New This Year at the Seminar
On Tuesday afternoon of this second week Ellen Spear engaged the class in a consideration of radical change. Much of our discussions have been about gradual change: improving our abilities to engage communities, develop better visitor experiences, and bring staff along who are resistant. As leader of Hancock Shaker Village, which for many years has faced chronic deficits, declining support, and deferred maintenance, Ellen has had to change the game. She is leading the organization into a new mission, vision, and financial model, still grounded in the history of the Shakers. HSV now helps people learn how to live a principled life in the 21st Century, using the Shakers as an example. Ellen also spoke about their practice of investment/de-investment, rather than spend/cut, so that every major activity is not only mission-related but also generates revenue and builds long term sustainability.
On Tuesday evening three CEOs – John Herbst, Ellen Spear, and Phyllis Geeslin, who heads the Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site – spent an hour and a half in informal, open discussion with the class about the challenges and rewards of leading history organizations. They spoke of their careers and responded to questions about working with boards, finding balance with personal life, and being leaders in their respective communities.
Yesterday morning another new faculty member, Melissa Hayes from the Chicago History Museum, presenting on marketing and branding. She described the process of rebranding her institution and their strategies for building audience. The class learned about their methods for integrating marketing into the organization with, for example, bi-weekly meetings between marketing staff and education staff. Melissa was followed by veteran faculty member Conny Graft, who helped the class understand program evaluation. In an exercise three students, with the help of their colleagues, developed plans for evaluating an exhibit or program in their respective institutions. The pictures are from that activity.