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

Should We Create the Same Digital Archives for Different Audiences?

RL front screen

As a part-time history Ph.D. student embarking on my dissertation (while working full-time at Ford’s Theatre—indeed, I don’t sleep much), few things thrill me more than searching for digitized primary sources.

I tend to use loose search terms, as I know that many digitized collections have minimal metadata, and then sort through the results manually to find what I need.

Wearing either my academic or my museum professional hat, I’m the not-oft-stated but oft-implied audience for many collections databases. My many, many, many years of training (I’m in something like 23rd grade) have prepared me to separate the wheat from the chaff.

But what of users who haven’t gone through years of professional history and museum training, like K-12 teachers? Should we expect them to use an online archive in the same way?

Just as we wouldn’t run the same type of public program for academics as we would for K–12 teachers (I hope), we shouldn’t expect everyone else to use the same type of online platforms we create for use by academics and fellow museum professionals.

This was perhaps the biggest lesson that became clear to us at Ford’s Theatre as we planned our Remembering Lincoln Digital Collection, which launched in March 2015. After we identified four (in hindsight, overly broad) target audiences during the course of a planning meeting (teachers, students, enthusiasts and scholars), we began an audience evaluation process led by Conny Graft.

 

Both during the planning process and after launch, Ford’s Theatre conducted videoconference focus groups with teachers, enthusiasts and recent museum visitors.
Both during the planning process and after launch, Ford’s Theatre conducted videoconference focus groups with teachers, enthusiasts and recent museum visitors.

We conducted focus groups with teachers and enthusiasts, and surveys of teachers, enthusiasts and scholars.

Ultimately, we identified teachers and students as our most important long-term audiences. We realized that much of the interest from enthusiasts would coincide with the 150th anniversary of the Lincoln assassination, but teachers and students would have interest in this resource year in and year out.

Do busy teachers have the same interest that researchers like me do in sorting through reams of lightly-interpreted primary sources to find the right ones for their classes?

As they told us, and as research efforts by the Minnesota Historical Society have shown as well, not so much.

Rather, teachers understandably don’t have time to sift, and also indicated that they prefer for a subject expert to give recommendations.

So pursuant to this, we made sure that the website includes several features that add interpretation and context—something that took a lot of extra work, but that we would argue is worth the effort.

There is an interpretive section of the website, with a timeline (not always the best interpretive method, but in this case, a way to show events and related primary sources in time), a map that displays a selection of primary sources, and short biographies of featured people.

We have a set of thematic “curated collections” to give another entry point.

We worked with a group of teachers to create teaching modules—the teachers told us that they trusted lesson plans created by their fellow professionals, and not as much by museum staff.

We’ve also used a tagging system, which has sometimes broken down in spite of efforts to maintain a controlled vocabulary. We’re working with our web developer on replacing a free tagging system with check boxes.

We’ve also started working with classrooms on transcriptions, since many of the items in Remembering Lincoln are as yet un-transcribed.

We’ve also encouraged—not always successfully—our contributing institutions to add rich descriptions to their items. In a focus group after launch, teachers indicated a strong preference for items with more interpretation.

 

Diary of Sarah Gooll Putnam, a teenager living in Boston who drew the look on her face when her father told her of Lincoln’s assassination. As an adult, Putnam was a portrait painter. Massachusetts Historical Society.
Diary of Sarah Gooll Putnam, a teenager living in Boston who drew the look on her face when her father told her of Lincoln’s assassination. As an adult, Putnam was a portrait painter. Massachusetts Historical Society.

In the future, we’ll likely be going back to add richer metadata.

An important point about adding richer metadata: It takes a lot of time and counters the notion of “more product, less process” that is prevalent in archival work today. Instead of what others have told me is an average of 20-30 minutes per item, Jessica Ellison at the Minnesota Historical Society, who is preparing sets of richly-described primary sources for teachers, tells me she spends one to two hours per item, depending on how much research she needs to do.

But as Mike Lesperance, a principal at exhibition development firm The Design Minds (disclosure: where I formerly worked), put it to me in a recent conversation, interpreting collections items in this way is making them intellectually accessible to broader audiences. Isn’t that what we are supposed to do as educators?

In addition to curated sets of primary sources and rich metadata, our research and that of others also indicate that teachers are looking for variety.

This is one of the unresolved questions that we still have with Remembering Lincoln. In our collecting—not nearly finished (so if your institution has materials, please let me know!)—we have aimed, not always successfully, for geographic and ethnic diversity. Indeed, in the extensive audience research and interpretation process, building the collection was one of the aspects that suffered, although we have 693 items as of May 31.

Still, how do we reconcile the desire for a larger variety of items with the desire for a more curated focus? We haven’t quite cracked that nut. Any suggestions from others in the field are appreciated!

David McKenzie is Associate Director for Digital Resources in the Education Department at Ford’s Theatre. He also is currently a part-time History Ph.D. student at George Mason University, studying 19th-century U.S. and Latin American history, as well as digital history. Before coming to Ford’s in October 2013, he worked at the Jewish Historical Society of Greater WashingtonThe Design Minds, Inc. and the Alamo. Follow him on Twitter @dpmckenzie.


Gilder Lehrman Online Graduate Course Creates New Digital History Archive

AASLH Member Since 2002

An enterprising group of 700 teachers recently completed an innovative online graduate course, “Understanding Lincoln,” presented jointly by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History and the House Divided Project at Dickinson College. The results of this project now appear in a diverse and thoughtful collection of research and teaching tools. Registration for the second phase of “Understanding Lincoln” will open on March 15, 2014.

“Understanding Lincoln” began as a fall semester 2013 online course that attracted a cohort of 100 participants pursuing graduate credit from Dickinson College and an additional 600 auditors from four continents. Dickinson College history professor and noted Lincoln scholar Matthew Pinsker was the instructor. The Gilder Lehrman Institute’s director of digital projects, Lance Warren, served as course producer.

Participants engaged in live seminar sessions and interactive field trips, viewed an expert panel on Lincoln’s legacy televised by C-SPAN, and a special exhibit on the Gettysburg Address created for the Google Cultural Institute. Three participants also received an all-expenses-paid trip to Gettysburg for the 150th Anniversary of the Gettysburg Address, where they presented their final course projects during an open online session. All course participants were encouraged to 1 of 3 contribute close-reading content to a growing archive of web-based resources created during the course sessions. These tools were designed to align with the new Common Core State Standards. Perhaps most importantly, more than 50 course participants became contributing editors to a new, award-winning website devoted to promoting the teaching of Lincoln documents in the K-12 and undergraduate classroom.

EDSITEment, a project of the National Endowment for the Humanities featuring excellent online humanities content, ranked “Lincoln’s Writings: The Multi-Media Edition” as one of the “Best of the Humanities Web” in November 2013. These contributing editors, now rightly recognized as public historians, are bringing back to classrooms around the world not only their own insights, but also those of hundreds of colleagues. With “Understanding Lincoln” and the “Lincoln’s Writings” site, a new community of Lincoln scholars is born.

Course participants have been quick to praise the effort. “The rigor and intellectual engagement of this course was very impressive, as was the work of the other participants,” noted Emily Trono, a high school English teacher from Boston who earned graduate credit for the course. Woody Woodruff, a lifelong learner from New York participating in the free, open section of the course, found the process unique and profound. “I learned about Lincoln and the Civil War Era,” he reflected, “but I also discovered the power of learning through original source material, and that online courses can be a lot more interactive than I expected.” “I have seen the future,” Woodruff wrote, “and it is ‘Understanding Lincoln.’" The Gilder Lehrman Institute and Dickinson College will offer “Understanding Lincoln” again this summer, with registration opening on March 15.

The work of “Understanding Lincoln,” especially through the ongoing development of the new multimedia edition of “Lincoln’s Writings,” represents a new chapter of Lincoln scholarship driven by teachers, guided by historians, and assertively exploring the future of the president’s past.

The best projects from the “Understanding Lincoln” course are available here:  http://housedivided.dickinson.edu/sites/lincoln/understanding-lincoln-project-gallery/

To view selected open course sessions from Fall 2013 “Understanding Lincoln,” go here: http://new.livestream.com/gilderlehrman/lincoln

To view the “Understanding Lincoln” virtual field trip to Gettysburg, go here: http://gilderlehrman.org/multimedia#!112761

To view the exhibit on “Lincoln’s Gettysburg Addresses” featured at the Google Cultural Institute, go  here:  https://www.google.com/culturalinstitute/exhibit/lincoln-s-gettysburg-addresses/wReow-98

 

About the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History

Founded in 1994, the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History is the nation’s leading nonprofit provider of K–12 teacher training and  classroom resources. Our programs promote excellence in the teaching and learning of American history. Gilder Lehrman programs include  Teacher Seminars, a national Affiliate School Program, online courses, Traveling Exhibitions, online materials, and more for teachers, students, and the general public. Visit www.gilderlehrman.org to learn more.

About Dickinson College

Dickinson College, founded in 1773, is a highly selective, private residential liberal-arts college known for its innovative curriculum. Its mission is to offer students a useful education in the arts and sciences that will prepare them for lives as engaged citizens and leaders. The 180-acre campus of Dickinson College is located in the heart of historic Carlisle, Pa. The House Divided Project at Dickinson, directed by history professor Matthew Pinsker, specializes in building digital resources on the Civil War era for K-12 and undergraduate classrooms.

The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History
49 West 45th Street, 6th Floor
New York, NY 10036


What I'm Looking for... (thoughts from a nine-year-old museum visitor)

Tyler (right) and her sister Ryan with Harry Potter's robe at the Smithsonian.

This post is the second from my in-house (literally) focus group, this from my nine-year-old daughter Tyler. Unlike her big sister who is a budding history geek just like myself (her post is here), Tyler needs a bit more action in her learning and rarely hesitates to let us know when she’s grown tired of a museum experience.

That being said, it was enlightening for me to have this conversation with her. I knew she enjoyed the family time at museums but didn’t quite realize how much she actually liked museums themselves. It’s clear to me that she does like museums but is rather specific in her tastes.

I hope this offers some good food-for-thought.

-----------

What do you like when you go to museums?

I really like people who let you take your time and not tour guides who make you go fast and rush you because then you miss things like interesting old things or pictures.

I really like movies, slide shows, and old pictures at the beginning because they tell you more about what you’re going to learn. The one in the Rosa Parks Museum was one of my favorites because it felt like you were really there when she was arrested. You could see a bus and then see and hear what was going on. It made me feel like I was actually there which was really cool because I had learned about it when I was in school. (Note from me: she’s talking about their very powerful intro movie using a bus from that era.)

I also like things you can touch because you get the feel of things and you know what people held or used in the past. I also like doing scavenger hunts because I like to fill things out and it helps me experience the exhibit like the Girl Scout exhibit at the Tennessee State Museum.

Of course I like gift shops. I like things that are like what I actually saw and learned. Like books or copies of old things. I always ask you and Mommy to buy me a hat (note from Daddy: which she typically only wears on that particular trip).

What bores you or doesn’t interest you that much at museums?

Tour guides that rush me. I also don’t like it when tour guides don’t ask questions or talk only to the grownups or talk too long. Eventually I get bored when we’re just standing around and I don’t really understand what they’re saying.

I don’t like it when there’s too much to read. I prefer to see old things or listen, like the iPod tour at the Freedom Center because it showed you pictures and words as you moved around the museum.

I also don’t like it when I want to go to a particular exhibit or place in a museum and you and Mommy are talking to the guide or someone and making us wait. Because you guys keep saying “One minute” and I want to go somewhere else. But it was cool when we went to the Martin Luther King Jr. site gift shop because while you were talking too long to the people they were showing a movie and I learned a lot after I got bored looking at the stuff in the shop.

What are some of your favorite memories of museums/historic sites?

I really liked going to the Museum of Alabama with my cousins because your friend who took us around (note: that was Steve Murray, the director there) was really nice and he let us take our time and we could go back to things we liked like the dress up area they had.

I also liked the City Museum in St. Louis. I loved the slinky crawly thing and the slide made of soup cans. That was a fun museum. It seemed like kids made it up with so many things to climb on and play in: skate board ramps, tree house, tunnels to other rooms.

The History Center in Orlando where I directed education programs from 1999-2007

And I also love your old museum in Orlando, The History Center. One reason is because you worked there and it always had such cool stuff in it. I remember one visit where they had a Muppet exhibit. That was fun. I saw Animal and Rowlf the Dog.

I loved going to Washington, DC museums particularly the Smithsonian with things like Harry Potter’s robe from his first year at Hogwarts, Lincoln’s Hat, and Kermit the Frog—but I wondered why Miss Piggy wasn’t there too.

What is your favorite thing about visiting museums?

Because you get to see cool things and things from the past and it helps me learn more about some things I might have read about or learned about in school. The Rosa Parks Museum is like this. I read about Rosa Parks in Scholastic News but it was short. The museum helped me learn so much more.

I also like museums because we spend time as a family. Sometimes I really like it when there’s no tour guide and you and Mommy explain things to me.

What are some things you’d say about how to make visits more fun for you?

You should put out more artifacts that are things that kids used like old jump ropes or old balls and things. I don’t have to touch them or use them, I could just see them or see them in use like a movie or a picture. That’s cool for me to see how things have turned out. A lot of museums show things like old plates and such and it’s just more fun to see things that kids used.

Always have someone who can answer questions like a tour guide or someone. But they need to be people who have kids or know how to talk to kids and know the kind of things kids like. And dress up and play areas with things are cool.

-----------

So that’s my second internal focus group interview. What did I learn that you might put into practice and/or might keep in mind?

  • Kids make the connection to change over time, but they like it to relate to them. The former was a bit eye opening to me because Tyler usually gravitates toward activities and I overlooked somewhat her appreciation of artifacts. Not all places can show artifacts from childhood, but many can. And it doesn’t take much for a kid like Tyler, just a ball or even a pair of shoes ought to do it.
  • Interactives are important, but sometimes it’s just as effective to have someone there to answer questions at their level. This was a theme that she wove throughout this “interview.” She is inquisitive and likes to ask questions. But when it’s just “adult talk” she really zones out. Maybe have your guides bone up a bit on how to address children and involve them in interpretation.
  • Visuals are important. I guess this is kind of old hat to us now but Tyler repeated to me experiences she had with movies, videos, slide shows, etc. I remember her reaction to that video presentation and an actual bus (not the bus) at the Rosa Parks Museum. In fact, it mirrored our whole family’s experience (my 78-year-old father as well).
  • Don’t overlook small opportunities. Her comments about the MLK site in Atlanta were interesting to me. I remember the gift shop, located right next to King’s birth home. The front room had an orientation video of sorts in it that Tyler and her sister watched while Candy and I were stuck listening to a very friendly and knowledgeable but a bit overzealous employee. So the gift shop provided yet another opportunity for my daughter, who by then had become a bit bored, to learn.

Making Point of View Central to Interpretation

Photo courtesy of Ford’s Theatre.

Ford’s Theatre is a National Historic Site that also operates as a working theatre, producing four main stage shows each year.  For many years, the National Park Service provided all historical interpretation, while Ford’s Theatre Society, my independent non-profit employer, presented the theatre. In 2006, the board of Ford’s Theatre Society and the Board of Trustees expanded its organizational mission to “celebrate the legacy of President Abraham Lincoln and explore the American experience through theatre and education.”

In the following six years (I started as Director of Education Programming in 2007), Ford’s has become an institution that integrates theatre and history, using our expertise in theatrical programming to interpret Abraham Lincoln’s presidency, his assassination and his legacy both on and off the stage.

Using theatrical performance as a primary means of interpretation has both challenged and inspired us.  It has meant thinking beyond traditional notions of “exhibition” and working with theatrical professionals to understand one another’s definitions of high quality work.  Specifically, we have come to our own institutional understanding of the essential qualities of traditional theatre and how they differ from first person and third person interpretation.  Let me share some examples with you.

History Plays
When we began to play a larger role in interpretation at Ford’s Theatre National Historic Site, the artistic staff discussed inviting a playwright to come see the historic theatre and the exhibits beneath the theatre, and to hear formal interpretive talks, delivered from the stage by National Park Service rangers.  Our instructions were to take all that he heard and learned from the talks and put that information into a short, dramatically interesting piece of theatre. As with any exhibit plan, we struggled to come up with a point of view for the piece.

When working in partnership with a playwright, this is complicated by the need to maintain the integrity of the his or her artistic vision, and we learned the hard way that it did not send the message we wanted if the story we told about Abraham Lincoln’s assassination were told from the perspective of his assassin.  We started again with a new playwright, and this time, it worked.

A 30-minute play by Richard Hellesen titled One Destiny is performed on the stage of Ford’s Theatre twice a day in our busy season, and is told from the perspective of the men and women who were working at the theatre the night of the assassination and try to imagine in retrospect if and how they might have stopped the terrible crime committed that evening.  It has proved a powerful means of putting the visitor in the shoes of the people with whom they can most identify – not the actors in the crime, but the bystanders.

History on Foot
In 2008, Ford’s Theatre closed for a major restoration and renovation project.  For 18 months, we had no space to interpret the events of April 14, 1865.  The resolution to this dilemma came in the form of a wonderful realization that has opened our eyes to interpretation beyond the walls of the historic site.  With the commission of another work from our “playwright in residence,” Investigation: Detective McDevitt was born, and it still lives on the streets of Washington City from March to October. Detective James McDevitt was a Washington Metropolitan Police detective, assigned by Secretary of War Edwin Stanton to investigate the conspiracy behind the President’s assassination on the night of April 15, 1865.

Photo courtesy of Ford’s Theatre.

Twice a week from March to October, one of our “McDevitts” (there are currently two actors playing the role) starts off from Ford’s with up to 40 “deputies” tagging behind him, to retrace his steps that night, ending nearly two hours later in front of the White House.  The actor takes on the voices of the people he interviewed, reading aloud from their statements handed to him by the same, paying deputies.  McDevitt has been so successful that we commissioned a second piece, called A Free Woman: Elizabeth Keckly, which takes visitors through the Washington known to Mrs. Keckly, a formerly enslaved dressmaker who became a confidant to Mary Lincoln during her years in Washington.  These two History on Foot tours have proved challenging but rewarding, and they have expanded our interpretive space to include the whole of downtown Washington.

Our greatest lessons learned from these experiments? The voices of historical figures are as powerful as the objects in our exhibits, and they often reach an audience left (metaphorically) cold by object-based learning.  Don’t be afraid to bring historical actors – and observers – to life, and challenge yourself to partner with your local artists and theatrical institutions.  If you want to explore this more, consider joining us at the October 2013 global conference of the International Museum Theatre Alliance (IMTAL) at the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.


The Emotional Foundation of a Membership

At the top of your spinal column, there is a walnut-sized region of the brain called the amygdala, which is commonly called the “old brain” as humans started out with it thousands of years ago. Despite the fact that our brains are much bigger now – with a “new brain” that processes information rationally – research has shown that the amygdala still plays a key role in our emotions and drives our decision making.

Why do I bring this up? Because speaking to a donor’s amygdala is often the key to philanthropy.

At President Lincoln’s Cottage, the knowledge that Abraham Lincoln drafted the Emancipation Proclamation here is humbling,  exciting, and central to everything we do. It also adds a great sense of urgency to our fundraising. Without an endowment, the “Cradle of the Emancipation Proclamation” needs sustainable income streams to survive as a public resource.  Visitors must be converted into members and donors.

By speaking to the amygdala, that emotional decision-maker inside the brain, interpreters prepare for a membership pitch by describing the respite the President and First Lady sought here after the death of their son Willie, or the games of checkers Lincoln played with his son, Tad, on the verandah. Sometimes, late in the afternoon, when the lighting is just right, an interpreter will ask visitors to imagine Lincoln reading Shakespeare in the library after commuting home from a long day at the White House. Moments like these can bring tears to visitors’ eyes and build the emotional foundation of a lasting relationship with President Lincoln’s Cottage.

At the conclusion of every tour, the membership pitch is made more overtly. The interpreter points to rack cards and rattles off a list of benefits, including a discount in the Cottage gift shop, preferred rates at Historic Hotels of America, a subscription to the National Trust’s Preservation Magazine, and more. These can be enticing to visitors, but they are usually secondary in power to the emotional connection the interpreter has already made.

Connecting with visitors on an emotional level is not just a fundraising strategy, but an obligation. If we can’t inspire visitors to support our work for reasons beyond tangible member benefits – if we get goosebumps in President Lincoln’s Cottage, but they do not – then we are doing a disservice to Lincoln’s legacy of freedom, justice and equality. Ultimately, our job is to help members understand what they are truly preserving: a special place to pause and consider ideas more eternal than a discount, and bigger than a house.

Here are a few specific suggestions:

  • Weave a membership pitch into every tour or program, subtly at first (“This exhibit/room/project restoration was made possible only through the generosity of our members…”) and directly when possible
  • Use the word “you” frequently during membership pitches to emphasize the impact of individual members
  • Always be proud to ask for their support – not shy –as visitors will perceive that your site is worthy based on your confidence in that fact

What membership strategies have you found to be most effective?

 

Site Rentals: The Challenging Intersection of Mission and Money

Robert H. Smith Visitor Education Center, President Lincoln's Cottage

Contributed  by Sahand Miraminy, Events and Programs Coordinator at President Lincoln's Cottage

Museums and historic sites may find themselves asking whether or not a site rental program would be beneficial to their operations. Wear and tear, staffing, equipment, and liability are just a few of the daunting requirements that come to mind. Simultaneously, outside organization and clients may also have similar reservations. For obvious reasons, most museums and historic sites have greater rules and regulations than a typical event venue. However, it’s important for people to know why. At President Lincoln’s Cottage, we try to make sure that everyone involved with the event, from planners to wait staff, know that Lincoln made important decisions while living here. More so than aesthetics, it’s those decisions and ideas that draw clients to our site today.

Although site rental programs are most often implemented to create revenue (in our case for preservation/restoration related efforts), it’s important to recognize the other benefits. Like our general visitors, clients and attendees to special events and site rentals are able to experience the site, our exhibits, and offerings. Many of them want to use this place just as Lincoln did, a place to hold important meetings, reflect, and entertain with friends, colleagues, and loved ones. We recently had the opportunity to create new rental packages for our site. It was important for us to represent our most popular offerings in a clear and comprehensive fashion, but also to provide the opportunity whenever we could, to allow for meaningful interpretation of the site. Every event we hold gives attendees the opportunity to learn something, whether it’s through tours, a program, an exhibit, or merchandise we offer as add-ons. We strive to be mission related in everything we do, but the waters are a little muddied when it comes to renting the Cottage for a corporate party.

One of our driving principles is: to engage the public in an exploration of Abraham Lincoln’s leadership and ideas, and preserve President Lincoln’s Cottage to nurture reflection and discourse on liberty, justice, and equality. Site rentals make us money, which helps us carry out our mission. However, we wanted to think beyond that. This past year, we launched our M.A.S.E. program (Mission Advancement through Special Events). Through this program, organizations with related or supporting missions and principles may apply and qualify for reduced or modified rental fees. Not only does this program strategically allow mission related events to take place on site, it helps identify potential partnerships and opportunities for the future, not only with the organizers of the event, but also the guests. It’s important to recognize that many of these guests are people who may have never visited our site on their own, maybe not intentionally, but perhaps because it’s often difficult to identify our commonalities until we have had a glass of wine. In the past year alone, we have gained well over a hundred new members, strengthened partnerships, and have identified numerous possibilities for the future through this program.

 How does your organization use special events to further your mission and overall development?

South Lawn, President Lincoln's Cottage