLH is to “[foster] mentoring, professional development, and strongly encourage young women to strive for leadership positions within their professional organizations. The “Women Who Mentor” blog series asks successful women from across the field to share their experiences and advice with women, as well as men, who are striving to advance in their careers.

Mindy Porter is the Director of Education at the Scott Family Amazeum, a hands-on, interactive museum for children and families in Bentonville, AR.

How did you arrive at your present job position?

Mindy Porter. Photo courtesy of the Scott Family Amazeum.

I stumbled into the interactive museum career field when I was graduating from college. I didn’t have a museum career path as my plan for ‘what I would do when I grow up,’ and in fact I didn’t even know it was a career option for me. I have always been fascinated by science and I enjoy messing around with interesting phenomenon in order to understand how it works. I suppose this is what led me to getting a Bachelor’s degree in Biology. I have also always been drawn to working with children and sharing my passion for science with them. It wasn’t until the science museum I was volunteering with had a job opening that I connected the dots of a possible career. I was offered the position of Outreach Coordinator which was my gateway into an amazing career field that celebrates exploring science in a fun, engaging manner. I was hooked. After 15 years in the museum field, working at two museums, and starting countless programs, I am currently the Director of Education at the Scott Family Amazeum.

What things have you learned or advice do you have for others starting in the field?

One aspect of my career that I have come to really value is the opportunity to build relationships and serve as a mentor to my team members. It’s an honor to help them navigate how to be a professional with integrity and to be intentional in their decision making process. There are several things I have learned along my career journey (and many more things I will learn!) that I often share with my team members. So many in fact that my team started secretly writing down my sayings and put these “Mindy-isms” on a canvas as a birthday gift!. There are two ‘Mindy-isms’ that I would share with other women (and men) in the field: “Be smart about it” and “Etch-a-sketch your brain.”

“Be smart about it” is a phrase I use in reference to decision-making. It’s about thinking systematically through the various pathways available. It’s also about committing to the pathway that supports the mission of your organization, builds team capacity, and has the greatest impact on your audience. Be smart about the path you choose and be smart about why you are choosing it.

“Etch-a-sketch your brain” goes hand-in-hand with “be smart about it”. There are times when “being smart about it” means knowing when to abandon an idea, knowing when a program has run its cycle and you need to retire it, or acknowledging when you need to get out of your rut to energize your creativity. There are times when you have to “etch-a-sketch your brain” in order to erase and clear out the contents to make room for innovation and new opportunities.  Being willing to “etch-a-sketch your brain” and take on a new challenge will keep you from getting stagnant in your work and allow your team to take advantage of growth opportunities.

How does the work that you do contribute to women's history and/or women making history in the STEM field?

We are at a critical point in America where our education system is not preparing our students for the STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) focused workforce needed in the United States. Employers are finding it difficult to recruit the STEM talent they need to stay competitive.  There are numerous unfilled positions in STEM careers due to the lack of qualified applicants. We are not preparing our children for the future that awaits them. This is especially the case for girls. Girls are falling even farther behind in this STEM crisis as most STEM careers have historically been filled by men.  It’s time to “etch-a-sketch our brains” in how we are inspiring and preparing our students.

“Mindy-isms” sign of leadership ideas and sayings, given as a gift to Porter by her Amazeum team. Photo courtesy of the author.

Museums play a critical role in sparking interest in STEM with a creative expression. Museums also provide experiences and creative spaces where children (and adults) can actively explore and ask questions about the world around them.  Studies indicate that an interest in science, rather than proficiency, is more strongly predictive of a young person pursuing a STEM career. The work I do at the Amazeum is in service of providing experiences that will spark and fuel an interest in STEM (and integrate the arts into STEM) for our guests, especially girls. One experience the Amazeum is offering this summer is our Girls STEAM: Dream Big Camp. This camp is designed specifically for girls to have an environment that they feel comfortable in to explore science, tinker, and make things. The week-long camp will be lead by our female educators and supported by our girl teens from our MakeHER Squad Program. The camp will also feature presentations and Q&A time with females in our community that have STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) careers. Not only will the campers spend time being hands-on with STEAM, but they will also get to see first-hand women role models who are hands-on with STEAM in their careers. Our goal is to expose the campers to the vast career opportunities available to them and to build their confidence and interest in STEAM.

It’s a multiple pronged solution to fix this workforce crisis. My team and I are simply one prong of the solution, and when we combine our efforts with others, the impact is multiplied.

Please join us next week for the last installment of our “Women Who Mentor” series. Make sure that you also read our earlier installments, featuring Gemma Birnbaum of The National WWII Museum and Laurel Miller from the National Museum of American History’s Draper Spark!Lab.

 


AASLH Announces Election Slate for Council and Leadership Nominating Committee

We are proud to announce the slate of candidates for four open spots on the AASLH Council and two spots on our Leadership Nominating Committee.  The Council sets policy and provides leadership for the Association, is responsible for strategic planning, and represents AASLH members and the field at large. The Leadership Nominating Committee works with staff and the AASLH Council to identify AASLH’s and the field’s leadership and points direction for a slate of officers, Council members, and LNC members.

The election will open June 1 and close on July 1, and members will receive notice of how and when to vote by email.

 

Council Candidates (4 open seats)

  • Lisa Eriksen, Principal, Lisa Eriksen Consulting, Oakland, CA
  • Stacy Klingler, Executive Director, William Butterworth Foundation, Moline, IL
  • Trina Nelson Thomas, Director, Stark Art & History Venues, Orange, TX
  • Brent Ott, Vice-President of Business Services & Chief Financial Officer, The Henry Ford, Dearborn, MI

Leadership Nominating Committee Candidates (2 open seats)

  • Omar Eaton-Martínez, Intern & Fellows Program Manager, National Museum of American History, Washington, D.C.
  • Rebecca M. Slaughter, Museum System Administrator, Las Cruces Museum System, Las Cruces, NM
  • Laura Hortz Stanton, Executive Director, Conservation Center for Art & Artifacts, Philadelphia, PA
  • Susie Wilkening, Principal, Wilkening Consulting, Seattle, WA

Improving History Work: Collaboration Continues to Matter

Before there was an American Association for State and Local History, many historians – trained and avocational–put a lot of thought into how to get the best product. One example of such thought is from Henry Bourne, “The Work of American Historical Societies,” published in The Iowa Journal of History and Politics (April 1905).[1] His observations on the way state and local history was organized then as now show the need for collaboration.

On the surface Bourne’s paper is a compendium of how the various state history enterprises operated. How content is delivered and the scope of operations has changed significantly. Also, the sheer volume of history enterprises[2] has changed. In 110 years, the number of history organizations has grown from an estimated 500 to approximately 19,250. [3] Yet, much of the paper could have been written today.

douglas county historical socieity

Distributing the Work Load

Because it is stated at the beginning, it may be easy to overlook Bourne’s observation that history is a decentralized system. He characterizes the distributed manner of saving and sharing history as encouraging because “the consequence must be a broader interpretation of American history.” Since there were and are many history enterprises, this informal group becomes a community of practice.

The community of practice among history enterprises has two effects. First, the quality of scholarship improves with the greater access to primary records saved by every enterprise. Second, the quality of saving and sharing also improves as practices spread among history enterprises. In Minnesota, the overall quality in the work of saving and sharing has risen with the availability of the Standards and Excellence Program for Historical Organizations (StEPs), meaningful recognition through AASLH Awards, and through Minnesota grant programs. Just as neighbors can’t let each other down and strive to keep up their properties so that all values rise, so also historical organizations strive to meet standards to provide comparable visitor experiences. Or, in short community pride prompts us all to want to provide the best history services to those we serve.

Cultivating Cooperation

Bourne goes on to note that all history enterprises depend upon one another to do their work. No matter the scale–state or local–the work is often the same. The quality of that work then as now depends on consistent staff, access to best practices, and stable and sufficient revenue.

The question put forward by Bourne is how possible would it be to increase cooperation between history enterprises, thus improving the quality of history saved and shared. On the national level that has been answered in part by the American Association for State and Local History, a forum of best practices, standards, excellent examples, and collegial encouragement. Within states, history enterprises are encouraged similarly through forums for certain disciplines and through members of the Field Services Alliance where available.

Strengthening our community of practice by building up individual organizations strengthens the whole field. As shown in recent scholarship,[4] state history enterprises that provide capacity-development services to the many smaller history enterprises grow their revenues from third parties faster than those that do not provide such services. Yes, the scholarship suggests that the Golden Rule works on a financial level as much as it does morally for ethical reciprocity.

Final Thoughts

How can we in 2016 get the best from history work? Greater cooperation, of course! How do we get greater cooperation? Attend AASLH conferences and meetings, for one. And, develop your capacity for saving and sharing history by depending on your Field Services Alliance members and your colleagues at other history enterprises.

As Mark Twain once observed, “History may not repeat itself, but it rhymes.” Henry Bourne’s words from 1905 still ring true.

David M. Grabitske, DBA, leads the Minnesota Historical Society’s Local History Services, which is marking its centennial of service in 2016. He advises nationally on the business of history enterprises, museum facilities, and German Red Wines.

_________________

[1] This journal was published 1903-1948, when succeeded by the Iowa Journal of History.

[2] The use of the term “enterprise” references Robert B. Townsend, History’s Babel: Scholarship, Professionalization, and the Historical Enterprise in the United States, 1880-1940. To understand how history work has unfolded, read this book.

[3] The Institute of Museums and Library Services maintains a “Museum Universe Data File” showing over 35,000 museums in the United States. About 55 percent are history related, yielding the 19,250 number.

[4] David M. Grabitske, “State History Enterprises and Capacity-Development Services” doctoral dissertation, Metropolitan State University, St. Paul, Minnesota, 2014.


A Tale of Two Strategic Plans: Setting Realistic Goals at the Chemung County Historical Society

Once again, the Chemung County Historical Society (CCHS) has begun a strategic planning process. Having been through this several times in my career, I was determined to make sure that this one was different.

Despite all the time and effort, the last version that was supposed to be our guiding document sat on the shelf and was rarely, if ever, used.

First of all, it was difficult to “own” this document. The board was already in the middle of the process when they hired me, so I had provided little input. The final plan reflected the previous director’s priorities, (not that these were wrong) rather than mine.

The CCHS was also getting re-accredited by AAM during this transitional period, so they granted us an extension to complete that plan. Although we finished that document to receive accreditation, the plan itself was of little value.

 

Main exhibit hall at the CCHS
Main exhibit hall at the CCHS

 

The “Great Recession” also worked against the previous strategic plan. Much of its focus was on starting a capital campaign. The capital work identified was needed then, and still needed now, but this campaign completely ignored the nation’s and this region’s new economic realities.

Although this plan gathered dust, the CCHS was still moving forward, just not exactly in the ways the plan anticipated. Our growth wasn’t physical, it was in our structure and in our programming. The curator’s position went from 20-hours a week to full-time. Our education program has exploded to the point that my one educator needs an assistant.

Finally, an unexpected gift also changed the equation. Like most museums, we have more stuff than storage space. Given that some of this stuff includes fire trucks, storage has been a really big problem. But that changed when a long-time supporter gave us a building. We rent out two-thirds to generate some income; the remaining one-third now houses parts of our collection, including our fire trucks. This change also saved us considerable money because renovating another building we owned (we’ll call it Building A), as initially planned, would have cost three times as much.

Not long ago, our local economic development council acquired several properties next to Building A. We are now investigating some sort of public/private investment partnership to develop this building into an income producing property.

Another part of our Strategic Plan’s problem was the downsized economy. This area of New York is on the eastern edge of the Rust Belt. Most of that old industrial base is now gone.

As a result, this situation has hampered CCHS’ attempts to raise large sums of money. The community was generally supportive, but understandably hesitant, about the few small steps we had taken. Financial portfolios had taken a hit, and reluctant donors didn’t want to commit themselves to unexciting plans and ideas.

We originally planned to turn Building A into a museum-quality storage space and then work our way through the main CCHS building, starting on the third floor and working down to the first. This plan made sense from a construction order sequence, but not in terms of fundraising. Renovating Building A had been the largest single part of the project, but it had the least appeal to new donors.

shelfpicGrowth in programming has now re-directed our capital needs. We’re doing more outreach and going to more places than ever before. We’re also seeing more visitors to the museum, thanks to new programming, a more robust exhibit schedule, and hosting joint events with prospective partners. All of this places additional pressure on our public spaces and on staff time.

It already looks as if the new strategic plan holds a lot more hope and promise than the last one. For starters, the staff and I can honestly say that we’ll “own” it because we’ve all been here long enough to gain and offer a realistic, long-term perspective. We know what we want and what this community will support. Our board of trustees is also seriously looking at their role in this process and in its operation.

Our consultant also understands my thinking on Strategic Planning. The document we’re putting together is not a detailed step-by-step tome. It’s a set of clearly-defined goals, guided by our revised mission and vision. We’ll also retain considerable flexibility to achieve those goals. We’ll be able to adjust our programming and procedures without sacrificing our goals, no matter what unexpected outside shock, good or bad, comes our way.

As the Director, I finally feel that this plan is “my” plan. We’re soliciting input from a wide array of stakeholders, so it will strongly reflect the long-term and short-term ambitions we all share. At this point, we’re about half-way through in completing this plan, but the board and staff are more excited than ever before. Once we’re up and running and everything’s in place, I’ll let you how know how all of this works out for us.