Be creative and be surprised!
I think previous posts have provided some great descriptions of SHA – a summer camp for history museum folks which affirms your role in the field. It gave me a refresher on parts of the field which I don’t work in and helped me make some great connections with colleagues that I’m sure we’ll keep for the next 25-30 years. Some thoughts from my experience with SHA…
Be creative. It took some creativity for me to be able to attend SHA. With a small staff and small operating budget, how could I be away for three weeks and ask my organization to pay for it? Yet, I couldn’t afford to pay for everything myself. In the end, we came up with compromise. I was given one week of administrative leave and then used two weeks of vacation I had built up in order to cover the three weeks away, with the cooperation of colleagues who ran a event without me. My organization paid my tuition while I paid my travel. It worked out well for everyone.
Be prepared to be surprised! I have friends who go to Indianapolis regularly so was predisposed to like it but was surprised about how much I enjoyed the city. The riverwalk was a great place to end each day with a walk. The variety of museums provided a great classroom as well as busman’s holiday on some days off. I was able to visit friends in Muncie and see the Ball State University art museum. One Sunday, four of us were at the Children’s Museum all afternoon and didn’t see everything. “The Power of Children” is far and away one of the best history exhibits I’ve ever experienced. I was disappointed that I couldn’t attend AASLH in 2009 to go back to Indianapolis so hope to plan a vacation there sometime in the next few years.
I was also surprised that I enjoyed the historic preservation day so much. I was kind of dreading it; while I understand the importance of historic preservation, the technical side of it just isn’t my thing. Yet, I had a wonderful day. Dwight Pitcaithley and Jim Vaughan (full disclosure – now my supervisor, on behalf of our board) led us through a case study about the National Trust’s Montpelier which gave us a great opportunity to debate the goals of preservation and interpretation, which is emblematic of the SHA seminar experience. It’s wasn’t a how to, but a why.
So if you want to attend SHA, be creative to figure out how to make it work for you and your organization. And once you’re there, be prepared for the unexpected.